It’s a recognised fact that a Batman film with Michael Keaton in it is amazing, you can bombard me with all the hate in the world but I simply cannot stand the ultra boring new trilogy of films that if you ask me were made solely to further promote Christopher Nolan’s use of the wide angle shot on his camera and the extra shades of grey and black he found on his paint package he got for Xmas, not to mention Christian Bale is a joke.
In line with my new found Snes love I decided to go back and give Batman Returns another go, it has indeed been far too long since I played this and as I am preparing a feature on Konami and it’s 16-bit legacy this was an important title to play, plus my memories told me it was a real corker. Memories it seems like to lie a bit…
Upon loading of the game you are treated (I say that tongue in cheek) to a simple intro that sets the background to what the game will be about, it’s basically text and static images and it’s not good, seriously it’s really not good. After pressing the start button I go to the menu and check out the options screen, standard fare here in selective options of easy, normal and hard modes plus how many lives and continues you can have etc. I choose Normal as I always do and away we go.
The game begins with our caped hero Batman walking around a city square trying to stop a bunch of circus freaks from harming the people, it’s a very good re-creation of the scene from the movie with all the sprites of the bad guys detailed very well. I’m immediately impressed with the speed of it all and the very fluid animation of batman as you can really put together some killer fighting moves, without doubt the coolest feature however is the block button which really is a breath of fresh air for the side scrolling beat ’em’ up‘s.
The scenery is also quite well done, it’s a little dark but then so is the film (thanks Tim Burton) but all in all nothing is too hidden and the enemy sprites do stand out easily because they themselves have lots of colour, standard clown uniforms don’t you know. The first level and as I later found out all the levels are split into separate sections to help break up the pace and it’s a great idea for sure even though all the areas kinda look alike. At the end of the level is a boss who has in typical fashion for games like this from this era a set movement pattern that at first is so damn frustrating however after a while it’s simple to work out and then it’s a matter of timing and patience. When the level does end you are once again treated to another slew of very poorly digitised images from the film and some wobbly text that this reviewer skipped because it was hurting his eyes.
This first level as it happens would be a template for the rest of the game as every stage I played afterwards consisted of the same combat with 3 tier level structure and mostly the same enemies with a few new ones added each stage, I found myself at times almost getting bored however the graphics, scenery and music helped push me along, this is certainly no Street Of Rage but it’s not bad either just a little bit Meh.
I have to hold my hands up and admit I didn’t finish this game but that’s not because it was rubbish or too hard but because the ‘Continue’ feaure is quite frankly broken and annoyed the hell out of me, when you die and hit the option to continue you don’t start from the moment you died, you start from the level itself and if it’s a level filled with instant death moments such as pixel perfect jumps going wrong then how are you supposed to get past it?
This brings me to my biggest annoyance of the game, the awful jumping and batarang swinging. Whilst it’s great to have this in the game they are badly implemented and often you will just fall and either get burned on things like fire on the floor or fall right through the game and die. Level 3 for example is frustration beyond measure and in total I lost 14 lives just getting to and past Catwoman.
All this moaning aside behind the samey looking levels and frustrating jumping lies a solid fighting game, the animation as I mentioned is great and you will at times feel all super duper cool and hard as you kick the butt out of a whole screen full of enemies as the amount of foes on screen at once at times is quite superb. Things like grabbing enemies and throwing them against a wall never gets old, neither does smashing 2 heads together or blocking a salvo of punches then swirling around taking those pesky clowns down.
I think what this game needed strangely enough was some form of co-op mode as at times when you are stuck in a repeating knockdown loop frustration and anger really can build and another person to help break that up would have been a massive plus point, I realise the film of which this game is based on doesn’t have a sidekick but for the purposes of making it a more fun game it should have been included.
So to sum everything up it’s not a bad game it’s just not exactly what my memory had convinced me it was, it looks the part and flows nicely however the bits that annoy really do actually massively annoy, I doubt I will go back to it again anytime soon however I can clearly see why so many people love this particular title as the combat itself really is a lot of fun.
Considering how easily I lost my lives just getting to stage 4 and that’s only half of the game tells me that if you are prepared to put in the work there’s a lot of gameplay here and the graphics and music for the most part are great, maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.
Punching clowns in the face though, you have to play It just for that surely?
Verdict:- This was a strange one to review for sure as the elements that make up the game are very good however I cant shake the feeling of real repetitiveness based on the very limited backgrounds due to the constraints of the film license and the jumping really can go do one.
I’m aware that this title has a huge fan base and my score won’t sit well with some of them but to me the overall package is just slightly over average, there are superior side scrolling beat ’em’ ups out there for sure. Give it a go though as again it may just be me this time.
Second Opinion:- Robot objection!!! This game is a great example of how to make a film license work. Not only is it the best scrolling fighter for the system but it's from the second Batman movie with Mr Keaton in so anything less than 9 would just be flat out wrong... And Transbot always does the right thing.
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10