Genre: Action Developer: Clockwork Tortoise Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
Video games have always been a mixed bag for Batman. Aside from a few good runs, such as the NES classic, Genesis Batman, and Batman Returns on SNES, nothing really stands out. Considering how many systems he’s been on (at least 18), you’d think the Caped Crusader would by now have at least one game that’s perfect. Well, some things just aren’t meant to be.
That’s not to say that Adventures isn’t a good game, far from it. It simply suffers from a few key flaws that are enough to keep it from being the definitive title for the masked hero. Still, it stands as one of the best Batman games to date.
Mr. Freeze has decided he wants Gotham City to be cooler; about 30 degrees below zero. He’s built a huge ice cannon to get the job done and only the Dynamic Duo stand in his way. Never one to give in to adversity, Freeze has made possible the escape of three of Gotham’s worst villains: The Joker, Two-Face, and The Mad Hatter. Personally, I wonder why the hell Arkham Asylum hasn’t been shut down, as it has never contained anyone. They might as well just install a revolving door in the place.
Take your pick from either Batman or Robin (What? No Batgirl? Grr…) and bring Freeze down. There’s basically no difference between them, save for the type of projectile they use. I usually choose Batman, as I’ve had a seething hatred for Robin ever since Jason Todd filled the role (Death in the Family = best Robin story ever). A second player can join any time by pressing start on controller two and I recommend you bring a pal along. Some of the stages here are almost impossible to pass alone.
Which brings me to AB&R ‘s most glaring problem: The difficulty. You will cry. You will lose at least one controller. You may even strangle the guy playing along with you (if he doesn’t strangle you first); it’s that hard. Those of you scrubs who cursed at Ninja Gaiden on Xbox would do well to avoid this title at all costs, lest you risk driving away your loved ones in a deluge of profanity and uncontrollable rage. An admitted member of the aforementioned Scrub Club, I use a Game Genie when I play. Call me what you will, but there’s simply no way I’ll probably ever seen the whole game without it. This way, I can play in peace and not worry about lives or continues (of which there are only six). To be fair, once you’ve memorized each stage and boss’s patterns, the game can be completed without great difficulty. There’s just that massive learning curve that might put off most newcomers to ever getting that proficient.
High difficulty aside, the game is highly enjoyable. Through four areas (divided into about three stages each), you’ll battle each villain in various locales. The Joker is busy robbing Gotham’s bank, Mad Hatter is in a studio resembling Alice in Wonderland, Two-Face is trying to steal a top secret blimp high above the city, and Mr. Freeze is holed up in Gotham University.
Both heroes use hand-to-hand combat in close quarters but can also fire projectiles at oncoming foes. Batarangs, shurikens, and bolos can be found and upgraded with icons that appear randomly throughout the stage. Each weapon can be upgraded a total of six times, and charge bar at the top left of the screen shows your current weapon’s strength. Fire repeatedly and you’ll throw standard weapons. Charging the bar will release a super version that will kill most enemies with one shot. I found these weapons to be mostly useless against bosses however, and instead relied on jump kicks, which land several blows in succession. Lame, I know, but we already established that I suck, didn’t we?
Other power ups can be had, like a skull that eliminates everything onscreen and an icon that fills your bar for a limited amount of time, allowing you to shoot your weapons at maximum power. A few obvious 1-ups are scattered about but they are few and far between. Many more are hidden and knowing their location can make all the difference in the world.
Adventures is also a nice game to look at. The graphics are clear and well drawn and the use of color is consistent with the cartoon, so fans will not be disappointed. Even Batman’s famous jaw is present and accounted for! Sprites may seem small but that’s a good thing considering the amount of action going on at any given time. Explosions are typically Genesis and not too impressive (there’s some flicker) but the lack of slowdown overall shows that even at the late date this title was released, the system was still capable of pushing itself.
Speaking of pushing, wait until you see what this game makes your Genesis do. With the exception of Gunstar Heroes, no game its library has the sheer amount of incredible effects found in AoB&R. Sprite and background rotation, scaling, multiple parallax; just about all the eye candy you can think of has been squeezed out the hardware. The swinging crane hook in level three, for example, blew me away, the scaling effect was so smooth. Boss battles are equally impressive. I couldn’t help but grin as Two-Face tossed a pack of TNT onto the girder where I was standing, causing it to fall one side at a time as five layers of parallax scrolled by. I’ve played this game through a bunch of times and am still blown away by the effects. I don’t know who Clockwork Tortoise was, but they knew the Genesis like nobody’s business.
Stages vary from warehouses to elevators and moving convoys. Most are quite long, making the game too long to be beaten in one sitting for all but the most dedicated gamers. A few flying and jet pack stages are included, but these prove less than you’d expect. The hand gliding stage is over fifteen (!) minutes long and gets repetitive fairly quickly, while the jet pack stage is just plain boring.
That seems to be a recurring issue throughout the game. While it’s fun to play through once to see all the neat effects, I don’t see anyone coming back to Adventures frustration-free until they’ve mastered the steep learning curve. Otherwise, the gameplay can sometimes come across as repetitive, and the challenge level kills most urges to play within the first few stages. I usually play mine about twice a year, and that’s with the Game Genie. I doubt I’d be able to play through the game at all without it. As I said earlier, those that take the time to learn the intricacies of each stage will have far less trouble than players who simply barge through to the end. I don’t have such patience, so I cheat and use my GG. Yes, I said it, so what?
Where Adventures shines graphically, it stumbles a bit audibly. The actual sounds are mediocre, but the music is great, even though it doesn’t seem to belong sometimes. No themes from the series are used, and we instead get booming techno. The bass is nice (very nice) but the tunes just don’t seem to fit a Batman game, especially one based on the wonderfully-scored animated series. That doesn’t mean the music is bad at all, though. You really need to hear it alone to appreciate it, as in-game, the action makes it hard to get into most of the time. I’m disappointed that none of the great music from the show or even the movies found its way here. At least the opening theme from the series should have been used.
Once you’ve gotten past the difficulty and questionable musical choices, there’s really a great game beneath that’s worth checking out. With a Game Genie and a friend, it can be quite enjoyable. Just don’t expect an easy ride. Batman has tried repeatedly to be a successful game character and Clockwork Tortoise has come as close as anyone to making that happen.