Batman has had quite a few video games over the years. I’ve yet to play one that was truly spectacular though. The other games were fairly solid but I’m waiting for a game that will be the next big thing. I got Dark Tomorrow in the hopes that this would be it as the comic driven plot and early 2000s aesthetic would be just what the series needed. Unfortunately a truly dreadful opening ends up severely limiting the game’s potential even though the ending is fantastic.
The game starts off by spoiling the final twist as we see very obvious silhouettes of Ra’s Al Ghoul and Talia. They plan to cleanse the world of humanity. To proceed with this goal they free all of the villains in Arkham to distract Batman. Batman also has to deal with a turf war going on in Gotham and the fact that Commissioner Gordon has also gone missing. Robin and Oracle are ready as backup but Batman decides to handle this alone, that’s how dangerous these villains are.
There’s always a debate about which is more important, gameplay or story. Well, gameplay will always be the most important part of a game and it is certainly what holds this game back. The game just doesn’t tell you anything about the controls and puts in so many red herrings that you aren’t sure what to do. You have extra gadgets that are basically pointless like the flashlight. You can barely move while that thing is one and the light it emits is comically small. You’ve got night vision goggles which are good for a small handful of segments when trying to dodge the trip lasers but you don’t even need to bother with them. I ran through all of the lasers for fun and honestly I didn’t notice a big difference in the amount of enemies that popped up. Then you’ve got the bat grapple 2 different times as one lets you swing and the other lets you shoot up. They are also used quite sparingly. This really feels like the game was meant for pure hand to hand combat and the gadgets were only added since someone in development thought Batman should have them. The Batarangs never get useful and the same goes for the smoke bombs which really don’t fool the villains for a second. The health packs are great though.
The game uses an interesting auto save feature. Basically, you have an unlimited amount of lives and typically wake up in the area that you died instead of going all the way back to when you last saved. However, while the game keeps a local record of your progress, you do still have to save on your own if you want to turn the game off. So just don’t make the mistake of thinking that the game is auto saving even if it does seem that way.
So, why is the gameplay so broken? Well for starters, the game has some really bad puzzle sections that just don’t make sense. The first level has most of these. In one section of the burning street you will try going forward but are quickly riddled with bullets. It doesn’t matter what tactic you try, you will never be able to get through there. You have to instead go through a side road and walk through some burning cars. There’s a small gap there that just seems cheesy. In another level, you are stuck next to a fence and your lock pick inexplicably does not work on the door. The lock pick is another negative as it’s called an ultimate something instead and the game doesn’t even tell you what it does. You will just find out that it’s a lock pick once you use it towards the end of the game. Here’s the problem, the game makes a big deal about it during this gate section as if you are supposed to use it, but you never do in this level. Instead you have to jump on a car and then jump on the roof with perfect precision. If you are slightly off or the game glitches again then you will miss the jump. Due to this, you will likely believe that the jump isn’t possible unless you know beforehand that it is.
Even the combat system is hidden from you. You have two attack options, punches and kicks. You use them to knock the enemies down and then you handcuff them. If you don’t handcuff them, then they will simply keep getting up forever. It’s an odd mechanic especially since you can’t skip the long handcuffing cutscene. What the game doesn’t tell you is that if you hold onto the L button you will unleash a series of rapid kicks and punches which deal a considerably higher damage output and make the bosses child’s play in comparison. You can certainly beat the game without this knowledge and sometimes it’s actually better not to go for a combo since it leaves you vulnerable if the opponent blocks it. I do think that information should be somewhere in the game though.
These are the reasons why the game got off to a rough start. The design of the opening levels where you are stuck in a death loop and the jump over the gate mixed in with the rather choppy combat controls if you don’t know how to combo the hits. However, once you get past the level and master the combat system, then things get fun. The second half of the hand feels like a whole different game. The Arkham level in particular is a lot of fun as you go through a marathon of bosses including Mr Freeze, Killer Croc, Szaz , and Poison Ivy. The bosses are a lot of fun. This is one time where the poor camera angles and the overused cutscenes can be quite fun. It’s pretty satisfying to knock the boss down since you get the full cutscene. Of course, it’s also fun when he knocks you over as well. Once you learn the combos the combat system becomes genuinely fun as well. It’s like an old school arcade game.
Some aspects of the game also shined from the start like the graphics. They are way ahead of their time and look considerably better than any of the other GameCube Batman games. It has a certain comic aesthetic that just works really well with the character models. The first cutscene sets the game on a positive note as it just feels very theatrical. You would not be blamed for thinking that it was a clip from a film. I can’t say as much for the soundtrack unfortunately. I suppose they didn’t put in quite as much effort into this section of the game compared to the others.
The level designs are really large and well thought out. You can be wandering for quite a long time from room to room. Fortunately the game remembers who you have handcuffed until you turn the game off so you don’t have to worry about beating them every time. Unfortunately you aren’t always able to appreciate the levels because of the really bad camera angles. It just keeps on turning whenever you move which really causes you to stop in your tracks or take more hits than you would have liked. It’s pretty distracting and I died a few times thanks to that, but at least there are constant checkpoints.
Then there is the plot which is probably the best plot from any Batman game. We get to see an onslaught of Batman villains throughout and Ra’s can make for a good villain. As par for the course Batman certainly does give him a whole lot of credit but I don’t consider him to be quite as impressive as many of Batman’s other rogues. Oracle did doubt Batman quite a bit in the cutscenes and it was too bad Robin couldn’t help out more, but I suppose the developers really wanted to keep this as a Batman solo game.
There isn’t any real replay value to be had in this game. It’s the kind of title that locks you in next to the final boss so you couldn’t go back and get collectibles even if you wanted too. You could play the whole game again for that, but that’s a little drastic. The value in this game will be in the main story which is really a 50/50 gamble. It’s tough because the climax is so amazing, but I just can’t forget the opening.
I should also mention that the game has around 4-5 endings. I actually ended up with one of the bad endings as I ran into the villains and knocked them all out, but I didn’t deactivate the apocalyptic machine. Apparently that was in the next door over. I also lost to Ra’s once so I actually got to see both endings. Getting to the good ending wouldn’t take very long but I was rather satisfied with the ending I got so I stuck with this one. It’s actually a fairly realistic look at how the situation usually goes if your opponent has a deadman‘s switch.
Overall, Dark Tomorrow is going to have to stay squarely in the middle. The two parts of the game neatly cancel each other out. Dark Tomorrow certainly seems to have divided its team up into various sections and some worked harder than others. If you’re a big Batman fan then I’d recommend checking this game out. Just watch out for the burning level and try to find the truck right away. It’s the best chance you’ve got!