BATMAN: A Video Game Retrospective

A Video Game Critic / Batman Notes Production


Updated March 14, 2014: Added Batman Arkham Origins (Wii U) and Batman and Robin (Tiger Game.com).

Batman has long been a fixture in the world of video games, and his popularity has never been greater. In September 2011 the Video Game Critic teamed up with Batman Notes with one goal in mind: To create the ultimate Batman video game retrospective. To facilitate this collaboration the Chief editor of Batman Notes was flown into the VGC corporate headquarters where he and the Critic extensively evaluated 25 Batman games in what could be called a legitimate video game marathon. In addition to fine-tuning old reviews, each game has been assigned a "Bat-O-Meter" rating indicating how faithful the game is to the film or animation series it's based upon. Critical factors include graphic style, music, cinematics, and attention to detail. Enjoy!


Batman (Sunsoft,1989)
System: NES
Grade: C
screenshotThis conventional side-scroller is similar to the Genesis version, except with smaller characters, unforgiving gameplay, and stiffer controls. The sprites are small but well defined, and bold colors accentuate the dark, gothic backdrops (the greens and purples are especially pleasing to the eye). Batman is responsive to control and has a nifty "wall jump" that allows him to vault between the edges of platforms. If only "normal" jumps were so easy! You have no control of Batman in mid-air, so you must carefully measure the distance and time it just right. The start button cycles through special weapons including rockets and Batarangs. Batman on the NES is tough compared to the Genesis version. Annoying mines on wheels roll in from all directions, and you'll absorb a good number of unavoidable hits. Heart icons help replenish your life, but they only bump up your health meter slightly. Personally I recommend using the Game Genie cheat that replenishes your health completely with each heart. I can't forget to mention that the game has an excellent, memorable soundtrack. Batman for the NES is a good time, but beating it will require some serious will and determination.
Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: The generic stages and music bear little resemblance to the film.




Batman Returns (Konami, 1993)
System: NES
Grade: C
screenshot This good-looking action title effectively conveys the dark, gothic atmosphere of the film, but it asks a little too much of the player. Unlike the first Batman game for the NES, Batman Returns gives you the freedom to meander around the screen as you would in a Double Dragon game. You'll explore locations from the film including Gotham Plaza, Shreck's Department Store, and the Penguin's lair in Arctic World. The characters are large for an NES title, and Batman looks sharp as his cape flaps in the wind. There's a nice variety of circus goons to beat the crap out of, and your punches send them flying off the screen (sometimes in the wrong direction!). Enemies come in several varieties including acrobats, flame-blowers, motorcycle riders, and clowns on stilts. You can punch, guard, and slide-kick, but the jump-kick is probably your best all-around move. Pressing both buttons unleashes a very effective spin attack at the cost of a sliver of health. The fighting action gets a little monotonous as enemies attack in predictable patterns and sometimes linger where you can't quite reach them. When the game tries to get creative, the results are mixed. In one perilous stage you're forced to hop between floating blocks in an electrified pool while clowns shoot at you from the sides. I hate it when that happens! In another stage you're fighting on slanted rooftops and slipping off the entire time! I did like the part with the bomb-dropping toy helicopters in the department store, which you'll need to knock down with your grappling hook. Driving stages provide some high-speed thrills, and it looks funny when thugs try to hang onto your car. Bosses include the Catwoman and Penguin, and to defeat them you'll need to stock up on special weapons like Batarangs, Batdiscs, and test tubes. Batman Returns has a somewhat understated holiday theme that includes some snowy scenery, gift boxes, and a lighted Christmas tree in one scene. The background music consists of catchy tunes that immediately transport you back to the 8-bit era. The difficulty is a problem. You begin with only a fraction of your life bar and hearts are hard to come by. Passwords and continues are available, but they start you back a lot further than you would expect. Batman Returns is a sharp-looking game with a holiday flair, but it's arguably more enjoyable when played with a cheat code.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Retains many elements from the film, as well as the dark atmosphere. Unfortunately the elements don't add up to make a complete Batman experience.




Batman Return of the Joker (Sunsoft, 1991)
System: NES
Grade: D
screenshot I really wanted to like this great-looking, unconventional Batman romp, but the game would not let me. For the first two stages, Return of the Joker does kick ass. I was seriously impressed with the graphic quality - the characters and backgrounds are bigger and bolder than any other NES Batman game. The gameplay is unique as well - it's more like a shooter than a platform beat-em-up. Instead of punching and kicking, Batman uses his "wrist projector" to fire various types of projectiles. The crossbow arrow default weapon is pretty effective, and power-ups can upgrade you to multi-shot "darts" and guided Batarangs. After collecting several "capsules", Batman turns gold and becomes temporarily invincible, unleashing a torrent of Batarangs all over the place. The exhilarating shooting action gives the game a Metroid or Turrican flavor, and there's even a jet-pack stage that plays like a space shooter. Return of the Joker never lives up to its potential however due to cheap hits, unfair stage designs (hidden dangers), and lousy collision detection (overlapping with enemies). You can overcome these issues in the early stage, but by stage three the situation comes to a head. This snowy stage is easy on the eyes with its snowy landscape and starry night sky, but the difficulty is nearly impossible as missiles rain from the sky and bad guys knock you off of icy ledges. The intense shooting action that was such a hoot in the first two levels takes a back seat to simply trying not to fall off of the screen. The game offers continues but no score. I find it amusing how the pause screen display "PAUSE!" like it's something to get excited about. Return of the Joker could have been a nice twist on the standard Batman formula, but these stages are so evil they may as well have designed by the Joker himself.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Substandard game with a Batman license slapped on it.




Batman Returns (Europe) (Sega, 1993)
System: Sega Master System
Grade: D
screenshot I was pretty psyched up about this European import, but I held off playing it until my friend (and renowned Batman expert) Eric arrived in town. The opening stage of Batman Returns looks inviting. Christmas decorations adorn the streetlamps and the dark background makes the purple and red accents really pop. The characters are small but nicely animated, and I like how Batman's cape flutters in the wind. In terms of audio, Eric described the theme music as "the same song they use in all Master System games". He has a point. Using your Bat-a-rang to defeat the Penguin's lackeys is fun. You'll take down bomb-tossing acrobats, trigger-shy bozos, and fat rolling clowns. You'll battle through the streets of Gotham, Shreck's department store, and the rooftops before descending into the sewers. Swinging between platforms with your grappling hook is an integral part of the game, but the controls are absolutely abysmal. Sometimes you can pull yourself up onto a higher ledge, and sometimes you can't. All too often you'll just plunge into the abyss. Touching a villain means instant death, and even touching a parked truck is fatal! C'mon now! In the department store clowns spring out from any door you approach, so keep your distance. Collecting bat-shaped icons let you improve your speed, increase your Bat-a-rang damage, or earn a new life. The best part of the game is how each stage offers two routes to choose from. I like how this adds challenge and variety, but Eric was not impressed. The game has no score and no password. Batman Returns isn't a bad-looking game but its clumsy controls and one-hit deaths prove a lethal combination.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Playing Batman Returns for the Sega Master System instead of Sega Genesis is like watching the movie on VHS SLP instead of Blu-ray. All the elements are there, but it's not as enjoyable.




