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Batman Returns (Genesis) artwork

Batman Returns (Genesis) review

"A solid Batman title for the Genesis"

For some reason, this game gets kind of a bad rap, especially in comparison to the Super Nintendo Batman Returns game. That game was just an uninspired beat ‘em up title with the Batman license, the only thing interesting they really did was copy the Sega CD's Driving Stages. This game is completely different, whereas the SNES game is a beat ‘em up, Batman Returns for Genesis is an Action Platformer and fairly decent one at that.

As stated above, this being an Action Platformer, you guide Batman through various stages in the game. You fight off bad guys, jump around and use your various gadgets to traverse the levels. Batman's actions consist of physical attacks, using his weapons from the Utility Belt, and jumping, firing his grapple gun, and gliding. I'll go over each of these in that respective order. With his basic physical attacks Batman can do things such as a punching, which you can also perform while jumping, a kick, and a crouching kick, just by pressing the assigned physical attack button.

Each physical attack has different properties to it and they aren't just different looking. Punching can be done rapidly and is actually effective on certain kinds of normal enemies and even bosses. You can actually kill specific kinds of enemies by punching them in the game before they can even touch you. The standing kick move is the strongest physical attack in terms of damage and has good reach, the trick to it is that it technically hits multiple times so sometimes you can kill enemies in one kick if you're within range and it's well timed. The crouching kick has the most reach but does the least amount of damage, usually it's best to throw this move out if some acrobat or something is flipping all around you and you're too close to use any gadgets, because then you drastically reduce your chance of being hit while still being able to attack.

I'd say the most unique part of this game is the inclusion of the infamous Utility Belt and various gadgets. To my knowledge, this is the first time in a Batman game that you have access to the Utility Belt and a full arsenal of things to use. The only other game I know of that did this during the 16-bit days was The Adventures of Batman and Robin on Super Nintendo, and that game came out two years after this one. Anyhow Batman has access to five different gadgets in his belt, normal Batarangs, Smoke Bombs which stun enemies, a swarm of bats, a Speargun, and a Homing Batarang. All you have to do is press Start and select what you want to use, as you play through the game you can pick up more of these through various stages in the form of power ups.

Batman Returns (Genesis) image Batman Returns (Genesis) image

Normal Batarangs are just a cheap and effective way to do ranged damage because they're the most common power up you'll find. Sometimes it'll be better to sit back and throw Batarangs instead of trying to get up close and fight an enemy. Smoke Bombs are useful for disabling tougher or quicker enemies because they have a large blast radius and usually enemies will drop in one hit when they're stunned. The Bat Swarm normally isn't that great of a gadget or whatever you want to call it, it usually does an average amount of damage and you don't find too many of these while playing the game. It's really only useful for when you fight Catwoman because for some reason it does a lot of damage to her but is practically useless on every other boss in the game. The Speargun is just a high damage gadget, but you should save it for boss fights because you don't pick up too many of them. Finally with the Homing Batarangs, they are the highest damaging attacks you have and you should save them only for tough boss fights because like the Speargun they are not that commonplace.

Getting into the movement mechanics I have my first negative criticism. Batman moves rather…sluggish in comparison to all the enemies and projectiles that you'll face…especially when it comes to the flipping acrobats and enemies who shoot fast projectiles. His walk cycle is kind of slow and the only time he'll move fast is if he's jumping or using his grapple gun. With that out of the way though, the jumping mechanics are done well, you never really feel like you get cheated out of a jump and you don't just fall through platforms or anything so it's fine. The way you'll get around most in the game is by gliding and using your grapple gun.

The grapple gun is easy to use, you just press up and the jump button then after you attach to something you just press up and the jump button again to get up to where you need to go or you can swing around if you're trying to get somewhere else. You can also fire your grapple gun while jumping and perform jump shots, these aren't too difficult to pull off but sometimes they can be tricky. If you practice at it enough and learn it, it can save you sometimes if you get into trouble. To glide through the air, all you need to do is jump and hold down the gadget button, then you can glide either straight down, or down diagonally left or right. You have a limited amount of gliding ability though, there's a meter for it on your HUD which also displays your life, boss life, lives, score and the amount of whatever current gadget you have equipped. You can however, replenish your Glide like you can your Gadgets and Health by picking up power ups for it, they're dark colored bat symbols.

The remainder of the gameplay has to do with just avoiding or killing enemies as you go along the levels in an Act and fighting a boss or two at the end. There are five acts and they usually average in somewhere between two to four levels with one or two boss fights. Act 1 is Gotham City, Act 2 is the Streets of Gotham, Act 3 is the Red Triangle Circus, Act 4 is the Sewers, and Act 5 is the Penguin's Lair. The enemies you face consist of mostly the Penguin's Circus Gang from the movie with a few liberties taken, and usually things like gargoyles that come to life or something. Not too many of the normal enemies are dangers but can wear you down over time if you become careless, most of the time if you die before fighting a boss it'll usually be because you were being a little reckless or you died due to a pitfall or trap in the level.

Batman Returns (Genesis) image Batman Returns (Genesis) image

The first few levels aren't that hard and the level design is somewhat pedestrian at first. Straightforward kinds of jumps with obvious pitfalls you can easily avoid, normally very level and stable ground to stand on, with not too much environmental interference. Once you get to Act 3 the level design starts to get a little more interesting featuring larger pitfalls, more background and foreground areas you can go into, and eventually you'll come to a large area that has a series of farris wheels that you have to jump across on in order to get over a massive chasm in the ground. The sewer levels usually involve more pitfalls to avoid, being slowed down by water and have more of a descending direction rather than ascending. Penguin's Lair is very cold and as a result the floor is very slippery, you have to be careful about this and calculate it into your jumps and movements, otherwise you'll fall into ice water and die instantly.

