More convenient than Bat-Shark Repellent

Much of the current Batman buzz may surround the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins console game, but at New York Comic Con 2013, Warner Bros. wanted to make it clear that they haven’t forgotten about the iOS and Android platforms, either. The mobile incarnation was unveiled at the show—it’s scheduled to be available sometime around its console brethren’s October 25th release date—and I was able to get some solid hands-on time with this free-to-play Bat-brawler.

The mobile version’s being developed by NetherRealm Studios—the folks behind Injustice: Gods Among Us—and fans will quickly see parallels between that game’s mobile tie-in and this experience. Much of the core gameplay still revolves around tapping on your enemies to chain together punches and kicks to take them down in succession, and after dispatching a variety of thugs, you’ll earn a chance to beat down one of the eight assassins after the huge bounty on Batman’s head. The Caped Crusader has a stamina meter, however, and he can only pick so many fights in a row before he needs a break to recharge his batteries.

The concept may sound simple enough, but there’s a far deeper experience here than you might expect if you were to give the game a cursory glance. Sure, you won’t get the dialogue or story that you’d get from a Batman console game, but there’s more than enough action to give Bat-fans their fix on the bus or a plane before getting home to their consoles to continue their proper pursuit of Black Mask.

The overall layout breaks up Gotham City into four sections, and Batman must methodically work his way through them all to clean up the streets. While the game will launch with only four of the eight assassins, Warner Bros. promises that— much like the Injustice mobile tie-in—there’ll be plenty of continued support down the line.

The game also includes an RPG-like element; Batman can level up by earning experience after every battle or by using the in-game currency he earns (which can also be purchased for a fee in the game’s store) to unlock a variety of special moves and new costumes that provide natural buffs. Batsuits like the one worn on Earth-Two will provide more health, while the Batman Beyond suit can provide a nice all-around boost.

The combat’s also deeper in that Batman can pull off six or seven moves in a row—unlike the three or four that players were limited to in Injustice. Plus, the variety of special moves is far larger. You can only bring four moves at a time into battle, though, so you’ll have to switch some in and out on the customization screen as you unlock more.

You can also bring medkits to heal yourself—or maybe the Shock Gauntlets, which then switches the game to a first-person perspective as you try to pound your foe’s face into paste. Or there’s always my personal favorite: throwing dual Batarangs for huge damage and then calling in a swarm of bats to slow the enemy down.

But Batman’s combat isn’t the only element to see an overhaul in this mobile version. His would-be assassins also have special maneuvers that require players to master mini-games in order to block or counter opponents’ signature moves. When I fought Deadshot, for example, I had to quickly tap all the bullets he was firing at me in order to dodge them, Matrix-style.

The user interface is also much clearer now, with all your special moves easily clickable down on the bottom of the screen—and if you wish to use your second hand, a block button is available for faster reactions. Of course, if you find the HUD bothersome or think it clutters up the screen, there’s an option now to turn it off altogether.

Clearly, this isn’t the same experience that you’d get on a console. But if you’re on the go and feel like letting out some pent-up aggression on Bane or Copperhead, this looks to be shaping up as a quality mobile tie-in that’ll be great for killing a little time during your commute.