Batman (Sunsoft, 1991)
System: Genesis
Grade: A-
screenshot Of all the Genesis Batman games, the first one has held up best over the years. Relatively short in length and simple to play, Batman offers clean, crisp graphics, excellent control, and well-designed stages. Fans will appreciate how the storyline follows the movie from the factory, to the museum, to the final confrontation with the Joker in the tower. The cut-scenes, which fill in the storyline, are brief but fun to watch. Batman's graphics have an old-school charm. The small characters have black outlines, and the thugs all basically look (and dress) the same. It's amusing to watch the bad guys "evolve" as you progress through the stages. They're easy targets in the beginning, but eventually "learn" how to shoot, then to crouch, and eventually they're flipping all over the place. One of the bosses is named "Bob the Goon", which my buddy Eric and I always found to be pretty hilarious. Batman's tight controls allow you to punch, kick, toss Batarangs, and hoist yourself up to higher ledges using your grappling hook. You have a limited number of Batarangs, and if you can save them for the bosses, it'll make your life a lot easier. Batman's audio features a generic soundtrack, and the sound effects are minimal. You won't find many surprises in the platform action, but the driving and flying sequences are a real treat. Actually they play more like side-scrolling shooters. In the Batmobile, you mow down cars, vans, and tanks on the road, while the Batwing stage lets you shoot down helicopters and balloons. I especially love those heat-seeking missiles, which effectively slice through several vehicles at a time. Batman for the Genesis may not be a showcase title for the system, but in terms of pure fun, it's hard to beat.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Music not from the film but like how stages follow the storyline. Very cool how Jack Napier falls into the vat of chemicals.




Batman Returns (Sega, 1992)
System: Genesis
Grade: B+
screenshot My buddy Eric and I recently revisited this old platformer and enjoyed it nearly as much as we did back in the day! Batman Returns is far more sophisticated than the first Genesis Batman - and a lot harder! The film provided plenty of rich material including colorful circus freaks, snow-covered scenery, and memorable villains like Catwoman and the Penguin. Those tall, lanky clowns look downright freaky! Our caped crusader looks particularly sharp, and he struts around with some serious attitude. With a utility belt at his disposal, he can toss bombs, hurl heat-seeking Bat-a-rangs, unleash swarms of bats, and swing from his grappling hook. The controls are not easy to grasp, and even 20 years later I find myself leafing through the manual. Even those who master the controls will fall prey to many cheap, unavoidable hits. Batman Returns is a relentless game with a substantial learning curve. Jesters and gargoyles lurch from the scenery, and when defeated they go up in a puff of smoke accompanied by a truly irritating sound effect. Machine-gun-toting clowns on unicycles terrorize you to no end, and there are traps that are partly obstructed from view. It's not for the weak of heart, but the designers did a good job of evoking the dark, gothic atmosphere of the film. The moody soundtrack gets under your skin and the grainy graphics just add to the dilapidated look of the buildings. The punch-and-jump action is genuinely fun despite checkpoints that sometimes force you to restart an entire level (gah!). Your life meter is replenished whenever you complete a stage, so at least you have that going for you. The digitized cut-scenes are a real treat. Arcade-minded gamers will probably gravitate toward the better-looking SNES version, but this Batman Returns may have the edge when it comes to that all-important "fun factor".

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: Nicely retains the gothic atmosphere of the movie.




Batman Revenge of the Joker (Sunsoft, 1992)
System: Genesis
Grade: F
screenshot This is basically the 16-bit version of Batman Return of the Joker for the NES, but instead of an upgrade, this is actually a big step down. I knew I was in trouble when I saw Batman on the opening screen showing off his junk. That's disturbing. The NES original featured terrific graphics relative to the system, but the visuals in Revenge of the Joker are substandard. Batman is poorly proportioned and looks more like a little kid in a cheap Halloween costume. The first stage places Batman on a rooftop with factories bellowing red and blue "smoke" in the distance. Revenge of the Joker is more of a platform shooter than a side-scrolling fighter, as our hero is armed with all sorts of projectile weapons. As Batman forges through cities, sewers, snowy mountains, and jungles, he'll face a lot of Rambo-types with machine guns and rocket launchers. But these foes are nothing compared to the technical issues you'll need to contend with. It seems like all the flaws from the NES game have been magnified in this version. Cheap hits are the order of the day and the touchy jumping controls are awful. The collision detection is deplorable! You'll take hit from spiked balls that don't even come close to touching you. The moving platforms in stage two completely blend into the surroundings, the falling "meteors" in the third stage are super cheap. Even the music sucks. There's no score, but there are unlimited continues. Revenge of the Joker is pretty bad on all counts, with its only redeeming feature being that it makes the NES version look respectable. It's hard to believe that Sunsoft, who produced so many quality side-scrollers for the Genesis (including the first Batman) could botch this one so badly.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Trash!




Batman Forever (Acclaim, 1995)
System: Genesis
Grade: F-
screenshot Despite knowing full well the dreadful legacy of this infamous game, I tried to keep an objective mind when doing this re-review. After sitting through the game's annoying intro screens (DC, Acclaim, Warner Bros, Probe Entertainment, etc.), the game presented a "credits" segment which introduced the "actors". See, Batman Forever uses digitized actors (a la Mortal Kombat) instead of hand-drawn sprites, and I must say, they look pretty good. Unfortunately, the developers must have spent most of their time in the digitization process, because the rest of the game is absolute garbage. It feels like an awkward attempt to fuse platform action with a second-rate Mortal Kombat engine. Batman Forever is practically unplayable, largely due to its deplorable control scheme. Outside of simple jumps, blocks, and punches, executing any move requires a complicated series of button presses! Considering the game supports the six-button controller, this is unforgivable. Even simple moves like tossing a Batarang, performing a leg sweep, or falling into a hole are inordinately difficult! In the first stage, I had to pull myself through a hole in the ceiling, and it took me a good ten minutes to figure out how (and I'm still not sure how I did it). Later, I had to drop down through a hole in the floor - a no-brainer in most games. But incredibly, it took several minutes of button mashing to do it (the manual is worthless). The stage design is equally appalling, with doorways that magically become unblocked on one level after you defeat a group of thugs on another. In one instance, I walked behind a wall, and found myself staring at total blackness, unable to determine what was blocking my progress. Fighting each character is like a short game of Mortal Kombat, except without the fun. The bad guys sport un-intimidating names like "Mad Dan" and "Billy", and each has a long life meter. Batman Forever does give you the opportunity to play as Batman or Robin, but Robin looks like he's wearing a cheap costume. Two people can play at once, but it's too awkward due to the size of the characters and the fact that you can't walk past each other (somebody's always in the way). And while the characters look sharp and colorful, the rest of the presentation is lousy. The backgrounds look boring and hand-drawn. Couldn't they have digitized some sets from the film? The music is not good, and the voice synthesis is horrendous. After listening to a clip, it'll take you a good 10 seconds to figure out what the heck the static you just heard was trying to say. The game's box has the gall to claim the game has "over 80 stages" and "over 125 moves". Even if that dubious claim were true, I doubt any gamer would have the patience to see them all. Batman Forever was widely heralded as the "worst game of 1995" by magazines of the time. In my book, it's the worst Genesis title ever.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Who are these people that I'm supposed to be fighting?! And who is that in the cheap replica Robin costume? He's certainly not Dick Grayson!




