Batman: Arkham City Lockdown
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 12/7/2011
America is as polarized as it’s been in decades. Sometimes it feels like we, as a nation, can only agree on one thing: those Batman videogames are pretty damn great. I’m personally not a big fan, but I totally understand why people love Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. People love Batman, and those games are better than most at making the player feel like the character they’re controlling. An extremely enthusiastic reaction isn’t surprising when that character is as old and iconic as Batman.
The console Arkhams pull off that verisimilitude with a balletic combat system and copious amounts of stealth. Batman sneaks up on his enemies and then twirls and dives throughout extended displays of brutality, burying fists and elbows into the faces of beefy henchmen. Extensive use of Batman’s utility belt furthers that connection, as his various gadgets act like the staggered powered-ups of a Metroid game. The gadgets and combo-heavy combat are the best part of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, so of course it makes perfect sense for the iOS spin-off Batman: Arkham City Lockdown to totally ignore both.
Arkham City Lockdown has all of the obnoxious attitude and art design of the other games, with almost none of the rhythmically entrancing gameplay. In an attempt to work around the limitations of iOS devices, Arkham City Lockdown breaks the violence up into a series of one-on-one showdowns with anonymous thugs. It’s similar to Punch-Out!! or Infinity Blade, as you’ll tap to dodge or block before going on the offensive and pummeling your opponent into submission. There’s little strategy or variation in the fights. A few gadgets are available as special weapons during the fight scenes, and occasionally you’ll struggle to guide a batarang into either of Two-Face’s faces by tilting your iPad or iPhone.
Arkham City Lockdown ably transports the look and atmosphere of the Arkham games to your portable device, but it loses everything that made those games work for me. Obviously that kind of action probably isn’t possible on an iPad or without a traditional controller, but Lockdown’s solution to that stumper didn’t have to be so antithetical to the nature of the originals. Lockdown combines the tiresome “grim ‘n’ gritty” aesthetic of Arkham Asylum with an awkward, half-formed approximation of Infinity Blade’s control scheme, resulting in one of the more notable failures of 2011.