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App review: The Dark Knight Rises iOS

The Dark Knight Rises on iOS suffers from some disappointingly familiar problems. In attempting to replicate the Rocksteady-authored console versions on mobile, we end up with a wayward camera, awkward virtual stick-based controls and moody visuals so dark it's often impossible to see what is happening.


And yet I sympathise with Gameloft here. One can imagine what was asked of the prolific mobile studio when the project was greenlit. It's difficult not to imagine a cigar-toting, besuited executive asking for a mobile game which does the source material justice, a slick, cinematic, ambitious, interactive edition which takes itself just as seriously as its big-screen brethren.

In that regard, The Dark Knight Rises on iOS is a triumph. There's voice acting, set-pieces and a dutiful respect for the film throughout. It must be said, too, that although some dialogue snippets are heard far too frequently, the sound design in this game is just as impressive, as are the visuals.

But fundamentally it's just not an experience suited to mobile. The controls just aren't right, which then makes the camera problem even worse. Understandably, the high visual and sound quality make loading times a real drag, too. So although what Gameloft has achieved here is technically impressive - it's both a fine tribute to the film's aesthetic and Rocksteady's Arkham-based console efforts - as a videogame on a mobile device it ends up frustrating and flawed, where games like Drop7, Tiny Wings or New Star Soccer succeed. These are quick, satisfying, simple mobile experiences which compel you to play on and, most importantly, feel instinctively at home on your phone.

It leaves Gameloft in a quandary (if the above, imagined brief was in any way accurate, that is). It must develop a mobile game which disregards the strengths of the format - quickfire entertainment - and produce what is destined to become a heavily compromised console-style game.

It's worth stating again here that The Dark Knight Rises on iOS is an impressive, evocative mobile game which recalls the atmosphere of its inspiration with a great deal of care. And judging by the frequency and depth of the debate surrounding The Dark Knight Rises on my Twitter feed, there's a big enough fanbase out there who will get plenty of value for the four pounds and ninety-nine pence Gameloft are charging for his game.

As the mainstream console market continues to struggle from an end-of-generation torpor, mobile is increasingly seen as the trade's saviour - and quite rightly once you discover the amount of money being made by those in the higher chart positions. But cramming console-style experience onto mobile isn't how this market will truly evolve.

Mobile games certainly don't need to be short and throwaway, but neither should they be frustrating and unsuitable for the devices they are available on. It's only once this balance is struck that we'll begin to see even more mobile games which do this blossoming industry justice.