Adventures of Batman and Robin, The (Sega, 1995)
System: Genesis
Grade: C
screenshot Adventures of Batman and Robin boasts sharp graphics, tight controls, and two-player simultaneous action. There's a lot to like, but this game is repetitive to the max! In the first stage our heroes walk down a city street while beating the crap out of clowns that pour out of the woodwork. I like how you can kick while hanging from ledges, and it's cool to toss Bat-a-rangs in a rapid-fire fashion. Actually the game feels more like a shooter than a traditional beat-em-up. But no matter how much damage you inflict, the bad guys keep coming in droves. It feels like you're beating up the same thugs over and over - there must be thousands of them! You'd think that having a partner would help, but in that case the game just throws twice as many thugs your way! Enough already! Had Sega cut the number of villains in half, this would have been a lot better. Still, it's great when you find a skull icon which instantly obliterates every enemy on the screen. The obligatory end-of-stage bosses have life meters that slowly count down from 100, which takes forever. The game is tough and the power-up system is confusing. You can try to play for score, but your score is removed the instant you lose your final life. Buried in this game are many classic Batman foes including the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze. The stylish graphics are attractive, with small but well-defined characters and varied scenery. Clever details include alley cats jumping out of trashcans and crooks that get their hats knocked off. With the exception of the obligatory elevator stage (snore), there's plenty to see - especially in the Mad Hatter's Alice In Wonderland-inspired level. Accompanying the action is an intense, pulsating musical score. There's no password option, just six continues. It's a solid action game at its core, but Adventures of Batman and Robin could have used some fine-tuning. My friend Eric and I used an invincibility cheat to beat the game, and it still felt like an ordeal! Despite my complaints however, I do find myself playing this one quite a bit.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Faithful to the animation series, although the frantic pace makes it hard to enjoy the graphics. Love the Harley Quinn appearances!




Batman Returns (Sega, 1992)
System: Sega CD
Grade: A-
screenshot Batman Returns for the Sega CD is actually an enhanced version of the Genesis game, incorporating brand new audio, more elaborate cut-scenes, and impressive new driving stages. Is it worth the upgrade? Hells' yeah! These driving stages are no joke! Viewing the action from behind your Batmobile, the road smoothly undulates as enemy vehicles scale in from the distance. As you pound them with machine gun fire and guided missiles, they catch on fire before exploding into huge fireballs (daddy like!). The gothic scenery is terrific, and the "winter wonderland" stage is ideal to play on a snowy night. Unfortunately, the driving stages nearly wear out their welcome early, as the first stage just drags on for entirely too long. The platform stages look and play identically to the Genesis version, except the audio has been completely redone. The sound effects are noticeably cleaner, and the surreal background music is much better. I was surprised what a big difference it made! You also get a nifty new option menu where you can adjust the game type (full, driving, or platform), skill level, controller settings, and more. The cinematic cut-scenes employ a lot of pixelated scaling effects, but they're still a trip to watch. Batman Returns is truly a "stand out" game for the Sega CD.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Fans of driving games might enjoy this../... but I doubt it.




Batman and Robin (Sega, 1995)
System: Sega CD
Grade: D
screenshot Since the driving sequences were such a hit in Batman Returns (Sega, 1992), Sega opted to make Batman and Robin nothing but driving. As you weave the Batmobile through traffic and engage your turbo boost, it almost feels like an early version of Burnout (GameCube, 2002). The non-stop driving wears thin in a hurry though, and the controls are not up to the task. Steering is imprecise, and colliding with any vehicle sends you bouncing around like a pinball. When trailing certain vehicles, villains will drop bouncing objects that behave like heat-seeking missiles! One stage places you in a "virtual reality" world, but there are far too many hazards to overcome. You'll be wishing Sega had incorporated some side-scrolling action just to break up the monotony. Still, Batman and Robin's graphics and animation are pretty impressive for a 16-bit system, and the adrenaline-pumping music is terrific. Many popular villains make appearances, including Poison Ivy, the Joker, and the Riddler. Lengthy, full-screen cut-scenes divide the stages, and although somewhat grainy they're still fun to watch. The final stage is actually a flying sequence that's visually pleasing but not satisfying to play. Come to think of it, that sentiment holds true for pretty much the entire game!

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Love seeing the footage from the actual cartoon series, but the game itself needs a lot of help.




Batman Returns (Konami, 1992)
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: A
screenshot If you thought Batman Returns was good on the Genesis, you'll be blown away by this remarkable SNES game. With a completely different look and feel, this plays more like Streets of Rage or Final Fight. In contrast to the dark, grainy graphics of the Genesis version, the visuals here look bright and crisp. Batman Returns more or less follows the film's storyline, with the Catwoman and Penguin serving as the main villains. The fluidly-animated characters are absolutely huge, and the fighting action is top-notch. Not only can you execute the obligatory punches, jump-kicks, and throws, but you can actually fling enemies into the background scenery! I can't put into words how satisfying it is to toss a thug through a department store window! You'll need to beat down belligerent clowns of all sizes, including fire-blowers, sword-swallowers, jugglers, and skull-headed motorcyclists - to name a few. Should you find yourself between two enemies, you can grab them both and bash their heads together! Superb sound effects accompany the action, so when you slam one evil clown into another, it makes an audible "thud". Your Batarangs and spear gun provide you with projectile attacks, and you also have a supply of "test tubes" that function as smart bombs, obliterating all visible enemies on the screen. Although the Batmobile driving stage isn't as flashy as the Sega CD version, it's still a nice bonus. The snow-covered Christmas scenery is a joy to behold, and some stages feature nifty lighting effects - very impressive for a 1992 game! The dramatic musical score is also outstanding and apparently lifted directly from the film. Is there anything wrong with Batman Returns? Well, Batman looks like he let himself go a bit and picked up about 50 pounds. Also, some gamers may regard the non-stop fighting as repetitive, but in my opinion that comes with the territory. This may be the best Batman game of all time, thanks to its winning combination of tight controls and gorgeous 2D graphics.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: Uses the real music from the film, and contains many details from the movie. No payoff for finishing this game!




