Batman Returns (Genesis) review
"The Gotham City I know is a source of mystery and wonderment. Itís an eclectic amalgamation of monolithic skyscrapers, scraping the heavens with their neon trappings; and shadowy alleys, where the hefty criminal element lurks. Countless lights punctuate the night sky Ė giving the desolate streets a highly misleading impression of safety - but one punctuates harder than a dozen consecutive exclamation marks. Itís a majestic motif, emblazoning itself powerfully against the stars, calling the cityí..."
The Gotham City I know is a source of mystery and wonderment. Itís an eclectic amalgamation of monolithic skyscrapers, scraping the heavens with their neon trappings; and shadowy alleys, where the hefty criminal element lurks. Countless lights punctuate the night sky Ė giving the desolate streets a highly misleading impression of safety - but one punctuates harder than a dozen consecutive exclamation marks. Itís a majestic motif, emblazoning itself powerfully against the stars, calling the cityís champion into immediate action.
Batman arrives triumphantly, thwarting evil with the inspired combination of brute force and hi-tech gadgetry. This is the Gotham City I know and love, a city whose very existence constantly hangs by a thread with a bat-shaped hook attached to its end.
With this prior knowledge firmly implanted in oneís head, the Genesis incarnation of Batman Returns can be a disappointing and baffling experience. The opening sequence is promising enough, the glossy veneer of the Batmobile charging in from the side, loosing its muscle-built driver upon the screen. One can barely contain the excitement as Batman unleashes his grappling hook and hoists himself up, dangling dangerously from a ledge. So much excitement, and we havenít yet pushed a button!
The game begins, and Batman stands proudly on a simple platform, Gotham City sprawls far away into the background. A second platform floats bizarrely above Batmanís head, an ideal chance to mimic the pulsating move displayed moments earlier. We unleash our cord, and zip straight upwards, planting Batmanís feet safely on higher ground. What an awesome experience!
Alas. A stone gargoyle, unimpressed with Batmanís dexterity, spreads its wings violently and takes off into the air. Our very first enemy, and one certainly outclassed by the sheer manliness of Batman. The gargoyle swoops in, silent as death, straight for our hero. Triumphantly, I smash the punch button, aiming to knock the gargoyle into oblivion! A black stub emerges from under Batmanís cape, falling meters short of the attacker. The gargoyle flies through, shaving a bar off the health meter. Batman wisely moves on.
This is not the Batman that the movies and comics have made us accustomed to. Rather than lurking in shadows and lunging at his foes with perfectly timed strikes, this protagonist is reduced to the role of spectator, as enemies far more agile than him leap around the screen, reaming him with unavoidable attacks. The puny punch and jump kick techniques allowed Batman constantly prove inadequate, as tiny imps jump frantically out of garbage cans and rain down punishment on their lumbering target. The filmic Batman may exude cool, walking around calmly and picking off his enemies with an amazingly casual attitude, but this Batman weíve been lumped with can only sit by idly as a horde of cretins run rings around him.
There is little positive about the Gotham City detailed in Batman Returns either. Embarrassingly dull locales, such as a dilapidated building with half-a-dozen frightfully unimaginative, yet painfully similar floors, are used to detail Batmanís comical exploits. Whilst the opening level is adequate - a panoramic view of the city, dotted with precarious ledges and ample opportunities for exploration - few of the subsequent levels follow in its stead. The developers have aimed more at repetitive scenery, in which enemies can periodically blindside Batman before being clumsily vanquished. A sad and sorry template for a sad and sorry game.
There appears to be little justification for the release of Batman Returns. While it was obviously intended to accompany the filmís release, the widescreen version merely helps showcase the gameís inadequacies. The game has none of the movieís atmosphere, none of its lingering suspense and mystery. The game is a sterile, hastily constructed array of mismatched levels. The game has dressed a broken-down tractor in Batmanís apparel and tipped each level on a slight angle to give the clanking, clambering protagonist the impression of movement. A periodic stream of dripping acid is more than a match for the hero of the game, and with more than one of these streams appearing in many of the levels, there is little hope of Batman recreating the movieís ending.
This is an adaptation that is just downright painful. There is an appalling lack of imagination, and the result is a banal array of predictable environments. The only thing stopping anyone from dispensing of the final boss within mere minutes is the sheer inability of the protagonist to cope with the mediocre obstacles in his way. Tiresome, washed-out graphics, and a soundtrack that gives one the impression that it was created on the bus on the way to work, merely round out this mediocre package. Batman may have returned, but he should double-back immediately, and stay wherever the hell he may have returned from. This is one game that shanít be returning to my console.
Community review by kingbroccoli (July 09, 2004)
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