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The GoodBatman: Dark Tomorrow isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, but I’ve played a lot of games. In terms of game play, it’s an exercise in frustration. At best, it’s like watching a bad movie devoid of MST3K commentary and, at worst, it’s borderline unplayable. However, I’m getting ahead of myself.
There’s a gang war between Black Mask and Scarface, Commissioner Gordon is missing and a deck of playing cards in his office is missing all the jokers, and someone has opened Arkham’s cell doors. Sounds like every other Batman game. Dark Tomorrow is a third-person, action/adventure game that puts the player in control of the Caped Crusader equipped with all his Bat-toys.
When it comes to fighting crime, Batman uses his fists and feet first. But once he knocks down an opponent, he must quickly Batcuff them before they revive. Batman can subdue opponents at a distance with Batarangs and smoke bombs and has a BatGrapple and a BatCord to swing through Gotham City or ascend to great heights. Rounding out his BatSupplies are health kits, nightvision goggles (which trigger a first-person perspective), a universal tool (which I felt like when playing this game), and assorted inventory items he picks up along the way.
If you could string the cinematics together, you’d have a good time seeing Oracle, Robin, and Batgirl assisting Batman in his struggle against the standard Batman villain roster. Unfortunately, the game itself is guano. Rounding up what passes for “good” are strong voice acting, good music, and a decent endgame which doesn’t excuse the rest of the game.
The BadMy dream game has always been a Batman Survival Horror game based on the 1989 Arkham Asylum graphic novel. Welcome to my nightmare.
Dark Tomorrow’s problems are evident from the very first stage. Batman encounters a few thugs in an alley. Combat works pretty well, if you can make Batman face the thugs, but it never becomes more sophisticated than button mashing. Actually, this game would be a nice little brawler, if combat only involved knocking the thugs out. However, as mentioned above, Batman doesn’t just knock opponents out, he must cuff them.
Cuffing someone triggers a cutscene, which does three things: it makes the game more cinematic, it drives home the point that Batman isn’t a killer, and it leaves Batman defenseless. Yup, while Batman is kneeling down cuffing someone, a thug can walk up behind him and knife him in the back—all while the player watches helplessly. Fighting becomes a weird timing exercise in which Batman has to alternate knocking people down, cuffing them, and taking the odd sucker punch. Get through this and Batman takes to the rooftops.
Jumping or swinging from rooftop to rooftop is pretty much a game stopper. Mind you, this is not even five minutes into the game. The controls are so bad—Batman has trouble walking in a straight line—and the camera is so terrible that Batman repeatedly falls to his death. Luckily Dark Tomorrow has unlimited continues and you can mostly save anywhere.
Get past the rooftops and it’s on to the gang war and the worst boss fight ever (it’s needlessly hard; pointlessly stupid ones follow later). First you have to get through endless alleyways, with invisible snipers who gun Batman down, by a painful trial and error process, but eventually you end up fighting the Black Mask. This takes place in a large warehouse. Once again, Batman has lousy coordination and the camera won’t stop jumping around, so the hit-and-run attacks that Batman has to use on bosses are almost impossible to execute. Batman’s direction changes every time the camera angle changes. A radar on the HUD shows Batman’s path, but this doesn’t help in the heat of battle.
Actually, for the large villain roster, there are very few boss battles against notable bad guys. Some of the baddies are defeated just by getting Batman close to them, others are defeated once Batman beats their henchmen—for instance Batman fights two large rats, not the Ratcatcher himself. This can be disappointing since the Dark Tomorrow plays like Ra’s al Ghul’s Game of Death. Did I mention that he’s the real bad guy? That’s the game’s only twist, but it’s revealed in the opening cinematic.
Have fun getting to him, though. Batman batglides his way to Ra’s al Ghul’s fortress in a level that rivals “Von Beck’s Revenge”. Batman must make his way through a narrow canyon while adjusting for the air currents. Taking turns between inexplicably stalling (i.e. hitting an invisible wall) and crashing, since it’s easy to misjudge the Batglider’s relative position, I must have retried this level for over an hour.
The Bottom LineI can’t explain why I played this game through to the end (getting two out of the four endings), while I barely dented Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, but it must have been for magical moments like this:
At one point in the game, Batman bursts into a room in Arkham, where two nurses are threatened by two thugs. He dispatches the thugs and tries to talk to the nurses—nothing. He tries a door—locked. He tries the door he came from—locked. He spends twenty minutes inspecting every section of the room and ceiling, throwing Batarangs and trying to use his universal tool—nothing. Then he thinks, oh, I should kneel down and try talking to the nurses. Yup, suddenly they talk and doors magically unlock. Brilliant.