Batman Forever (Acclaim, 1995)
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: F
screenshot This game was ripped to shreds by critics in 1995. It may just be the most infamous SNES game of all time. From the outset, Batman Forever shows potential. An impressive intro shows the shadows of Batman and Robin running toward the screen, much like the ending sequence of the Batman and Robin movie. The menu screens are framed with molded rubber, and each stage is preceded by a cool rotating grid of city streets. The opening stage (the asylum) incorporates a beautiful shot of the Gotham skyline at night, complete with shimmering water below. I even like the menacing soundtrack. Batman Forever's characters are large and digitized, but that hurts the two-player mode, since you're constantly getting in your partner's way. Fighting fans will immediately realize that Acclaim recycled their Mortal Kombat engine for this game. The basic moves are the same, including the uppercut, leg sweep, roundhouse kick, and rapid-fire punching. The fighting action seems reasonable at first, but you'll soon get tired of dispatching of the same clones over and over again. These guys can absorb a lot of damage! It's tough to be sandwiched between two villains, but a nice backhand punch or leg kick can keep them at bay. The stop-motion animation isn't bad, but Acclaim clearly did not use the actors from the movie. Robin has a sizeable gut, and Batman has a sack of potatoes in his pants! But the game's problems run far deep than that. The glossy, full-color manual never bothers to explain how to climb up and drop down through holes in the floor. As a result, it took me two FAQ pages to figure out how to get past the first stage! The game expects you to climb onto unseen ledges and drop down into areas not visible to the eye. Batman Forever makes a mockery of common sense. Why would destroying a safe cause a door to open on the lower level? There are times when you'll find yourself walking (and fighting) on thin air! The darker levels feature nice gothic scenery, but brighter levels (like the circus) look cheesy. Another annoying thing is having to wait for the game to load as you stare at "HOLD ON". This only lasts a few seconds, but this is a cartridge for Pete's sake! From top to bottom, Batman Forever is a complete mess.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Bad games are bad FOREVER.




Adventures of Batman and Robin, The (Konami, 1994)
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: B+
screenshot It didn't get as much attention as the Genesis version, but The Adventures of Batman and Robin is one heck of a video game! The production values are stunning, and the game screams of quality at every turn. The city skyline of the opening stage is rendered in rich layers and gorgeous color. The animation is fluid and the controls are exceptionally responsive. When you disarm a foe with a Bararang and proceed to beat him senseless, it feels great! The game features a wide variety of villains including the Joker, Harley, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Cat Woman, Scarecrow, Clayface, and Vulture. Each stage is unique, and they are loaded with cinematic touches. For example, in the Cat Woman stage you'll see her somersaulting between rooftops in the distance long before you actually encounter her. In the amusement park you'll explore a fun house and ride a death-defying rollercoaster. In the museum stage you'll team up with Robin to round up hostages. Batman can cycle through a laundry list of gadgets including Batarangs, a grappling hook, throwing stars, a spray gun, and smoke bombs. Extra items like a flashlight, gas mask, and x-ray goggles come in handy in particular levels. The audio is also exceptional, beginning with the orchestrated musical score lifted directly from the show. From the shattering of glass to the clanking of dropped gun, the sound effects are crisp and distinctive. My main gripe with Batman and Robin is that in some circumstances it's not readily apparent what you're supposed to do. For example, in the rollercoaster stage you need to deflect the Joker's bombs by punching them. How was I supposed to know that? Likewise in the maze-like museum stage I felt like I was on a wild goose chase, calling Robin on the phone ever 15 seconds to figure out where to go. If you're like me, you'll want to keep an FAQ handy. Still, this is a quality title that's full of surprises. Fans of the animated series will freak out over all of the Batman goodness jam-packed into this cartridge.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: The music and animation matches the cartoon very well. Love the utlity belt selection.




Batman Forever The Arcade Game (Acclaim, 1996)
System: Saturn
Grade: F
screenshot When you turn on this game you're greeted with impressive views of the sleek Batmobile as dramatic music booms in the background. The character selection screen renders Batman and Robin with rotating 3D models that look simply amazing. There's no reason to suspect you're about to play one of the worst video games in history, but you are. Batman Forever is meant to be a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Streets of Rage, but it's an unmitigated disaster. The graphics are dark and muddled, and the characters are severely pixelated when they scale out. The poor frame-rate, coupled with flashing point values, raining icons, and flying bodies make it hard to tell what the [expletive] is going on. Sometimes you can't even find Batman in the midst of the chaos! The stages offer sharp digitized backdrops, but there's minimal interaction with the scenery. Can someone tell me why wrecking balls keep falling from the sky? The characters slide around as if they were on ice-skates. The control scheme crams a half-dozen functions into three buttons, leaving most of the buttons unused! You can only hold one power-up at a time, and since it's triggered with the punch button, it's hard to use them strategically. Batman has an annoying habit of latching onto anything in the vicinity, so while trying to reach a power-up you'll keep grabbing nearby goons. Ugh! When you do snag an icon, a deep, guttural voice utters something unintelligible. Some power-ups make you invincible and others inexplicably shrink you! According to the manual certain icons are meant to have "random" effects. Really? The back of the box boasts how the "unique combo system allows up to 400 hits". Apparently Acclaim was trying to see how many bad ideas they could cram into a single game. Batman Forever seems easy at first, but once a baddie gets his dirty mitts on you he'll drain your entire life meter. Adding insult to injury, the action is plagued by rampant slow-down - incomprehensible for a 2D game on the Saturn. A two-player mode lets Batman and Robin fight together, but that just doubles the confusion. If you're still not convinced that the game's designer was clueless, consider that the high score screen lets you enter four letters. The sweeping orchestrated musical score is lifted from the film but it's completely wasted. This game is even more shameful when you consider all of the excellent Batman titles that appeared on the 16-bit systems. My friend Eric got Batman Forever for Christmas in 1996 and afterward he vowed to never buy another game by Acclaim.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Fantastic intro and some nice visuals, but the music and power-ups are inappropriate.




Batman and Robin (Acclaim, 1998)
System: Playstation
Grade: D
screenshot A vile gangster descends on an innocent civilian on a dark street. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, the batmobile appears and the caped crusader leaps out, fists clenched! Then, inexplicably - Batman is run over by a bus! This scene is typical of Batman and Robin. This is an overly ambitious game with massive potential, but all of its pieces don't quite come together. It should actually be called Batman or Robin, considering you can't play both at once (Batgirl is also available). It's hard to criticize Batman and Robin's graphics - this game is pure eye-candy! From the impressive cinematics to the glitzy streets of Gotham, the game sports a dark but colorful motif in the spirit of the movie. The heroes look awesome. Although somewhat stiff when they move, I love the way their capes flow. Your adventure begins in the Batcave at Wayne Manor, where you can train and analyze clues. The training room is a Tomb Raider knock-off, as are the swimming controls (who asked for swimming in a Batman game anyway?). The Batcave is pretty cool though because there are plenty of things to do and places to explore. When it's time to hit the road, you'll hop into the batmobile and cruise the streets of Gotham in search of thugs and clues. The driving graphics are impressively smooth, although the steering is over-sensitive. Mr. Freeze's thugs attack from motorcycles and tanks, but your machine gun is very effective at dispatching these goons. There are also civilian vehicles on the road that inexplicably explode when you accidentally sideswipe them (whoops!). The buildings look really good, and you can get out of your vehicle to explore at any time. Unfortunately, only certain designated areas offer anything to see, indicated by a parked police car. Once you determine where Mr. Freeze will strike next, you go to that place and battle his thugs. These fighting sequences are where the game falls apart. Confusing controls, awkward camera angles, graphical glitches, and collision problems make each fight a painful experience. In addition, the sound effects feature a lot of annoying alarms, and the voice samples sound nothing like the real actors. Finally, be prepared to spend a lot of time staring at loading screens. I like the concept behind Batman and Robin, but Acclaim couldn't quite pull it off.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: A lot of good ideas, but poorly executed. Like the batmobile driving aspect.




