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Zadzooks: The Dark Knight Rises review (iPad)

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment's latest Batman movie is currently showing in packed theaters around the globe. However, The Dark Knight Rises (Gameloft, rated 9+, reviewed for iPad 2, $6.99), the official gaming complement to the blockbuster film, has surprisingly bypassed the big-budgeted entertainment console route and resides on a touch screen near you.

Maybe the strength of Batman: Arkham City as the best superhero-themed game on the market was too daunting of a task to try and overcome to develop for the PS3 or Xbox 360?

Or, simply, the growth of the iOS and Android market made it a cost-efficient, irresistible choice to build an affordable Dark Knight open-world epic for the mobile masses.

No matter, this game for the iPad shines through some intense third person combat that also mixes in the use of vehicles, varied side missions and plenty of stunning and ominous views of Gotham City.

In the six-chapter story (possible plot spoiler alert), Bruce Wayne's alter ego has been out of sight for eight years after taking the blame for the death of famed district attorney Harvey Dent.

An unusual thief named Selina Kyle brings him out of retirement to find Gotham City more chaotic and dangerous than ever.

A plot unfolds that features a villain named Bane causing the surging violence and anarchy while looking to completely destroy the metropolis, as well as Batman and Bruce Wayne's legacy.

Our caped vigilante has at his disposal an ever-growing cache of weapons and fighting techniques as he works through 24 missions, including infiltrating Gotham’s Power Station, restoring the city's electricity, rescuing Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucious Fox from mercenaries and battling out of a prison as Bruce Wayne.

Side missions such as defusing bombs, saving civilians and simply cleaning out swarms of Bane's minions in areas of Gotham (destroying a weapons depot is especially exhausting) keeps the action rolling.

Our hero often uses fists and kicks to easily beat thugs to a pulp (with a slow motion finale) through some impressive brawling delivered by rapidly tapping a few onscreen virtual buttons.

Better yet, Batman has a very responsive Grapnel Gun to zip himself from any hotspot targeted in the cityscape (from building tops to cranes and towers), a detailed map to easily locate trouble and a cape that allows him to glide from highpoints and swoop down on bad guys.

His weapons include batarangs (even EMP versions to fry electronics), smoke bombs, "flash bang" grenades and that awesome Grapnel that shoots its cable to ensnare and pull an enemy toward his final beating.

The combat looks great as Batman attacks using powerful right crosses, roundhouse punches, a knee to the face and head butts, to name a few animations. He can block a kick and punches, automatically disarm a thug (packing knives, sniper rifles, tire irons, assault rifles and rocket launchers) and often unleashes powerful uppercuts that lift a foe off of the ground all while his cape moves to his every action.

As Batman subdues foes and succeeds in missions, he accumulates experience that levels him up to unlock goodies (such as more powerful armor types) and he collects skill points and credits.

Use the credits and skill points in the Tech Shop to buy a variety of moves and items including batarangs that ricochet off of multiple targets, a batarang swarm and silent running.

A favorite area in the Shop finds skills for Batman accessed by swiping across the character as the options swirl around him.

Those looking to quickly upgrade an arsenal can also drop real cash for the in app purchases that offers 5,500 credits for $4.99 and a Tech Premium Pack for $1.99 with 5 skill points and a 50 percent bonus for credits gained in combat.

The game also features the eventual use of the Bat-Pod (don't forget to unlock the launch seat) and the Bat vehicles, along with an extra three missions tied to simply honing combat skills in such locales as the Batcave and on the dangerous streets of Gotham.

If that sounds too great to be true for seven bucks, you are sort of right, Bat breath.

Sometimes enemies get stuck in walls or floors through some sketchy collision detection. Camera angles can wreak havoc with following onscreen pointers to get to mission objectives and cape swooping using the onscreen directional pad is a challenge.

Although, just remember, ten years ago, I would probably be gushing about this game if it was released for the original Xbox or PlayStation 2.

I also have minor problems with a fairly deserted Gotham (Gameloft's The Amazing Spider-Man game offers a much more robust New York City), characters lips that never move and watching dispatched villains simply dissolve into space.

However, movie fans won't be disappointed. Lots of crossover lines of dialogue, numerous plot points, impressive vocal imitations of Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman and interactions with nearly all of the film characters such as Officer John Blake, Catwoman and Commissioner Gordon help sell the package.

The average player also will appreciate the gorgeous, monochromatic, cut-scene illustrations, the sheer fun of controlling Batman and easy ways to replay missions or jump back into the action.

All combined that makes The Dark Knight Rises for the iPad a really enjoyable, mobile gaming experience.

Note: Hardcore fans of the Caped Crusader should also immediately purchase Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (Warner Bros. Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios, rated 9+, $5.99), a game released earlier in the year based on the famed console franchise that provides some exceptional and large character modeling (from the insane Joker to a Batman dressed in his Dark Knight Returns costume) and loads of close-quarter, third person fighting.

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