Years ago when I was in high school, I happened upon a cart of Batman Forever on the Sega Genesis laying helplessly on the sidewalk amid a gloomy, rainy day. I thought to myself ‘how could anyone be so careless as to accidentally drop a video game on the street?’
I cleaned it up, played it, then hit a notion that maybe the person who accidentally dropped the game didn’t do so unintentionally …
Holy Smokes Batman
Batman Forever’s story revolves around the Caped Crusader and Robin’s ordeals of suppressing and stopping the mayhem Two-Face and Riddler cause. The first stage starts you off at Arkham Asylum and from there you have to complete seven more stages to end Two-Face and Riddler’s reign of terror once and for all. There’s a debriefing before each stage that lays out the scenario for the upcoming level.
Controls and Gameplay
This game has one of the weirdest and most convoluted control setups that I’ve seen for a beat-em up. They are reminiscent of a fighter. Basic controls are ok; low punch, high punch, low kick, high kick, blocking, etc. are easy enough to pull off and logical, though they still remind me of a fighting game. The real kicker is trying to pull off special moves or using gadgets. One example is the roll attack. I have to press left or right on the control pad twice, then hit the Y button. Another example is throwing the Batarang. I would have to press down and towards the enemy on the control pad and then press A. All special moves and gadgets require Mortal Kombat-esque control sequences to execute them. But this is a beat-em up, not a fighting game …
If you didn’t have the instruction manual (and it has errors in it by the way), how would you know how to utilize the gadgets and special techniques? Heck, even with having the manual, I was not able to use any of the gadgets or special techniques on command sans the grappling hook. So unfortunately I was relegated to using just the basic punch and kick attacks. I’m not sure if the controls are just inherently flawed, or if I need a new controller, or if my execution is off. But no matter how you slice it, Batman isn’t really fun to play as without his wonderful toys.
One more thing about the controls. There will be times when you will have to climb down to a lower part of the stage. It took me almost a half hour to figure out how to make Batman accomplish this! It’s not stated in the manual. I’m pressing all combinations of buttons I could think of to make him go down! I finally discovered pressing the R button along with down on the control pad is the answer!
Throughout the game’s 8 stages, you mostly encounter generic villains who all kinda look the same. There are subsets like a guy who looks a little like Bane, a guy who dresses in colorful suits, and clowns, for example. It would nice to have a little bit more variety in the enemy cast, even put some minor villains from the comics to spice things up. I’m not surprised one bit though as the color palette swap to flesh out your opposition is a recurring issue in beat-em ups.
Some of these regular guys fight hardcore. You’ll encounter enemies that will do backflips, leg sweeps, and block. Some will use chainsaws they pull out of thin air, others will blow poison gas in your face, or blow on a horn to immobilize you, or attack with the same roll technique you can do. The regular enemies seem just as skilled as Batman and especially so if you can’t pull off the complicated controller motions for the special moves.
I’m sure many of us always wondered what it would feel like to be The Batman. In this game, he feels … rather slow. He moves at a leisurely pace and can’t run to save his life. This isn’t the way I pictured Batman. I visioned him to be a terrifying shadowy figure lurking in the darkness, ready to pounce on someone with the quickness of a big cat. In this game, he plods along in his unimpressive, cheap-looking spandex suit exhibiting no better reflexes and agility than the common criminals he faces. It’s definitely disappointing to see Batman this way. It’s even more disappointing to play as him in this game.
Playing through the levels didn’t give me much joy or excitement of anticipation. It was more like a chore. Blazing a trail in drab uninspired locales with confusing layouts will do that to you. I even had to wait a few seconds as I moved between rooms as if this were a CD based game with loading screens.
You will often have to shoot your grappling hook straight up in the air in random spots to see if you can hoist yourself up into new territory. This becomes monotonous fairly quickly. Sometimes shooting the grappling hook straight up in the right spot will drop goodies like health packs.
At the end of each stage, percentage points are meted out for the amount of items you picked up, the number of enemies beaten, and the secret areas you managed to find. I didn’t have the desire to complete any stage at 100%. I just wanted to get out of the stage as quickly as possible. If I don’t feel the stages are any fun to be in, why would I try to go for the 100% completion rate?
There is a two player option in this game. There’s an option to fight as a team against the bad guys or you can hurt each other and still have to contend with the enemies. There’s also a training mode where you can try to hone your skills before playing the main game. Perhaps I should have tried the training mode before playing the actual game.
Batman Forever starts you off with three lives and you can find 1-ups through the game. There’s no continue option nor a battery backup or password system. There is supposedly a stage select code, but I never got it to work.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics really didn’t age well. I didn’t think it looked good in the 90s. The game used the same type of full motion technology featured in the early Mortal Kombat games. Many parts of the game are really dark and all the sprites look incredibly cheesy. I guess they didn’t have a decent budget for costumes. Sometimes there are objects in the foreground that obstruct your vision. This can get annoying when you have enemies on either side of you. The game would have benefited so much from a different visual direction altogether.
The music fared a little better. Some of the tunes sound similar to what Danny Elfman might of composed. Others will grate on your ears if you listen to them long enough. There is an option to turn the music off which may be one of the few good ideas this game had.
Sound effects are 3rd rate, everything from the sound of punches hitting the target to the inferior exclamation of yells when anyone on screen gets hit or dies.
Is this one of the worst games ever? I will go out on a limb and say no. The game is functional. The basic controls work without a hitch although the special moves take effort to pull off consistently. The thing is I don’t think the game is fun. The presentation is far from gorgeous and there is absolutely nothing here that motivates you to push through the game. You’re better off spending your video game playing hours on something else.
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