Saturday, 5 October 2019

Batman Returns (Mega CD / Sega CD review)

Developer: Malibu Interactive
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1993

Batman Returns is an action game that was originally released on the Sega Mega Drive in 1992 without the driving stages.


As the Caped Crusader, your mission is to regain control of Gotham City by eliminating The Penguin and his Red Triangle Circus Gang. There's two gameplay styles, with the first being timed driving stages where you must shoot enemy vehicles with your gun or missiles. The controls are tight, the action moves at a brisk pace and there's barely any slowdown. It's also graphically impressive, with neat scaling effects, detailed scenery and terrific animation. Some of the bosses are inventive and fun to play too, especially Stage 3's battle which requires you to dodge three lanes of projectiles before ramming into a specific target. Unfortunately, enemies are bullet sponges and your missiles (your only effective weapon) have limited ammo. The stages are also too difficult from the get-go due to the overly strict time limit. The tunnel-based Batskiboat driving stages do away with the combat, but drag on forever with little in the way of variety. The second gameplay style is side-scrolling platforming where Batman has a range of weapons including Batarangs and Smoke Bombs. The combat is terrible, as you can't fire while jumping, your reach is short and enemies are usually placed in the middle of narrow platforms... if you're out of ammo you will take damage leaping over to battle them. This results in enemies having the upper-hand, leaving you feeling more like a punching bag than a superhero. They'll shoot from off-screen too, but worse yet is the repetitive stage design that often repeats the same layout in quick succession. The awesome hard rock music does at least intensify the action though.

With a few tweaks to the difficulty and combat, Batman Returns could have been one of the greatest superhero games of all time thanks to its variety, top-notch graphics and faithful locales. However, it's a clumsy experience that's mega frustrating unless you're willing to grind through tough platforming and rock-hard driving stages.



Random trivia: Interestingly, the options menu allows you to select just the driving or platforming stages to play through.

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