In the past few weeks, I’ve looked at side-scrolling beat ’em up games based around popular superheroes Superman and Captain America. Both of those games were released in the arcades (with Captain America and The Avengers also seeing a release to the home consoles), but today’s game was released on the Super Nintendo only and never saw the inside of an arcade cabinet. In many ways this is a shame as Batman Returns is a great game that could have possibly been even better on the more powerful arcade hardware.
Released by Konami in 1993, the SNES version of Batman Returns differs from its Mega Drive counterpart by being more of a side-scrolling beat ’em up, whilst the SEGA version is more of a platformer. Batman Returns was the second Batman film to be directed by Tim Burton and is renowned for being at times overly dark and generally quite weird. I’m on the side of generally liking the film, even though I’m perfectly cognizant of the reasons why others wouldn’t. Danny Devito’s Penguin is a really grotesque take on the character, and I can definitely see why that might put some people off.
I think a big reason why I have fonder memories of Batman Returns than others is that I played this game in my younger days. It’s relatively truthful to the plot of the film, with some really atmospheric cutscenes for the time frame, and the people at Konami clearly did their utmost to do justice to the source material whilst also creating a varied gaming experience at the same time. Along with the usual sections of walking from left to right as Batman and brutalising the Red Triangle Gang of assorted clowns and creeps, there are also other levels that see you flinging Batarangs™ to take down enemies and even a section where you get to drive the famous Batmobile itself!
Having the different styles of play breaks things up and gives the game some variety, with some of the Batarang™ sections actually introducing platforming elements where you jump across window ledges and use your hookshot to avoid the burning sections of a torched building. It’s also really good that you get to take the Batmobile for a spin as well, and I was always really excited to play the level where you drive the Batmobile when playing Batman Forever in my youth. It really is one of the most iconic and cool cars ever to be created, so getting behind the wheel, however brief it is, really is oodles of fun.
The standard beat ’em up portion of the game sees you pummelling the baddies with an assortment of punches and kicks, but if you get close enough, you can also grab an enemy. Grabbing an enemy opens up possibilities of flinging them at their fellow reprobates, grabbing two at the same time and conking their heads together with a double noggin knocker, or even throwing them into assorted walls, benches, windows or lampposts. There’s nothing more satisfying than grabbing one of the many annoying villains and flinging them through a nearby park bench, seeing the bench break apart in the process.
And I mean to use the word “annoying” there because that’s how the enemies get after you advance past a certain point in the game. It’s very easy to get swarmed by the baddies, and when that happens, you can kiss most of your health bar goodbye. It doesn’t help that when you also have other objects and projectiles to avoid, such as when the Penguin arms literal penguins with missiles and has them fire said missiles at you (oh yes, this is something that happens in the film as well. I told you it was a bit weird, didn’t I?), you can’t dodge them because a punch from an enemy stun locks you, leaving you wide open for instant missile death.
The bosses in the game are rock solid also, with Catwoman in particular being an absolute bollock to battle with considering her ridiculous pace and long range whip. The two combined boss battles with her still eat up most of my lives to this very day. Penguin is also an absolute pain in the neck to fight (quite literally, in fact, as he’ll happily sink his teeth into you if you get too close) due to his machine gun umbrella that he can also turn into a rudimentary helicopter as well when the need arises. His battles are the closest the game gets to feeling cheap as you really need a lot of luck to get the better of him, and it’s very easy to get cornered and shot to pieces.
Overall though, Batman Returns does an excellent job of converting the story of the film into a video game, with plenty of variety in the levels and a truly excellent score that makes great use of the SNES hardware. Again, I can only imagine how good this game could have been if it had actually seen an arcade release as we could have had both improved graphics and sound. As it is though, Batman Returns is still an excellent stab at recreating the film, and I’d happily recommend it if you’re a fan. It does right by the source material whilst also presenting a good challenge and varied gameplay.
A word of warning though, if you do want to play the game, then you’ll be looking at spending at least £20 to pick up a copy, so bare that in mind if you decide to go shopping for it.
Until next time, Burn Baby Burn!!!