The bosses in this game vary wildly in difficulty and with the placement of said difficult bosses. Catwoman normally is the easiest boss you'll fight because you can pretty much shut her down just by spamming punches and catching her in animation cycles or just keep her trapped with Bat Swarms. Penguin is usually moderately difficult but never hard until the end of the game. There is a sub boss on Act 2 Level 1 though, the Strong Man, he's up on top of a building and he's throwing pieces of a sign at you which does a lot of damage. You have to get up to the platform he's on to even fight him, but there are only two spots you can use your grapple gun on and he'll follow you around from up above, as soon as you try to get up there if your ascension is timed badly he'll just punch you and throw you off. It's pretty hard for just being the fourth boss out of thirteen and only the first one on Act 2, and just weird because the other two bosses after him and really for the rest of the game are a lot easier until the end.

Despite the fact that there are complaints about some elements of the gameplay such as slow movement in comparison to all the enemies in the game, weird difficulty spikes, and somewhat boring level design at first this is still pretty good from a gameplay perspective. You have all kinds of tools at your disposal to deal with the various enemies and situations and you learn eventually how to combat the enemies despite being slower. It's also fun to glide around and use the grapple gun to do cool trick shots and swings. Everything is done pretty competently but it just lacks that spark or something to really put it over the edge into something truly good.

Everything is done pretty well graphically. The stages are colored to be pretty moody and dark in general, but not dark enough to where it's hard to see or be able to tell things apart from one another. It also captures the style of the set pieces in the movie which was a nice touch. There is also variety in the stages where you go from the dark outside areas of Gotham to brightly lit indoor areas, gloomy cemetery cathedrals, an abandoned snowy circus area, putrid looking sewers (you can like or dislike that in my book) and the very dark and cold looking penguin's lair.

Batman Returns (Genesis) image Batman Returns (Genesis) image

The enemies and bosses are usually defined pretty well but sometimes they reuse sprites with no discernible differences and they turn out to have different attacks or attack patterns, and that can confuse you and catch you off guard. It's either sneaky, or lazy, and I vote lazy. They couldn't even bother to palette swap these enemies? Sometimes the background details can be somewhat undefined as well, such as the trees in the Red Triangle Circus stage.

If I did have a general complaint it would have to do with the color palette selection on some characters and in general. The biggest one being, why is Batman purple? He's not even a dark shade of purple but a somewhat bright one with some darker purples for shading. Is this Prince's version of Batman? Did this go beyond the Bat Dance?

They at least could've made Batman blue instead and he's not the only one that suffers from this. The Penguin is REALLY blue looking, it's starting to sound like I'm talking about a NES game and it shouldn't be this way. Especially after seeing games like Sonic the Hedgehog where every character is very clearly defined and normally colored very well but not to where they look like a stereotypical 8-bit character with respective color palette. It may seem like a nitpick but it's really a symptom of a general criticism I have towards how the developers put the Genesis' color palettes to use. They could've done a lot better.

I suppose you could say in a nutshell that the graphics in this game are serviceable and sometimes pretty good but nothing too special as a whole.

Really the only thing to talk about in sound is the music. Because unless there's some kind of strangeness with the sound effects or just oddly placed ones that don't make any sense I'm not going to bring it up, otherwise the sound effects are fine. The sound guys did a pretty good job of making a really varied soundtrack for this game. It doesn't really try to emulate Danny Elfman's work like a lot of other movie licensed Batman games did but you sort of feel the influence of it in a few tracks.

The soundtrack is good at setting a mood for the stage sometimes it can be exciting, sometimes creepy or dark. It's pretty good stuff but at the same time it doesn't stand out that much. You're probably not going to sit there and reminisce about Batman Returns' soundtrack for the Sega Genesis, it just doesn't leave that much of an impression on you. It is good enough to set the tone for the game as you play it at least.

When it comes to this game, there's not much of a reason at all to go back and play through it again. There's no secret endings, no unlockables, no secret areas just no extras at all. It's just a fairly challenging Genesis Batman game that's pretty ok. You may pop this in again after long while just out of curiosity to see how it held up or some other reason, that's pretty much why I played it again.

Batman Returns on Genesis is nice little entry into the whole pile of Batman games that exists. It's not really good or anything but not bad either. It could be worth playing if you're a pretty big Batman fan and want to try a new game out. At least it's pretty challenging and somewhat unique though unlike the SNES' own Batman Returns title, I can give it that.


zork86's avatar
Community review by zork86 (August 06, 2017)

Sometimes, Zork reviews something other than Resident Evil games. And when he does, he gets the hose again.

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Nightfire posted August 13, 2017:

It's clear you put a lot of effort into this review. An exhaustive amount, if I had to guess. This review is lengthy and very thorough, and the good set of screenshots helps to break things up, but honestly, this review still dragged on a bit. It actually read like a guide more than a review. We don't really need to know how every single mechanic of the game works to get a good overview of how it works. There were also a few spelling and grammatical errors here and there (i.e., Ferris Wheel).

While it is technically solid most of the way through and it's clear some editing happened at some point, maybe one more edit pass would have ironed out the last few wrinkles to make it an easier read. Still, you bounced in and out of Review of the Week this time around. It's a good piece, and with a little polish it could have easily made placement.

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