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I guide Batman as he glides over the thug-infested streets of Arkham City, and I notice a locked-up Riddler trophy glinting on top of a dilapidated building. I enable detective mode and spot a switch that appears to be behind an inaccessible, fenced-in location.
After a few moments of confusion, I take a page from the caped crusader, pull my iPhone out of my pocket, and bring up a map of the area. I identify the proper building, zoom in, and tap on the Riddler icon to display a hint on how to obtain the trophy. After I complete this small task, I tap a few more times and mark this item as complete so I know I don't have to return to this spot later.
Using an actual gadget in my own hand like this allows me to step beyond any sense of immersion I get from the game itself. I feel like I really am, in reality, doing something that Batman would do. And it makes me enjoy Batman: Arkham City even more.
I no longer have to fumble with an unwieldy strategy guide or wait for an FAQ to load in a web browser. I have detailed information and maps featuring most of the game's collectibles available almost instantly and on a device that nearly never leaves my side. I can also scope out floor plans of indoor locations to see areas that I might have missed. I'd like to think that, as a crime fighter who's not afraid to use gadgets to give himself an advantage, Batman would be proud.
Sure, this official map app doesn't quite provide all of the detail that a full strategy guide does (at least not yet). But it seems that this growing trend has real potential to revolutionize the concept of hint books.
Touch screens lend themselves well to checklists that we can use for things such as item collection and quest tracking. The World of Warcraft Mobile Armory has already proven that more complex and formula-driven applications (like character planners and upgrade trackers) are a reality for smart phones.
While other recent games like Dead Island may have started to popularize the use of official iOS "map apps," this add-on for Batman: Arkham City forges a new path of synergy between mobile devices and gaming consoles. I can only hope that other developers realize the strengths of handhelds and continue to use them as tools to enhance major releases instead of giving us watered-down and hard-to-control versions of the same games.