Monday, 15 November 2010

Batman Returns - The Sega Megadrive Review

Batman Returns (1992) - Sega
Sega Megadrive
Also for Sega CD, Amiga, Atari ST, SNES, Atari Lynx, PC, Sega Master System, Gamegear

Well, that wasn't easy... or especially fun. I'm having trouble remembering a time when a game frustrated me as much as this one did. Not just the gameplay, but the insensitive handling of it's subject. Something got lost in the translation between Batman the hero and Batman the Sega Megadrive video game adaptation. Batman, to me, has always been as agile as he has been strong, as intelligent as he is resourceful. He can, with limitless patience, hang weightlessly from a rafter until a bad guy passes beneath whereupon he drops, as heavy and devastating as an anvil. Originally he was a detective at heart, since 1939 The Worlds Greatest Detective has been using his deductive abilities to put away criminals as much as he has used his fists. With no 'superpowers' to speak of, years of rigorous physical and mental training, together with his obsession for justice have placed him equal among peers such as Superman and The Flash.
This is Batman. These are the things that make him great.
The video game maker is charged with the task of allowing the player a glimpse into what it is like to be the hero for a few hours. So what is it like to be Batman on the Sega Megadrive?
I died eight times within the first 20 minutes of play. Batman walks like his boots are filled with lead, with all the swagger of a deep sea diver. The difficulty level is pitched so high and the controls feel so sluggish making controlling the hero only marginally less awkward than pushing a bus sideways. He can jump, about a foot in the air. He can swing on his grapple rope from ledge to ledge but in most cases this is unnecessary as most platforms can be reached easily. On the plus side good use is made of the weapons (Bat-a-rangs, Smoke bombs, even a swarm of bats can be summoned) with most being very effective against enemies, particularly bosses, bringing in a small element of ammunition preserving strategy.

"Penguin! Follow the sound of my voice so that I may punch you! OK?"
In keeping with the movie, the levels are dark. Really. Dark. Which doesn't make navigating them from start to finish especially easy. In many cases it's not clear whether you should be traversing a level from left to right or from bottom to top. The game developer could argue that this uncertainty shows variety and encourages exploration, but with each painfully sluggish step in the wrong direction (and each enemy encounter guaranteeing the loss of two of my health points) with very little reward other than, maybe, a health boost to make up for what was just lost during the 'exploration' of the level, my patience became more and more worn.

If you have seen the film then you know that the two main villains are The Penguin and Catwoman. This shortage of boss types makes for some creative decisions from the game design team. The game has seven levels but only two real bad guys. Other than the identikit henchmen that litter each level, Catwoman makes frequent mid-level visits to somersault around like an s&m Sonic the Hedgehog. She is an ammo drain with the artificial intelligence of a glass of water. Five well timed punches to the face and she runs off to lick her wounds until the next mindless encounter. Those creative gaming decisions I mentioned? Well, remember in the film where Batman had that long, drawn out, battle with the statues in Gotham Square? Yes, you do. They threw cogs at him and spat fire! Come on, think. Batman could only beat them by standing on their knees and kicking them in their concrete faces for 15 minutes. Oh, you must have missed that bit, then because it's in the game! And there was that other bit that must have been cut from the film where Batman had to fight a twelve foot juggler who hurled flag stones. That's in the game too.

Not jogging your memory? No?
Batman Returns on the Megadrive is not just a shocking misrepresentation of one of the most well loved heroes of all time, it's also a misjudged representation of the film and a shockingly lazy game in it's own right too.


1 comment:

  1. Batman is one of my favorite characters, thanks