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Batman Returns (Genesis) artwork

Batman Returns (Genesis) review

"I somehow mistook Batman Returns' gloomy cold opening, where the Caped Crusader fights his way to the top of a building and failing to save the Ice Princess from a plunge, as a sign that this side-scrolling platformer might be good."

I somehow mistook Batman Returns' gloomy cold opening, where the Caped Crusader fights his way to the top of a building and failing to save the Ice Princess from a plunge, as a sign that this side-scrolling platformer might be good. Remember that part in the movie, where Batman fights his way to a sabotaged Batmobile? I thought the game was gonna start with a bang. Though, hope for a quality platformer slowly fizzled away when I tried playing the start of the first level, taking place on Gotham City's rooftops; not even ten seconds in, I met death by falling in a pit, and by stage's end, I lost five lives through these incidents. In denial, I chalked it up to my inexperience with the game and pressed on, since it was my first playthrough. However, ten minutes in, the sad truth was very much evident... Batman Returns is all kinds of terrible.

When I finally lost all seven lives and chose to continue, I was forced back to the rooftops, and that's when I came to the realization that the level design is pretty bad. The problem with the layout is that there's no way to tell if there's a platform below or ahead whenever you make a leap. You have a grappling hook that grabs ledges, ala Bionic Commando, but you have to release it at the right moment for it to work, which is an issue when you have no clue what you're jumping towards. I wish flimsy stage design is the only complaint I have, but that's only part of the Dark Knight's struggles. Enemies move and attack quickly, and sometimes even appear on screen instantly without giving you a chance to react rationally. Adding insult to injury, your costumed avatar struts around with jerky animation, acting as if nothing's bothering him while launching punches and kicks. A slow-moving hero against speedy foes... yup. Even if you try your very best, it's literally impossible not to get hit multiple times as you suffer through the game.

The unforeseeable pits, acrobatic clowns, head statues that suddenly spit lava, and diving penguins are bad enough in this first section, but unfortunately, Batman Returns becomes questionably more asinine and idiotic when you try making any progress. The following segment takes place in a building, and the gimmick is that its floors are slanted. This scenario makes as much sense as Batman escaping through a building rather than gliding away... like he did in the movie. Of course, this makes completing the area harder than it should be, as you have to time your walks when moving past steam, Batman's greatest nemesis, and clowns on fast unicycles with sub-machine guns. The latter is absolutely absurd, because the clowns spray a hail of bullets around themselves in rapid succession, which means you're guaranteed to get hurt at least twice before defeating each one. Wanting to top itself, this building has a long, spiked pit floor where you must use your grappling hook to swing across, and considering the sensitive nature of the hook, it's not a smooth experience. As a last instance of masochism, if you're not careful, you can even get sucked into a vent at the exit, which, surprise, sends you to the starting point!

After beating the remainder of the first stage, where I trudged through fighting two naked statues, climbed the interior of an elaborate chapel where gargoyles jumped down on me without warning, and fell through pits strategically hidden behind foreground pillars, I came to a second realization: the developers are jerks. There's challenge, there's artificial difficulty, and then there's being an ass to the player. Like, how do you program all this junk, test it out, and then go, "Yeah, this is good stuff", because it's not. I mean, the start of stage two seriously makes you walk a straight path while masked hooligans on motorcycles jet on screen, damaging the Batman every single time. You can't escape the pain. Worse, some bikers fire a stream of bullets as they speed on the playing field, meaning, if the bike doesn't hurt you, the bullets definitely will.

An arguement can be made that the special attacks, an array of projectiles, help out to a degree, but the issue with them are their limit in quantity. More can be collected if you do some venturing around stages, but the irritating difficulty factor makes you want to finish as soon as possible. They're better off saved for boss battles anyway, as some have absurd strength and awkward move patterns that make them annoying to get near without taking tremendous damage. The first boss of stage two is a perfect example, a hulking man that stomps around and tosses rubble on a higher platform. There's only two ways to grapple up to this platform, and one places Batman in a dead end. Since Batman's slow as molasses, timing your leap up is really annoying. Also, due to the game's habit of screwing you over, these boss fights almost always have to be done in one go, because you will run out of special attacks, making these battles next to futile.

Sadly, Batman Returns never changes its tune throughout this Christmas nightmare; everything that's on display in the game's first stage repeats itself until you reach the end... if you reach the end. Whether you're fighting the Red Triangle Circus Gang in a mall, at a circus, on a train, or in the sewers, you'll constantly encounter clunky level design and fast enemies that consistently deplete your Bat Tank of health and lives. If you muster up the strength to make it to the final stage, your reward for completion isn't even great, just bizarro. As the credits roll by, you're in one final fight with Catwoman on a rooftop, who has acted as a sub-boss throughout the journey. If you defeat her, she'll fall to the ground, and a group of cats will pop out and eat her, scattering when nothing's left. THE END then materializes while somber music plays. Alternatively, if you somehow fail, Batman falls to the ground instead, retreating in the Batmobile. THE END plays with somber music.

Erm... Merry Christmas! I guess.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (December 10, 2012)

You have no idea how close I was to using a Cool as Ice quote for my Riding Hero tagline...

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