Saturday 5 October 2019

Batman Returns (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Malibu Interactive
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1992

Batman Returns is an action-platformer that's based on the 1992 movie of the same name.

As the Caped Crusader, your mission is to regain control of Gotham City by eliminating The Penguin and his Red Triangle Circus Gang. Unlike the Mega CD version (1993), there are no driving stages and instead the gameplay relies exclusively on side-scrolling platforming. Batman has a range of weapons including Batarangs and Smoke Bombs, as well as a Grappling Hook to reach higher ledges. Unfortunately, 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 projectiles you will take damage leaping over to battle them. This results in enemies often having the upper-hand, leaving you feeling more like a punching bag than a superhero. They'll frequently shoot you from off-screen too, or suddenly appear from nowhere, giving you no time to react before taking damage. Worse yet are the repetitive enemy patterns and uninspired stage design that often repeats the exact same layout in quick succession. The bosses are largely forgettable and what's most disappointing is how easy it is to defeat them by simply spamming the punch / kick button rather than employing any strategy. On a plus note, the ability to change weapons on the fly is a great idea, and one that gives the game some replay value as you can test out different attacks on previously challenging sections. Also, the SFX are much punchier than the Mega CD port, and while the music isn't as cinematic this version has the advantage of having some additional tracks which are just as intense in their own right.

Batman Returns is a game that's often frustrating and rarely enjoyable, mainly due to its clunky combat mechanics and pedestrian level design that repeats sections while expecting you not to notice! Overall, it feels unpolished and unbalanced, and even its few good ideas can't pull this one up from sheer mediocrity.

Random trivia: Batman Returns was also released on the Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System, although they're entirely different games to this 16-bit version.

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