Batman Gotham City Racer (Ubisoft, 2001)
System: Playstation
Grade: D
screenshot After experiencing the thrilling, high-speed racing action of other Batman games (notably Batman Returns on the Sega CD), I was very disappointed with the tedious nature of Gotham City Racer. It's just a series of boring driving missions punctuated by cartoon cut-scenes. Most missions involve simply driving from point A to point B within a set period of time, which isn't the least bit exciting. The on-screen overhead map is crap, but at least a green arrow at the top of the screen keeps you headed in the right direction. Consequentially, you'll spend most of the game staring at that ugly arrow. The Batmobile itself looks junky, and the analog steering sucks. You tend to swerve from side to side, making it difficult to stay on the narrow roads. Some missions involve trailing a villain or disabling his vehicle with weapons. You can fire weapons forward or backward, but no visible damage is inflicted (lame!). Worst yet, the maze-like layout of the city prevents you from attaining high speeds. Gotham Racer's scenery isn't very elaborate. Most roads look the same, but there are a few landmarks and shortcuts to spice things up. In terms of audio, the orchestrated musical score is terrific, but the Batmobile engine is in serious need of a tune-up. The animated cut scenes are entertaining enough, and fans of the series will enjoy watching Batman battle foes like Two-Face, Firefly, and Clay-Face. This footage appears to be taken directly from the show, although the visual quality is somewhat degraded. Gotham City Racer is definitely mediocre, and only die-hard Batman fans will find any redeeming qualities in this.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Footage is lifted directly from the animated series, but the fun stops there.




Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Ubisoft, 2000)
System: Nintendo 64
Grade: C
screenshot Not your typical Batman game, Beyond represents some kind of bizarre off-shoot of the comic book series where Bruce Wayne is an old man mentoring a young, spry new Batman. Robin is not in the picture due to some bizarre circumstances revealed during cut-scenes. The Joker is your primary foe, although you'll face several sub-bosses you've never heard of like Woof and Ghoul. Batman Beyond is weird as hell, but it gets by on its hard-hitting hand-to-hand combat and easy-to-grasp controls. The game is rendered with 3D polygons, but the side-scrolling fighting action is more along the lines of 2D brawlers like Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). Most of the stages take place in high-tech facilities, and they're pretty boring. The 3D scenery is composed of clean textures and nice lighting effects, but plain metallic walls and stacks of boxes make for dull scenery. This game lacks the interesting illustrated details you find in 2D brawlers. Batman controls well as he goes up against generic thugs, robots, and creepy hyena-people. You can punch, kick, duck, block, jump, and brandish weapons. You have several outfits to choose from, each of which is suited to a unique play style. Personally I prefer the defensive suit with its super-effective shoulder charge. Fighting is satisfying because you can easily dish off a quick succession of hits, and enemies hit the floor with a resounding thud. The audio is terrific with its edgy guitar soundtrack and jarring explosions. Batman Beyond's primary flaw is its questionable replay value. You'll get several continues but no password, so each time you play it's back to the start! The game is pretty short with its five stages, and there's no score or rating to gauge your performance. Batman Beyond had some potential, but Ubisoft didn't put enough effort into this.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Roughly follows the storyline of the animated movie, but the lack of voices is glaring.




Batman Vengeance (Ubi Soft, 2001)
System: GameCube
Grade: B+
screenshot Good Batman games are hard to come by these days, but Vengeance is terrific, sporting impressive audio-visuals that are extremely faithful to the cartoon series. An engaging storyline incorporates three of Batman's arch-enemies: The Joker, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy. Starting with the obligatory training course, the difficulty ramps gradually as you acquire new skills. In addition to a bevy of fancy martial arts attacks, Batman's utility belt is loaded with gadgets like bat-a-rangs, grappling hooks, nets, and remote charges. Some of the game's more original elements include saving people falling in mid-air (!) and the ability to handcuff defeated henchmen so they won't come back for more. The level design is superb, so for the most part it's obvious where you need to go and what needs to be done. Spicing up the action are occasional driving stages. The graphics in Batman Vengeance are crisp and attractive, employing vivid colors over dark backgrounds, although a few areas are a bit hard to discern. The music and sound effects are spectacular, obviously lifted directly from the TV series, and there are over 40 minutes of gorgeous cinematics. While my experience was overwhelmingly positive, I did uncover a few flaws. The "C" stick used to target enemies is far too sensitive, and the camerawork is awkward at times, especially on the ledges of tall buildings. In your first encounter with the Joker, you can hear him, but you can't tell where the heck he is! Finally, it would be nice if when you picked up an item the game actually told you what the freakin' thing was! But don't let these problems steer you away from this above-average superhero title.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: Great cinematics, voices, and use of the utlity belt.




Batman Begins (Electronic Arts, 2005)
System: Xbox
Grade: B
screenshot For a video game based on a movie, Batman Begins is pretty darned good. Some of its graphics are absolutely gorgeous. Who would have thought that docks, a staple backdrop in so many action games, could look so magnificent? I actually had to stop playing to enjoy the scenery a few times. The character animation is excellent, and controlling Batman is a breeze. Performing complex moves like climbing off of a vertical chain and onto a horizontal pipe is so easy that you'll think the game is reading your mind. The basic gameplay involves eavesdropping on thugs, freaking them out by triggering "accidents", and interrogating those you sneak up on. Keeping a low profile is advisable, since causing a ruckus results in thugs pouring out of the woodwork. The fighting action is simple and satisfying, with Batman performing a variety of stylish martial arts maneuvers on his foes. Despite its strong Metal Gear influence, Batman Begins never feels frustrating or tedious. The stages are very linear, and the game always keeps you headed in the right direction. At one point I even asked myself, "Am I playing this game, or is it playing me?" I decided it doesn’t really matter as long as I'm having a good time. This is one stealth game even a casual player can enjoy, although some hardcore gamers may object to the constant "handholding". Batman Begins is nicely paced, and I didn't even mind the early training level (those are usually so annoying). Spicing up the action are gadgets like an optic wire (to see through doors), lock-picking mini-games, and lengthy Burnout-style driving stages. Grenades and Batarangs are useful weapons, but these are only available at specific times, which can be frustrating. There are ample checkpoints, so you won't need to repeat the same areas too often. The storyline differs somewhat from the film but the cut scenes feature a generous helping of movie footage. An ominous orchestrated musical score adds dramatic flair, and it's reminiscent of Psycho at times. Despite being a bit shallow, Batman Begins has all the necessary ingredients of a good superhero game. Numerous unlockables include cast interviews, movie footage, alternate batman costumes, and mini-games. Fans of the Caped Crusader are in for a treat.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: Everything about this game is faithful to the film, with the exception of the music. Can be a little easy at times.




Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (Ubi Soft, 2003)
System: Xbox
Grade: D+
screenshot I picked this one out of an FYE bargain bin, and from the box it looked like a pretty slick beat-em-up. Batman: Rise of Sin Tsu tries to combine old-school fighting with 3D graphics, but the results are disappointing. While the basic formula is similar to the classic 16-bit Batman titles, the 3D perspective takes its toll on the fun factor. For one thing, since the camera is tilted overhead, there's little if any eye candy to be seen. In fact, the only visible scenery is concrete streets and marble flooring. The thugs take far too many hits to defeat, even when you employ special moves! The controls are very much geared toward button-mashing, evident by the fact that many moves require tapping the same button in rapid succession. You can assume the role of Batman, Robin, Batgirl, or Nightwing. I like how you can fight alongside a friend, but that doesn't make the action any less repetitive. The thugs come in several varieties, but they all behave pretty much the same. One type likes to unleash gas bombs which makes the screen very wavy. While this effect seems impressive at first, it's so overused that I found myself getting nauseous from it! Between stages you can save your progress and use the points you earn to purchase additional moves. The graphics mimic the style of the cartoon series, but tend to be a little bland. Rise of Sin Tzu is pretty dull in the early going, but while I expected it to become more interesting as I progressed, that never happened. I suspect even Batman fans will find Rise of Sin Tzu more taxing than it should have been.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Good co-op action, but the final boss Sin Tzu is next to impossible to beat, which is a downer. I would argue that the game's grade should be in the C territory.




Batman: Dark Tomorrow (Kemco, 2003)
System: Xbox
Grade: F
screenshot Batman: Dark Tomorrow begins with a cinematic introduction boasting fluttering bats, fading credits, and an intense musical score by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It's impressive, if you can get past the fact that Bruce Wayne walks like Frankenstein and his mansion looks more like Cinderella's Castle. When you start a new game Batman is pitted against waves of thugs wearing animal masks and armed with machine guns. Besides kick and punch attacks, you can deploy gadgets from your utility belt like bat-a-rangs, smoke bombs, night vision goggles, and grapples. Dark Tomorrow has considerable depth but it's not very playable. Swinging between rooftops with the bat-cable is clumsy, and one accidental slip sends the Dark Knight plunging to his death. The designers tried to incorporate stealth, but Batman creeps so slowly in "sneak mode" that it's unbearable. The combat is ruined by the fact that you must apply bat-cuffs to all the bad guys you beat down. Otherwise they just get back up! Applying the cuffs is time-consuming, and the cuffing animation is unintentionally hilarious because Batman doesn't appear to know what the hell he's doing (where do these things go?). It's frustrating when you're messing around with the cuffs while all the bad guys are pumping lead into you. It just goes to show: just because an idea is original doesn't mean it's good. The controls suck in general. Sometimes Batman will grab onto a ladder and sometimes he won't. You cannot aim upward with your bat-a-rang, leaving you defenseless against thugs on ledges. But by far the worst aspect of the game is the camera. Your view abruptly changes so often that it's hard to tell which way you're facing. You'll need to depend on your radar display to ensure you're not backtracking. And if you think the camerawork is disorienting in the streets, wait until you enter a building. On a positive note, the load screens are short and you can save your progress at any time. When Batman loses his life, he makes one final attempt to stand before collapsing from exhaustion. After trying to play this train wreck I felt the same way.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Dark Tomorrow's gameplay will give you nightmares tonight!




Batman: Arkham Asylum (Eidos Interactive, 2009)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: B+
screenshot It was dogged by months of delays, but it's hard to complain when the final product looks this good. The attention to detail, art direction, and sheer quality of Batman: Arkham Asylum is nothing short of spectacular. In the game's premise, the Joker has taken over the Arkham Asylum and turned the inmates into his henchmen. This Asylum is far more than just a building - it's an entire complex of buildings scattered over an island. The scope of the game is large, and the tone is surprisingly dark and sinister. The first-rate graphics boast some absolutely breathtaking scenery featuring water views and city skylines. Batman has no problem navigating the shadowy, gothic scenery, as he can grapple most ledges at the touch of a button. Exploring the surroundings is enjoyable, and some buildings even have funhouse/haunted house flavor. There's morgue area that's genuinely creepy in a Friday the 13th sort of way. The game's puzzles might be frustrating if not for the handy "detective mode" which highlights "points of interest" in the scenery. The fighting controls are perfectly suited to laying the smack-down on several foes in rapid succession, and each devastating blow is punctuated with exaggerated sounds and slow motion effects. If the crooks are armed however, it's best to use your stealth abilities for a "divide and conquer" approach. Batman: Arkham Asylum is brimming with style and has a flair for the dramatic. Brief cut-scenes are seamlessly intertwined with the action, and the Joker makes regular announcements over the monitors and intercoms. The voice acting is superb, and the language is pretty harsh for a superhero game. The music is restrained but effective, with a melancholy piano adding suspense during quiet moments. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is its crisp, responsive controls. There are plenty of buttons to remember, but the game frequently reminds you how you perform key actions like activating the detective mode or executing a special take-down move. The game has more than its share of original gameplay elements like following a trail of fingerprints to locate a victim or picking electronic locks by maneuvering the controller thumbsticks. As great as it is, Arkham Asylum may be guilty of being too long. Certain stages feel very drawn out, and even when backtracking you're usually forced to clear out the thugs whether it's really necessary or not. The game has a knack for taking a perfectly good concept (like using vents to infiltrate locked rooms) and thoroughly beating it to death! If it were shorter and tighter, I think the game would feel more cohesive and satisfying. Even so, Batman Arkham Asylum is a work of art that will far exceed most gamers' expectations.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: A major leap forward in Batman video games, but needs more villains. The voices of Kevin Conroy and Hark Hamill make the game extra special.




Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros., 2011)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: A
screenshot The predecessor to this, Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360, 2009), was extremely well crafted but a little repetitive. Arkham City addresses that shortcoming by expanding the scope of the game considerably. This sequel takes place in a large section of Gotham that's been cordoned off for the lunatic fringe. It's an amazing sight to behold. Flooded in sections, the dank metropolis is a maze of shadowy alleyways, ominous industrial facilities, and soaring gothic architecture. The action takes place at night with snow flurries that create a chilling atmosphere. Batman can navigate the city with ease thanks to his handy grappling hook which extends a great distance, propelling you from building to building like Spiderman. Considering its expansive environment, it's amazing how the game always seems to guide you to the right place. Unlike Arkham Asylum, there's a wide range of villains including Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Ra's Al Ghul, Bane, and once again, the Clown Prince of Gotham, the Joker. The hulking Soloman Grundy is downright terrifying! The storyline is loaded with surprise twists and conveyed through dramatic cut-scenes that will thrill Batman fans. The basic gameplay is similar to the first game - a potent mix of exploration, puzzle solving, and combat. The "detective mode" highlights items of interest in the environment, and Batman frequently talks to himself to provide hints ("I think I can reach that switch with a remote-controlled batarang"). I'm not the biggest fan of stealth gameplay, but this game makes sneaking up on thugs interesting thanks to cool moves like the ability to reach through walls or perform a "double takedown". The combat system has been refined, and it seems like the more thugs you face, the more fun it is. Like a well-choreographed kung fu fight, the battles are poetry in motion. The control scheme isn't trivial and the moves can be hard to remember, but at least the game introduces them gradually. Your utility belt is loaded with cool devices that are fun to experiment with, and the boss battles let you to subdue your foe in a variety of ways. The musical score is pretty intense and the voice acting is handled well by veteran actors like Mark Hamill (The Joker) and Kevin Conroy (Batman). There are frequent checkpoints and a "Saving..." indicator that appears often. Arkham City is a tour de force of programming, clearly developed by the best in the industry. My only issue is the publisher's heavy-handed use of DLC. Each copy of the game contains a code for downloading Catwoman which can only be redeemed online. This apparent swipe at the used game market is being done at the expense of honest customers who paid full price. Other than that, Arkham City is the Batman game you've always dreamed of.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: A nice mix of detective work and thug smashing should please the masses, but the real payoff is defeating a large helping of super villains!




Lego Batman (Electronic Arts, 2008)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: C-
screenshot If you really think about it, Batman offers the perfect theme for a Lego game. Not only does it provide a colorful assortment of villains and environments, but it's ideally suited for Lego's brand of two-player cooperative action. Helping me review this game was my longtime buddy Eric, who actually played a minor role in the most recent Batman film (The Dark Knight). Lego Batman is an eyeful with its dark cityscapes and colorful enemy lairs, which I found more compelling than the deserts of Indiana Jones Lego or the spaceships of Star Wars Lego. On rare occasions the camera pulls back far enough to expose a misty city skyline which looks amazing. The slick visuals are accompanied by a lush musical score lifted from the first Batman film (1989). Lego Batman's gameplay features simple combat, platform jumping, and a lot of not-so-obvious puzzles. The Batman and Robin characters can switch outfits during the course of the game, giving them new powers and allowing them to complete each stage in multiple ways. Batman's outfit selection includes suits for heat protection, demolition, and gliding. Robin's include a magnet suit, technology suit (for using robots), and attract suit (for sucking up small Lego pieces). The game's multiple storylines can be played through in parallel, and each has a unique set of villains. Lego Batman certainly delivers in terms of presentation, but the shallow Lego formula is beginning to wear thin. First of all, you get infinite lives, so where's the challenge? Some kind of scoring system or time limit might have made things more interesting. The fighting is very repetitive and you can hit your partner, which is sometimes hard to avoid in the heat of battle. Equally aggravating is how the fixed camera angles make it really hard to judge certain jumps. The driving stages look amazing, but are remarkably devoid of fun. Lego Batman also has its share of bugs, and it even locked up on me at one point. Finally, the game saves your progress not after you complete a stage, but after you select continue, which makes no sense. I like the premise behind Lego Batman, but the lack of tension and cookie-cutter design make it less than satisfying.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: Great co-op title incorporates a heck of a lot of the "Bat World" into a single title.




Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Warner Bros., 2012)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: B
screenshot This fine sequel is much better the original, offering imaginative stages, less repetitive fighting, and a lot more variety. You'll explore the sprawling city of Gotham including points of interest like the chemical factory, Arkham Asylum, the zoo, and an amusement park. You can drive vehicles to navigate between locations, and the rainy, gothic scenery looks sensational. The water effects alone are downright spectacular. The cut scenes now contain voice acting which adds a lot of good-natured humor. The jealousy Batman exhibits toward Superman is downright hilarious. The basic action is pretty much business-as-usual as you bash the scenery for cogs, pull levers to access new areas, and beat up goons. You can now alternate control of Batman and Robin instead of relying on the CPU to control your partner. The puzzles are satisfying, but there are times when you can't seem to pull a switch in plain view. Suits provide special powers like a hazard suit that lets Robin hose down hazardous waste and an electricity suit that lets Batman overcome electrified obstacles. The suits play a vital role but I hate how they can lose their "charge". The stages are really cool and you never spend too much time in any one place. The camera is fixed (in most cases) so sometimes it's hard to see doorways and objects in the shadows. The new save system seems like an improvement at first, but upon reloading you may find yourself in an unexpected location. Also, the game is not immune to locking up. As the title suggests, you'll get to use other DC characters although Batman is still the star of the show. A big game with a lot of play value, Lego Batman 2 is probably the best Lego title so far.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes RECOMMENDED: The addition of voice actors & more DC Superheroes make this entry fun for gamers of all ages!




Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Warner Bros., 2010)
System: Wii
Grade: B-
screenshot Batman was a force to be reckoned with on the 8-bit and 16-bit platforms, but since the transition to 3D his track record has been spotty. The Brave and the Bold marks his long-awaited return to 2D, and sure enough, this is one of the more playable Batman titles in recent memory. The game is a series of episodes teaming Batman with various partners including Robin, Blue Beetle, and Hawkman. Brave and the Bold is based on the animated TV series, and I love its tongue-in-cheek style. The banter between Batman and his partner is downright hilarious at times - arguably the highlight of the game! A few lines even poke fun at video games ("Hey, didn't we just pass that mountain?") The game itself plays like an interactive cartoon, with rich scenery that looks hand-painted. The museum in the opening level is fun and imaginative, and I love the "cats throughout history" exhibits. Later levels are set in less-compelling sewers, caves, mines, and subways. The game often feels like an homage to the classic era, as you dodge steam vents, run along conveyers belts, and avoid falling stalactites. You'll grapple platforms, pummel thugs, and gather up the gold coins they drop. In addition to gangsters, you'll beat up robots, gorillas, zombies, and even swarms of bugs! Taking the tutorial is necessary to understand all of your moves, but it's the wide variety of attack options that keeps the fighting fresh. The motion controls are used effectively, mainly to unleash heavy attacks. You can point at the screen to mark targets for your batarangs, which is a lot of fun. It's especially satisfying to set off a string of floating mines. You'll fight your share of bosses, but most of these battles have some sort of twist to keep things interesting. For example, Cat Man will temporarily transform you into small caped feline crusaders! The stages are ideal in length, your progress is automatically saved, and the jazzy musical score is fantastic. A gadget screen lets you buy and upgrade items, but it's hardly necessary because the game is so easy. I'm not a fan of super-hard games, but a little challenge is needed to add tension. Part of the problem lies with the unlimited respawns, which makes you feel like you're playing the game with a cheat code. It's a shame because Batman: The Bold and the Brave definitely gets the "hard stuff" right, combining old-school fun with new-school technology. A difficulty option would have gone a long way, but it's still a fun trip.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: I actually enjoyed this more than the cartoon series it's based upon.




