There was a subtle move away from Lycra when superhero movies became fashionable in the mid-to-late nineties. For me, the word 'Batman' still signifies slightly flabby men wearing (not entirely flattering) tight outfits, corny dialogue, crazy camera angles and hammy fighting, but I appear to be in the minority on that front. Now, leading men in superhero movies go on intense training routines so that they're buff enough to fight their way out of trouble, and spend more time with their iconic costumes off than on.
As a result, Batman is now a macho icon, with muscles bulging left, right and centre and an attitude as dark as night. Whether it's a mere marketing move or the result of a genuine refresh of the franchise is still a matter of conjecture, but Batman's manly stance hasn't been lost on Glu, who have served up a typical package of fist fighting and harsh words that forms the perfect partner to Christian Bale's latest adventure. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on your taste.
Essentially, The Dark Knight is a fighter with a little bit of stealth dropped into the mix. The game launches straight into the action, with the winged one jumping into street fights in the dead of night. Batman's various abilities are assigned to the '5' key as and when they are needed; for example, when in conflict, hitting '5' applies a solid punch to your rival - but that's only when you're close up. Hit that very same key from a distance, and you'll glide towards your adversary, shoulder-charging him to the floor in the process.
The game prompts you when such actions can be taken - in fact, it prompts you to do almost everything, with a big '5' square flashing above Batman's head whenever he can attack a foe from a particular position. It's possible to perform a stealth attack from behind, knocking out said enemy with just one quick blow, while hiding in the shadows and waiting for a rival to walk past has similar results - though almost all such actions are set up and, rather than being as a result of taking initiative and acting on your feet, you simply do them because you're told to.
Similarly, traversing The Dark Knight's rather traditional 2D levels is also a case of following the steps laid out for you. Batman can scale heights with his rope-swing, but only when there's a ledge or object above that the game considers suitable for such actions. Indeed, there are whole sections dedicated to swinging from roof to roof, gliding in between (again, this is another time where the '5' key offers itself up), but you play by Glu's rules or not at all - i.e., you can only fly like a bat when the developer says you can.
Fighting is a little more free, with different rivals offering different challenges. The main methods of one-on-one fighting revolve around punching, which is assigned to the action key, kicking (key '2') and blocking (key '8'). If the assailant is a soft touch, usually mashing one of the two attack buttons will see him off, which itself triggers a 'finishing move' to seal the deal. Trickier subjects, who spend most of their time blocking your attacks, have to be drawn out, which usually entails blocking yourself and counter-attacking when your rival is in mid-strike.
The game's fluid controls do throw up a few problems, however. For example, taking out all of your rivals isn't always necessary, but if you happen to run into one, the game automatically switches to 'battle mode', handing the game's controls over to attack moves, making it almost impossible to latch onto a level above or escape from their clutches. That's a frustrating factor, to put it lightly, and the one time when the various elements of The Dark Knight don't quite gel.
In essence, though, Glu's take on Batman is neither a proficient fighter nor an expert platformer. While the two genres function perfectly adequately in small and strictly defined doses, their unification in some levels falters, with the game second guessing the moves it wants you to make rather than handing you a free and fair choice. The combination of crude fighting and heavily led platforming results in a title that feels routine, but its dark stylings and focus on Batman's biceps will certainly serve fans of the film for a good few hours.
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