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Batman (Genesis) artwork

Batman (Genesis) review

"The 1989 Batman movie completely refreshed the image of 'The Dark Knight'. If anything, the character had slowly begun to fade into obscurity (in visual form, at least) throughout the 70's and 80's, thanks to the awfully cheesy and twee 60's Adam West TV carnation. "

The 1989 Batman movie completely refreshed the image of 'The Dark Knight'. If anything, the character had slowly begun to fade into obscurity (in visual form, at least) throughout the 70's and 80's, thanks to the awfully cheesy and twee 60's Adam West TV carnation.

This movie put to bed all of the clichéd comic and slapstick elements of the franchise and presents a much more mature and dark representation. Moreover, it made it cool to be a fan of Batman again. Jack Nicholson's Joker maintained his wit and cunning, but was depicted as a sadistic, off the wall maniac rather than just a dumb comedy villain who challenged Batman to a surfing contest. Batman was no longer conspiring with a camp sidekick called Robin, and was now a sole unit yearning for justice. Tim Burton's take on the movie resembled the mega-popular comics much more closely, and was an enormous success.

So there was obviously going to be a video game released sooner or later, to capitalise on the record-breaking boom in movie grossing and merchandise revenue. While an identically-structured game was shipped out on a number of consoles in 1990, as well as a very true to the film Arcade game, Sunsoft held fire on SEGA systems initially, before releasing this unique version in 1991.

Graphically, the game captures the dark, gloomy and gritty feeling of Gotham City and the various locations quite well. As you're walking along the street, rain will begin to drizzle down now and again. Throughout the game, you'll trawl Batman through Axis Chemical Plant, The Flugelheim Museum, and Gotham Cathedral to name a few. There's also the chance to take the wheel of the Batmobile, and fly the Batarang and fend off opposition while capturing The Joker's infamous party balloons, or avoiding his goons' vehicles. The levels doesn't look at all bad, and are constructed in a decent way which is going to challenge most platform enthusiasts.

Sadly, it's very much the typical platform scrolling game in terms of the gameplay. Walk along, shoot batarang, enemy down. This doesn't really make it that much of an improvement from the 1990 ZX Spectrum game, you'll get the same challenge and playability from that, when it comes down to it. There are some added elements, such as power-ups, bagging extra batarangs, repleneshing health or picking up extra lives, to be grabbed by launching your grapple gun at their awkward locations.

Before you complete each level, you must go toe-to-toe with an end of round boss. This is another way in which the game shows some reflection of the Batman movie, and you'll get a much tougher fight from Laurence in the Flugelheim, or the sword-wielding maniac than Michael Keaton did (he'll even return for revenge later in the game!). Some of these bosses offer a challenge, and the clashes are considerably more difficult if you run out of batarangs before you reach them, but most of them are pretty similar in terms of an attack strategy, with just patience and perseverance required essentially. If you want to make the game easier, there's an option in the menu which allows you to triple the three lives you begin with. Rather cat, than bat...

Of course, no game of said roots would be complete without a boss battle resembling the final moments of the movie, except ten times harder for the hero. The Nintendo version of the game, somewhat infamous for its deviation from the movie, featured an almost invulnerable Joker (who, for the record, was at least twice as big as Batman, for some reason). While this version is nowhere near as tricky, it can still take you out of the game quickly if you're not completely on your guard. The Joker comes at you with his signature buzzer, sending electric waves along the floor. If you can avoid these, and the shots of that absurdly long shotgun, your batarangs will be enough to send him on a long, long journey to the cathedral steps. It's not exactly a replica of the film's ending, but it works.

If you want something resembling the film, you'll get that straight away just by the well-designed locations. With knocking Jack Napier into the vat of acid, and defeating The Joker at the end of the film, it could be argued that it's as faithful to the movie as it needed to be. It would have been nice to see the frantic code-breaking frenzy of Crack The Joker's Code from the earlier games, which provided a welcome break from the action. A form of presenting the plot, whether it be through cutscenes, images or just plain text, would have also been a welcome addition - as seen in the Nintendo version - but this would only be essential to those that hadn't seen the movie, so it's okay without. The sound used is very strong and the music tracks within each level connote the right atmosphere both for the game, particularly the final Joker scrap, and everything the film stood for. The impeccable Danny Elfman score would have likely been even better, though.

When it comes down to it, it's a decent if standard scroller that is well designed and relatively rewarding to complete after some gruelling boss battles, but it will offer little more in terms of replay value. If you want to play something that's fun and true to the movie, the Arcade machine game is undoubtedly the way to go.

Louisutton's avatar
Community review by Louisutton (August 10, 2010)

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