Batman: Arkham Origins (Warner Bros., 2013)
System: Wii U
Grade: B
screenshot This game has been taking heat for lack of innovation and bugginess, but I found this Wii U version to be relatively bug-free and just as addictive as the previous two Arkham titles. Origins features the same graphic style, fighting moves, stealth abilities, and even that familiar "kick the grate open" animation. The gothic visuals and the bone-crunching fights are still terrific, but don't have the "wow factor" they once did. Even the title seems a misnomer. Both Batman and the villains are fully realized from the start; they just don't know each other yet. Still, once I began playing Origins I remembered why I love this series. The controls are crisp and on-screen prompts provide timely hints. The combat has a slick counter system that lets our hero easily dispatch of several goons in rapid succession. Black Mask is the primary villain but there are plenty of supporting bad guys including the Penguin, Deathstroke, Copperhead, and the awesomely scary Killer Croc. As in previous games, you overhear a lot of conversations as you grapple between buildings and creep through dark hallways. A divide-and-conquer approach is wise when dealing with gangs, and it's fun to systematically weed them out. Navigating the city can be disorienting but a quick travel option helps ease the pain. The amazing scenery looks properly weathered and aged, and the dilapidated cruise ship is downright haunting. Some areas do look very similar to others, giving you a frequent case of deja vu. I also found the upgrade system confusing, and using the control pad for the map doesn't work as well as you would expect. The graphical detail is commendable, especially with dust particles in the light fixtures and roaches scurrying across the prison floor. The only blemishes I could see were jaggy shadows and frame-drops when grappling between buildings. The game isn't particularly hard. After you die you pick up right where you left off and your progress is frequently saved. I think what I enjoy most about Arkham Origins is its wintry weather and holiday themes. Dating back to Batman Returns (1992), snow has always been a nice complement to the dark, gothic Gotham scenery. What I enjoyed least was the ridiculous boss battle with Deathstroke, which single-handedly gave me carpal tunnel! Overall Batman Arkham Origins has its share of been-there-done-that moments, but it's still one heck of a video game.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Nice prequel for those who thirst for more Arkham thrills, but an obviously rushed game with blatantly frustrating bugs are the main reason why this outing falls short of 'Arkham City'.




Portable Section


Batman Begins (Electronic Arts, 2005)
System: Game Boy Advance
Grade: B
screenshot When I play a sophisticated 2D platform-fighter like Batman Begins, it begs the question "Why in the hell aren't there games like this for the consoles?" Although its style is rather old-fashioned, Batman Begins boasts terrific production values and adds some nifty twists to the standard formula. Its fluidly animated, highly detailed characters look almost digitized, and I especially like how Batman's cape bellows out as he glides through the air. The adventure begins in the snowy mountains of China, and much like Bruce Wayne in the movie, this is where you'll learn the ropes. Eventually you progress to Gotham city where you take on crooks in more industrial locations. The rich scenery has a nice weathered look to it, and the rain and snow look terrific. Batman has a wide arsenal of hand-to-hand moves, including a rolling kick and an uppercut that can take out three thugs at a time (yeah - now that's old school!) Fighting is fun, and enemies have little health meters under them. Batman Begins also incorporates a lot of stealth elements - for better or worse. I like the idea of getting "the drop" on enemy thugs, but certain stages require you to remain totally unseen, and that's just tedious. Batman Begins features nicely illustrated cut scenes and a soundtrack worthy of a Hollywood action movie. The stealth elements tempered my enthusiasm, but it's nice to see an old-school take on a new-school movie.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: No music, but good use of utility belt items. Not bad at all for a portable.




Batman Returns (Atari, 1992)
System: Lynx
Grade: C
screenshot Wow, this one caught me somewhat off-guard. Batman Returns was a hit on the Genesis and Super Nintendo, but this mini version is also very impressive. It's quite evident that Atari put a lot of effort into this high-quality, action-packed side-scroller. The large characters look awesome and their size does not detract from the gameplay. The Caped Crusader is easy to control but his moves are limited. He can basically jump, duck, or attack, with the "option" button cycling through his weapons. I was disappointed by the lack of a jump-kick move, but I do like how Batman performs flips off high ledges. Interesting backgrounds include gothic building facades and panoramic views of the city skyline. Unlike other games that repeat the same scenery ad-nauseum, there's always something new and interesting to see. The goons you encounter include motorcycle-riding clowns, and each villain is distinctive, exhibiting a unique attack pattern. A nice synthesized musical soundtrack plays throughout the game and adds to the intensity. One aspect that turned me off was the game's excessive difficulty. Just surviving the first stage (out of four total) is a major accomplishment. That's partly due to the excessive number of cheap hits you absorb from bombs, knives, and dynamite being tossed all over the place. There is, however, a secret: just run through and avoid the bad guys! Of course, that pretty much defeats the purpose of the whole game. It's a shame, because Batman Return could have been the best Lynx game of all. Hint: Take cover behind the mailbox when the storefront blows up or you're toast.

Bat-O-Meter:

Batman Notes says: Some character bear slight resemblance to film counterparts, but this isn't too exciting.




Batman and Robin (Tiger, 1997)
System: Tiger Game.com
Grade: B-
screenshot On a system not known for quality platformers, Batman and Robin wins by default. It's a simplistic but mildly enjoyable side-scrolling beat-em-up. You can play the role of either Batman or Robin, although frankly I didn't notice much difference (outside of their appearance). Prior to each stage you select two items from a list of gadgets including a grappling hook, ice blast cape, gas grenades, ice blades, and Bat-a-rangs. These add a little strategy to the rinse-and-repeat gameplay. As you walk down a city street you're approached by masked freaks with hockey sticks. The scenery is exceptionally detailed with layers of buildings, automobiles, signs, and graffiti. The backdrops look great when you're standing still, but when moving they become a blur. The eyestrain becomes even worse in the sewers where much of the screen is intentionally blacked out. You can walk right up to most goons and deliver two good punches to knock them out. The "thwack!" sound effects ring true, but the rest of the audio falls flat. The happy-go-lucky music sounds like a toy xylophone, and the grunts and groans sound like an adult movie! Certain enemies have a tendency to remain out of "punching distance", but they can't escape your jump-kicks. I find it interesting how you can actually unleash multiple kicks during a single jump! Also satisfying is hurling projectiles like Bat-a-rangs. They're hard to see on the screen (impossible really) but you can hear them whirling through the air and watch enemies fall. Your grappling hook pulls you up to higher areas like balconies and fire escapes. The controls could be a little more responsive, and you often get stuck facing the wrong direction. What's more frustrating is how the game sometimes creates an invisible wall and won't let you proceed until you beat up more thugs. Batman and Robin has issues, but I appreciate its good looks, straightforward style, and moderate difficulty.




Icons courtesy of iconshut.com
Graphic courtesy of layoutsparks.com
Screenshots courtesy of ign.com, vgmuseum.com, segacduniverse.com


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