'Arkham City Lockdown': The Bat Is Broken
As much as I wanted to play "Batman Arkham City Lockdown," I couldn't. Ten times out of 10, the app would crash before I could start playing. I was using a first-gen iPad, which should be a supported device, according to iTunes. Is this a case of inadequate testing? Regardless, it's the first time I've asked for a refund for an app.
Typically when I review an iOS or Mac application, I'll give it a rating somewhere between one and five stars. Star ratings tell you nothing about the concept behind the app, how well it's executed, or how practical it is. They're just shorthand for "good," "meh," and "digital sewage." Details are what the actual review is for.
But in the case of "Batman Arkham City Lockdown," I can't give the game a star rating because I've never played it.
I gave it 10 chances, and it crashed 10 times.
I'd get to the point at which I could select a memory slot in which to create a new game, then suddenly my iPad's wallpaper would be staring back at me again. Maybe if I stuck it out once more I'd succeed on the eleventh try, but if this game always takes nearly a dozen warm-up sessions to actually get in the mood, I can't imagine myself playing it more than once.
You Mean Any iPad, Right?
I suppose I could give it an indignant zero-star rating for giving me the runaround and wasting my six bucks. But judging by the reviews for the game on iTunes -- which is probably as close I'll ever come to knowing whether the game is any good -- my consistently crashy experience isn't shared by everyone who's tried "Arkham City Lockdown." In fact, it's been getting highly positive feedback. With over 9,000 ratings, it's averaging just over 4 out of 5.
Maybe this is actually a great game, when it happens to work. It's based on a series of very well-regarded Batman games for consoles: "Arkham Asylum" and "Arkham City." I've played a little of both, and I liked what I saw, which is why I wanted to give "Lockdown" a shot. But it's not to be.
Maybe it's my iPad. I downloaded "Lockdown" to a dinosaur -- a first-gen model built back in the dark ages of 2010. I've seen it sputter and whine under the strain of a new and complex app before. Maybe "Arkham City Lockdown" is way too heavy for my little old-timey tablet. Is it possible I didn't read the system requirements bit correctly?
No, it seems pretty clear: Compatible with iPhone 3GS (hey, that's even older than my iPad), iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch third- and fourth-gen and iPad. Not "iPad 2" or "third generation" -- just "iPad." iOS 4.0 or later? Definitely.
Am I the only one experiencing this problem? No again. Sorting the reviews on iTunes by "Most Critical," I see much use of the word "crash." I'm not going to read every last one, though, so I'll just rest assured knowing it's not just me.
So what happened? Did Warner Bros. not test this thoroughly enough? Or did they test it enough to find out that it often fails miserably on an original iPad, but then decided to sell it for older devices anyway? That would be low.
Either way, this kind of situation isn't uncommon. When I'm about to buy an app on iTunes, I'll sometimes read some of the nastier things people have said about it in the reviews. Constant crashing is a frequent complaint, and it seems to come up in all types of apps with all kinds of levels of complexity.
True, anonymous reviewers sometimes lie, and crashes can happen due to user error. But when an app really does crash so often on a purportedly supported device that it's a complete non-starter, and especially when it costs six bucks (a semi-premium rate for an iOS game), it's time to ask Apple for a refund. I'll update this when I hear from them, or in two weeks, whichever comes first.
Update -- April 10, 2012: Within hours of my request, iTunes issued a refund.