The official video game for The Dark Knight Rises costs $7, looks amazing on my iPad, is a bit of a mess and is one of the most important video games of the year.
It's also not as good as the movie. Not even close...and that's even if you didn't think that highly of the movie.
The Dark Knight Rises game is, really, an astounding mediocrity. It's an open-world Batman game that plays like a poor man's Batman: Arkham City, the critically acclaimed $60 open-world Batman game of last year. This poor man's version is maybe only a quarter as good as Arkham City, but it's also little more than a 10th of the cost. What's astounding is that, for this cheap, on this machine, it runs. (See the video we shot of it, above.)
The game runs pretty well as it tosses the player into Bane-controlled Gotham after very crudely rushing through the first-half of the movie in its opening chapter. As Batman, we will take missions from Commissioner Gordon and other do-gooders as we repel Bane's forces in Gotham. We will defeat Bane by beating up one gang of bad guys at a time and by defusing a lot of bombs. We can punch guys, grab them with a grappling hook and counter-punch them. We can toss Batarangs, grapple to rooftops and Bat-glide across the city. We can ride vehicles and upgrade Batman's gear. We can do all this even though the game sometimes glitches (bad guys get stuck running in place behind half-walls). We can do this even though sometimes two mission-givers talk over each other. We can do this even though no one ever opens their mouth when they speak their lines and try in vain to sound like the movie's actors. We can do these Batman things even though our thumbs will sometimes slip and hit the wrong virtual buttons on the iPad's screen and even though the game follows the plot of the movie about as faithfully as your friend's Facebook timeline follows the actual events of his life.
This is, in other words, a 2012 version of the so-so officially-licensed movie game that our ancestors had to pay full price for back in the Super Nintendo and PlayStation eras. This is a passable game released in order to officially glom onto the release of a movie. The shock here is that it's been done for $7 and that, the iPad/iPhone/Android's lack of buttons notwithstanding, it's a shockingly attractive and substantial multi-chapter game. It brings to mind the aphorism that there are no bad video games, just bad price-points. For $7 you can pretend to be Batman with imitation-Hans-Zimmer music playing as you glide through a large open city? Sure.
But if mediocre Official Games of the Movies take root on the iPad, iPhone and Android, what's a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 console good for anyway? Actual good games? Oh, but the gap is closing. The quality of iOS and Android games is catching up. Makers of consoles—makers of the machines on which there is no official Dark Knight Rises video game—the pressure is on. And owners of iPads, iPhones and Android, for $7, there's a good enough game here. Have fun. And don't laugh too hard at how the game mangles the plot of the movie.
The Dark Knight Rises [$6.99, iTunes]
The Dark Knight Rises [$6.99, Android]