Review by Zork86
"A decent, if unremarkable and unimaginative beat'em up."
In my ongoing quest to find and play just about every Batman game released, I've come across good and bad ones. The film Batman Returns managed to produce a small handful of decent titles that were released and I think this is included in that list. A lot of people seem to prefer this game greatly of the Sega Genesis/Sega CD counterpart. To be honest I'm not sure why that is, they're two different games and aside from the movie license only the Sega CD and SNES versions have one other thing in common, a driving stage.
But that's a review for another time, for now, I'm reviewing this.
The game's story scenario and direction pretty much follows the films except this game is a Beat em Up in lieu of Final Fight and all that. Now I'll admit firsthand that I'm a pretty big fan of these kinds of games, they've always been fun to me and they're a classic staple of Old School Gaming. Because this is a Beat em Up it's very straightforward, you have a set amount of lives and difficulty settings you can play with and you start the game. From that point it plays a lot like any other Beat em Up game you've ever played but with neat little touches here and there that help to set it apart from the crowd somewhat.
First off, the game is split into three different kinds of segments you'll play. The main segment of the game is the traditional Beat em Up kind of gameplay where you'll roam around on a pseudo 3D like plane and just fight guys. This part of the game has no real problems other than the mechanics are little too simplistic in my opinion. You have a four hit combo, you can block as well, and a few other special moves that involve jumping that stuff is fine, but the problem here is that the developers had an opportunity to include more of Batman's gadgets for you to use in the fighting segments. All Batman is equipped with is a Batarang which is a very useful tool you'll need to use to get through the game which I'll explain in a bit, his Grapple Gun which you can only use to swing around in these segments but it's rather pointless to use unless you really need to get out of a hairy situation and this thing called a Test Tube which is basically a kill everyone on the screen attack with an explosion and flash that takes up the whole screen that you can only a do a few times because you have a limited amount of these and really it's better to save these for bosses.
During the fighting segments there is a whole gang of different kinds of enemies you'll fight and you'll of course get surrounded if you're not careful, that's why you've got to use your Batarang often because they basically stun an enemy for a couple of seconds and they stop in their tracks. You can use this to make time to deal with other enemies on screen but it's even more useful when more dangerous enemies appear like clowns with rocket launchers or time bombs, these guys dish out the most damage and you'll need to hit them with a Batarang to stop them from shooting you, or hitting the bomb in their hands causing it to explode on them. One neat thing about these segments of the game is how you can do special environmental attacks like throwing a guy into a glass window in the background, or a wooden bench breaking it and causing splinters to fly everywhere and a few other examples. This is a nice little touch from the devs as it helps to make you feel really cool as you're cleaning up the streets, you'll always have the urge to try and throw a clown into a street sign or window if you're given the opportunity because it's so satisfying. Eventually you'll come to a boss fight in these segments of the game and you'll pretty much be forced to fight them hand to hand your Batarangs and Grapple are completely ineffective against them, only Test Tubes will deal damage.
The second gameplay segment turns into a sidescroller kind of deal and your primary attack is to just throw Batarangs at people until they die. You can no longer move up or down on the streets, only left and right. The direction of the game at this point changes at lot because half of the time it seems you're encouraged to avoid enemies and being hit rather than directly engaging them during these segments which is kind of odd, you'll also have platforming areas where you'll be expected to actually use Batman's Grapple Gun to go across holes and chasms. I'd say it's during these stages that you have the highest chance of dying because of the weird damage scaling with enemies and bosses and the fact that you'll probably fall and die because getting used to the timing with the Grapple Gun will take a little bit. I can kind of understand what the devs were going for on these stages where I think they wanted to get some use out of the Grapple Gun but these segments could've been designed a bit better because there are just a lot of times during these parts where you're hit by enemies or something and it's unavoidable.
The third gameplay segment only appears once in the entire game, and it's a driving stage with the Batmobile. The comparison this will probably draw will lead to the Sega CD version of Batman Returns and the driving stages on that game are really popular, to keep that comparison short it's not as good as the Sega CD's version. It's very simplistic, you can speed up or slow down and you fire off these discs similar to the Sega CD game but it ends there, not having the same amount of depth or challenge to it. There are only two kinds of enemies you face, the skeletal bikers which will occasionally fire rockets at you or just back into you in weird patterns and the campaign van from the movie which is a boss. I feel like they could've had two more of these kinds of stages in the game, and one of them featuring the boat/jet ski from the movie, instead this just seems like a tacked on extra with little to no thought put into it, almost like a bonus stage.
It seems to me that the devs wanted to try and make a multilayered game with different play styles but it didn't entirely work out they may have envisioned. I feel like their efforts were spread too thin and the other two segments of the game suffer for it. They feel like they could've been tightened up better or just tacked on, only the main game segments feel really solid. None of the gameplay is overtly bad, but it could probably be better overall.
Score: 5/10 - Average
Visually this game is very nice looking and a solid showcase of the SNES' capabilities. The game on different stages provides really cool looking lighting effects like when a building catches on fire, it looks like you're in an area lit up entirely by fire, there's a section of the game where you're fighting in some abandoned building and it's really dark, the shadows play over the whole game's graphics and make it darker looking. All of the character sprites in the game are pretty large and detailed, and the animations are good and fluid. The only downfall in the graphics department is the Batmobile stage, that whole stage just has a really drab and boring color palette and the background is really barren. I suppose they couldn't really match what the Sega CD did with RAM limitations or whatever but it just doesn't compare well to that game.
Score: 8/10 - Great
The sound effects are pretty average for a SNES game, no weird glitches or just off sounding effects. The music is pretty good if a bit forgettable. The game's soundtrack is somewhat inspired by tracks from the film's score these translations turn out pretty well actually and some of the original tracks not so much. Especially on the first stage of the game, it's rather slow and droning. Music in a Beat em Up game is supposed to be energetic, raw and memorable and you will get some of that in later stages but nowhere near some of the other games that you've played.
Score: 7/10 - Good
There really is not much to come back for once you're done. No different endings, no extras, nothing. You can try and play the game again on a harder difficulty but the differences are quite vague. It just seems like you do slightly less damage or the enemies do slightly more. It's pretty short when you beat the whole game, clocking in anywhere around 40 minutes to an hour. It may be fun to pop in later on long after you've beaten it just because it's a short and fun romp but that's it.
Score: 3/10 - Bad
This iteration of Batman Returns on the SNES is pretty decent in terms of a movie adaptation game, but parts of the game feel rushed, tacked on, or just overly simplistic compared to the Genesis/Sega CD version and other Beat em Up titles. It's not a bad game at all and it doesn't cost much anymore, I got my copy for like $9 on Amazon. If you really like Beat em Up style games and you were a fan of the film, give it a shot.
Final Score: 5.5 Average
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 07/31/12
Game Release: Batman Returns (US, 04/30/93)
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