Batman Arkham City Lockdown: Get Gritty

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m a big Batman fan. I always have been really, ever since I started picking up the comics when I was a kid. And although I don’t read the comics much anymore, I do still appreciate the games and movies that come out based on this iconic hero.

When Batman: Arkham Asylum came out for the consoles, I bought it and I was hooked. The sequel is on my Christmas list, but until then I’ve got a stripped down version that I can play anytime I want: Batman Arkham City Lockdown. It’s definitely not as deep as the console versions, but is it worth the purchase anyways? Let’s figure it out after the break.

The Concept

Batman Arkham City Lockdown is based on the popular console game, but really, only in concept. The story goes that all of the inmates in Arkham Asylum (the jail where all the nutsos go) were released into a special part of the city that’s been walled off from the general population. Batman goes in to kick butt and take names.

This game is seriously pretty.

This game is seriously pretty.

From a graphics standpoint, this game is beautiful. Although it’s built on the same Unreal platform as Infinity Blade and Infinity Blade II, it’s not quite as perfectly rendered. That’s a little bit of splitting hairs, but once you get into the game you realize that you see the same environments over and over again, whereas with Infinity Blade, you’ve got a new level with every bad guy. But more on that later.

How the Levels Work

In the console game, you’ve got a freewheeling sandbox environment where you can go pretty much anywhere you please. Navigation in Batman Arkham City Lockdown is done by a map, then you touch the place you want to go to see what kind of level and bad guys you’re going to find. Once you pick your poison, you’re dropped into the environment and each bad guy approaches you, so there really is nothing to do but fight.

Navigation is done via maps.

Navigation is done via maps.

Each point on the map tells you how many bad guys you'll face, plus the difficulty.

Each point on the map tells you how many bad guys you'll face, plus the difficulty.

Now that’s not to say that just fighting is a bad thing. Essentially, the game is very similar to Infinity Blade: swipe to move, attack, dodge, etc. I prefer this method of controls to virtual joysticks, because my finger always slides away from the controls, making me miss hits and get frustrated. By just swiping away, I can perform combos just like in Infinity Blade, and dodge moves in the same way. But with Batman Arkham City Lockdown, combos are a big thing that not only get you extra points but also make the game more stylish. If you do it right, you can knock someone down and break their arm.

Combos make the game fun to play, and interesting at the same time.

Combos make the game fun to play, and interesting at the same time.

Of course, snapping an arm is even better.

Of course, snapping an arm is even better.

Each zone has a few different levels, then a boss character. The problem here is that the individual levels all have the same landscape, with no variations other than the way the bad guys look or are dressed. So really, working your way through a level can seem pretty repetitive. I’m not sure if it’s my love of the Batman character that kept me pushing through or not, but even though it was a bit like Groundhog’s Day, I still enjoyed it.

Boss Fights

I played up into the third zone, and that means I faced Two Face and Solomon Grundy to move onward. With Two Face, a new dynamic was introduced: The Batarang. The game would prompt me to tilt the iPhone to guide the Batarang to its final destination — Two Face’s chest — and that’s exactly what I did. With Grundy, well that was a different story.

Grundy introduced two new mechanics, including this Tap version where you tap the screen to escape his grasp.

Grundy introduced two new mechanics, including this Tap version where you tap the screen to escape his grasp.

Seriously, this game is pretty, right?

Seriously, this game is pretty, right?

For those of you who aren’t giant nerds, Solomon Grundy is a huge zombie that has tremendous strength. His backstory is actually kind of sad, but that doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this game, anyways.

Grundy chases you down like a madman, and you have to avoid him. To do so, a pop up will appear telling you which direction to swipe. Do so — and quickly — or Grundy is going to eat your lunch. Once you’re actually there to fight, you have to dodge again, then attack and then occasionally you’ll get grabbed. To get out, you have to furiously tap the screen and break his grip. It’s a welcome change from the rest of the game.

Leveling Up

At the end of each level, you get XP and Waynetech points, which you can use to buy additional items. These all are designed to level up the character, giving you a faster response time, better health and all that stuff. I found that the difficulty picked up quite a bit the further along I went, so I really needed all that Waynetech gear to continue. Without it, you just don’t survive.

Leveling up gets you XP and Waynetech points.

Leveling up gets you XP and Waynetech points.

Those Waynetech points get you extra armor, speed and agility.

Those Waynetech points get you extra armor, speed and agility.

Additional Features

There are a few other nice touches included, such as free iPhone wallpaper, a built-in comic viewer and bios of the characters, but there’s also some in-app purchasing that I’m not a big fan of. Why? Well the game itself is $6, so spending more on something seems a bit excessive. What you get though, are additional character skins, including the animated version of Batman from the 1990s, Batman Beyond and more. It’s cool, and I could see how that would help revitalize the game later once you beat it, but it’s still a bit icky to me.

Frank Miller's The Dark Night Returns costume is available as well.

Frank Miller's The Dark Night Returns costume is available as well.

Final Thoughts

I love Batman, but I’m not quite sure how I feel about this game. I always felt that Infinity Blade was a great game but repetitive, and they seemed to have fixed that to a certain extent with Infinity Blade II. But with the original Infinity Blade, at least we had different environments to see with each fight, and that’s not the case with Batman Arkham City Lockdown. I love the fighting because it gets more and more challenging, but I really wish the environments would change at least a little bit. I would gladly give up the comic viewer for a few more backgrounds.

Also, I’m not sure about the depth of the entire thing. The game has been out only 24 hours, and as I write this, I’ve spent quite a bit playing it on my own. I’m already on the third boss fight, and there’s only one unlocked level left. Are there more after that? I hope so, because if not, then it’s kinda crappy.

On the other hand, this is the perfect iPhone game of sorts. Sure, you can sit down like I did and play a marathon session, but you can also just pick it up and play whenever you want. Kicking butt is fun no matter how long you do it, so playing in the waiting room of your doctor’s office is just fine. So in a way, it’s just about right.

And I do feel that this is a huge step forward in the genre. Now developers other than Epic are using the Unreal engine on the iPhone, and that means we’re just going to get better and better games. Maybe Batman Arkham City Lockdown isn’t perfect, but it is a lot of fun. And if it’s the first step in a series of excellent games on the platform, then I can’t wait to see what’s next.


Summary

Play a stripped-down version of the console game Batman: Arkham City on your iPhone

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