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The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Genesis) artwork

The Adventures of Batman & Robin (Genesis) review

"The Longest Summer"

Mr. Freeze plans to use a ginormous cannon to turn Gotham City into a frozen landscape in the middle of summer. But before Batman and Robin can spring into action, the scientist devised a scheme to keep them occupied: the Joker, Two-Face, and the Mad Hatter have been freed from Arkham Asylum, causing a crime wave. Based on Batman: The Animated Series, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, upon first glance, does justice to the show with its visual presentation; immediately you'll recognize the Art Deco-influence as the camera pans up a tall building, the Dynamic Duo looking down from the roof, with the dreary brown sky plastered in the back. Paying further tribute, the beginning of every stage has an episode title card with each villain adorning the screen in great detail.

Right at the start, you're pitted against Joker's goons looting during a blackout, and here is where you make a surprising discovery about the gameplay. It's a side-scrolling action title that plays like, of all things, a Contra game. You can "attempt" to take out opponents from a distance by tossing Batarangs like they're bullets, which you can trade for shuriken or bolo weapons with an item pick-up. With differing enemy types, from melee fighters, to shooters and giant brutes, the latter requiring multiple hits to take out, taking down these foes won't be so easy; considering this is also the type of run and gun title where an endless stream of enemies pop out from both sides of the screen, you're likely going to be destroyed in the opening segment on your first playthrough.

From the onset, the experience is grueling, but you're still given a chance for success. Within your arsenal, you have a health meter that can be replenished with pickups, three lives to work with, and a max of six continues. Your attacks have a "charge" meter where, if you let it naturally fill up in a few seconds, it will produce a stronger attack. Though, that's easier said than done when foes also surround you within seconds. Furthermore, you can upgrade your equipped weapon several times, which is the most important thing you must do in order to stand a fighting chance. However, this is also the trickiest thing to pull off because upgrading shares the same item pick-up icon as trading weapons; in the midst of duking it out with enemies, you might accidentally screw yourself by selecting another weapon that hasn't been upgraded.

With all this knowledge on your side, making it through the first stage, facing off against Harley Quinn in several contraptions, and eventually the Joker in a freakish hot air balloon "thing" is a challenging but doable endeavor. When you make it to the start of stage two, taking place in an elevator going to the top of a refueling tower, it actually feels fun. Here, you'll contend with thugs sliding down beams, having barrels tossed at you, and occasionally dodging sticks of dynamite being thrown at different angles by Two-Face. This segment is sufficient, doesn't go on for too long, and offers a different approach to the action over having the player simply run to the right. This is then followed by another change of pace: a horizontal shoot'em up segment above the city. Great!

This is the worst segment in the entire game.

It has all the makings of your typical shoot'em, up, whether it be enemy types with distinct attack patterns, appearing in formations, and mini bosses. As the action plays out, you see the bright lights from the streets below, cars being stuck in traffic, and the fantastic manipulation of building sprites being stretched to get the impression of depth. So what went wrong? The big issue with this segment is that it drags on for too long; by minute five, the game has exhausted every normal enemy type and has resorted to repeating everything. The natural solution would be to have a boss battle and conclude the segment, correct? Instead, the game goes for another 10 minutes ad nauseam. By the time you reach its two back-to-back boss fights, you just want the whole thing to be over with.

While not as absurd as that segment, the majority of the game going forward suffers in terms of content and length. This is straightaway apparent when you enter the subsequent Mad Hatter's stage, where you take on an army of small puppets tied together to make for a long bendy line. While there's occasional rabbit bomb toys that drop in, the first segment is just you shooting puppets repeatedly. The next segment has a change of scenery and you now have to hop on a bunch of mushrooms over a bottomless pit... but you're still tasked with fighting the same puppets as your main encounter. The following segment after this is a bizarre transition, as you're now in an orange tunnel while using a jetpack... but you're still tasked with fighting the same puppets. Want to take a guess what happens in the very next scrolling segment?

Now if you were to view the game from an aesthetic perspective, then it is right up there as one of the Sega Genesis' best offerings. Along with staying true to the visual style of the show, the devs have gone out of their way to perform several graphical "illusions" that you wouldn't normally see in a standard Genesis game. As mentioned earlier with the buildings in the shoot'em up segment, there's a lot of trickery when it comes to stretching or rotating sprites in conjunction with traditional parallax scrolling. This unison is shown off in several segments, blatantly on display during the two tunnel sequences, but also more subtly when you're running across a giant checkered clothed table. Floating robots even shoot laser beam sprites that flip and expand as if they were putting on a rave show; the devs didn't have to do that, but they did!

The smallest of moments impress, such as the final encounter with Harley Quinn. A giant claw hand nonchalantly swings towards the foreground and into the background with little effort, as if the Genesis was capable of smooth "3D" this whole time. You even see the claw covered in shade as it escapes into the darkness. The Mad Hatter boss fight is quite the sight for the eyes, displaying a vibrant area with purple and blue hues in a night sky behind a vertical checkered road that smoothly scrolls forward; the whole setup has a very particular "gloss" not seen anywhere else in the game. All the while, an electronic-pounding, often-brooding soundtrack is blasting away, composed by Jesper Kyd in one of his early video game works. It's a very stark contrast to the orchestral music played in the show, but it still works effectively here.

But then reality hits... several times. It happens after something cool occurs on screen, which is quickly followed by something unexciting. Once you reach your eventual confrontation with Mr. Freeze, you're exhausted, and not in a good way. It's easy to be enamored by all the graphical showcasing and the ambient soundtrack, but then you're right back into the mindless repetitive design of the stages. The game deserves praise for its visual and audible achievements, but there's something to be said where, when you lose all your lives and have to continue at the start of a segment, you dread having to repeat the action. In an action game. There are better hard and fun action games on the console, whether they're shooters, beat'em ups, or platformers, and you would be doing yourself a favor by checking them out instead.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (June 12, 2024)

There's a lot of weird Double Dragon games in existence, but Game Gear Double Dragon is easily top three weird.

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LeVar_Ravel posted June 13, 2024:

This game was such a letdown, especially compared to the SNES game which was actually true to the wonderful TV series!

And how ironic that the future great composer, Jesper Kyd, could not have been more out of step with the series' music style if he had tried.
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dementedhut posted June 14, 2024:

I don't dislike Jesper Kyd's music in the game, but I do question its stark contrast to the animated show's music. Was Jesper unaware? Or did he just do his own thing regardless?

The game itself is unfortunate from a gameplay standpoint, so it's a shame the visual "tricks" used here were wasted on something like this.

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