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Batman Forever

Genre: Action Developer: Acclaim Studios London Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1995

I could have baited you with a catchy opening sentence questioning whether Acclaim did justice to the Batman Forever license with this game. I could have kept you reading by throwing out both good and bad points of the game, saving the clincher for the last few paragraphs. I could have used flowery language, and rewarded the game for what it did right before revealing what went wrong. But I’m not going to lie to you or waste your time. The Batman Forever video game just plain sucks.

Try as I may, I can’t remember a single tune from this game. I’m holding the box in my hands right now – touching it, smelling it and practically begging it to jog my memory – but the only song that comes to mind is from Phantasy Star II. But that’s not to say Batman Forever‘s music is bad, it just proves that it’s entirely forgettable. (And that Phantasy Star II had some wicked tuneage, but I digress.) But don’t worry, you’ll be able to remember the melodies by the end of the game, because later levels reuse themes from the earlier ones. That’s right, five mediocre songs are stretched over eight levels. If that doesn’t say “rush job,” I don’t know what does.

The sound effects are equally as bland. Every time your character grabs one of the Riddler’s question marks, you’re subjected to a tooth grinding “Riddle me this, riddle me that” sound clip. The enemies’ comments aren’t much better, each yelling some irritating remark whenever they kill your character. “Forgeddabout it!” yells the stereotypical mobster in a not-so-stereotypical yellow suit. Another enemy just growls. Yet, the player never hears a peep out of the Caped Crusader or the Boy Wonder, aside from a generic “I got knocked over” grunt that every character in the game shares. Throw in a few nonspecific punching noises, and you’ve got the Batman Forever soundtrack.

Holy unresponsive D-pad, Batman! These controls stink! Seeing as how Batman Forever passed through both Acclaim and Probe’s inept hands, it’s not surprising that this game plays a lot like Mortal Kombat. Actually, let me rephrase: This game wants to BE Mortal Kombat. With high and low punches and kicks, a block button, foot sweeps and even the trademark MK uppercut, Batman Forever is the video equivalent of a kid who tries to emulate his older, cooler sibling… and fails miserably. Punches and kicks come off without a hitch, but using the grappling hook is a chore. Instead of just holding up and hitting the grappling hook button to hoist to the next part of a level, the player has to tap the hook button, THEN quickly hold up on the D-pad. Needless to say, you miss more often than you hit the mark. And I’m still not sure how to make my character jump down a level, because the only thing that works is tapping down, block and low kick until he decides to move. The result? Lots of senseless falling and backtracking, and the hope that someone got fired for making this game.

Hey, remember that awesome part in the movie where Batman and Robin had to jump over all those exciting crates? Yeah, neither do I, but it’s in this game. It makes me wonder just what film the programmers were watching, because with a final product like this, there’s no way it was Batman Forever. There are eight tough stages to slog through, but each one has little to do with the movie. Oddly, each level begins in one nondescript location and ends in another, so good luck trying to figure out what triggers the onset of the next stage. And even on easy mode, the game is much too unforgiving. Locating and disarming a bomb in the circus stage is a confusing process, with enemies appearing randomly and a quick-moving timer working against you. If you’re not lucky, the bomb explodes and you lose a much-need life. (Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb, I guess.) So, what’s your reward for sticking out this entire hard, frustrating game? Let me save you some time: “Congratulations! Game complete.”

Yet all of this could have been overlooked if Batman Forever had managed to be fun, but it’s really not. You see, the gameplay isn’t just laughable, it’s this game’s killing joke (no pun intended). To be fair, any game where you get to beat up clowns can’t be all bad, and uppercutting and roundhouse kicking your enemies can be fun, especially when you knock them into some sort of environmental trap or off the side of a building. Yet you never feel like you’re doing much damage. Even a bone-shattering blast of Robin’s stealthy staff steals but a fragment of the foe’s life gauge. In games like Streets of Rage, one can smack around the bad guys a bunch of times in a few seconds, and a skilled player can employ a plethora of devastating combinations on unsuspecting enemies. But Batman Forever forces you to go hit by hit. It’s all kind of like a chess match, only much longer and more pointless.

To help remedy the monotony of the limited combat system, the programmers added plenty of special weapons to the fighting formula. However, it’s always easier to just kick and punch your adversaries into submission, because trying to use a bat-gadget will get you bat-killed. There are twenty of the little buggers in all, but most of them do the same thing. Take, for example, the Bat Bola. Toss it at an opponent, and it wraps around him, constricting his movement. Each gadget is activated with a Street Fighter-like button combination, but seriously, the player shouldn’t have to do a Yoga Flame motion to fling a weak gimmick weapon at some schmoe across the screen.

Yes, you can drag someone else along with you into this lunacy, but why would you? The controls are so broken in the main game that you’ll find yourself explaining to the other player how to use the grappling hook more often than pounding on the bad guys. It’s a shame too, because there was some real potential for fun here. Instead, it’s just as frustrating, if not more so, as the rest of the game. The versus mode fares better though, because it allows two players to choose any character in the game (possibly even the Riddler, via a code I can’t get working) and mix it up mano a mano. It kind of plays like a crippled Mortal Kombat and offers players a respite from the tedium of the main game.

Some games seem to have a soul, a soul of silicon, but a soul nonetheless. Yet despite my greatest hopes, this is not one of them. I try to find the good in all video games, for even in the crappy ones, there are usually a few tidbits worth seeing. However, Batman Forever has tried my patience, and the only reason it didn’t receive a lower score is because the game can actually be completed if the player can deal with the masses of uninteresting villains and the tiresome gameplay. Avoid Batman Forever if you come across it, but if you simply must see what all the fuss is about, don’t spend more than $2 on it. Save yourself three hours of aggravation and watch the lackluster movie instead; at least when that starts to suck, you can go to sleep and when you wake up, it’ll be over. Better still, dig up some episodes of Batman: The Animated Series for your Dark Knight fix. The worst installment of that show is at least twice as good as this piece of garbage.

SCORE: 3 out of 10

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5 Comments

  1. kukuro says:

    A Mortal Kombat disguised in a beat’em all sidescroller. A very bad idea in many ways (a mistake that was reiterated in 1997 with MK Mythologies: Sub Zero… Do they learn something from the game bashing?) . The graphics were quite juicy at the time even perfectly silly nowadays. But I can’t agree with some of you that praise its game mechanisms. Batman Forever is not enjoyable at all. It’s slow and confusing. CONCLUSION: 3.5/10

  2. bitGlass says:

    I was working in a video game store when it came out. It wasn’t a busy store by any means so I played just about every SNES and MD game in there. I remember this being one of the few stand outs that caught my attention. The only thing that bothered me about this game was the “letter box” view. I found the brawling, for the most part, pretty satisfying and the graphics compelling (for the time). While it definitely had MK aspirations, I liked that fact there was more exploration, even if the combat was shallower. I’m inclined to agree with Greg here; it’s an easy target for criticism. The graphics and sound both aged quickly, so maybe that’s why. Within a year the Saturn and PS1 were wowing audiences.

  3. Congslop says:

    I actually enjoy the SNES version, but have a hell of a rough time with the Genesis version.

  4. Greg Jurkiewicz says:

    This is one of those games that people love to hate just because everyone is doing it. Honestly it isn’t nearly as bad as this review would make it seem. For the most part the digitized graphics do look rather silly but the gameplay is fun. It’s essentially like playing Mortal Kombat except you get to be Batman. Nothing wrong with that, infact Midway finally caught on to the idea in 2008 when they made MK vs DC Universe.

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