Been a gamer since a young age, starting with my parents Sega Mega Drive, then upgrading to the holy Nintendo 64. Since then I've enjoyed my Playstation 1 & 2, XBox, Gamecube and now rock an XBox 360. Got the nostalgia bug recently and decided to hunt down a Sega Mega Drive and relive those fond memories by starting a retro games collection. This blog will follow that retro Sega hunt, possibly venturing into Super Nintendo country if I ever buy one...
This is a first: a review of a Mega Drive game that I DID NOT own as a child. Unlike Sonic and Altered Beast, where my views were slightly biased due to nostalgic memory-lane hopping, I can't bestow Batman Forever that same favor. The only reason this game is one of the first three I purchased for my retro game journey, was it was one of the only three in the store at the time. But I digress, I'm here today to take you all back to 1995; when the Mega Drive was reaching it's final hours, the PlayStation was about to conquer all that lay before it, and Acclaim released their tie-in to the film that featured Batman using a hearing-aid to crack a bank vault. Oh dear.
The concept of Batman Forever is all well and good. Play as either Batman or Robin (or both with a second player), choose your gadget load-out and fight, swing, rappel and swoop your way through locations from the movie. Fundamentally this all works. The fighting moves you're equipped with are varied enough, the plot of the movie is followed generally well and the game offers a good mix of fighting and swinging around. But that's where the positives pretty much stop. For one, being able to pick your secondary gadget load-out is a neat concept, as is the collection of blueprints throughout the game that unlock further gadgets. However, truth be told, not once did I use a secondary gadget in the game. Never did I feel the need to; and even if I did feel the urge to break out my "Sticky Goo Gun" or "Bat Bola", I wouldn't even know how to. Therein lies the second problem, and this one's a doozy. The control setup is just plain batty (sorry). While your standard kicks, punches and blocks all have their own button, to perform other necessary tasks like using your rappel gun or leaping down to platforms below requires multiple buttons at the same time, and only half the time does this actually work. Needing to press 'up' and 'x' at the same time to rappel upwards resulted in me just kind of jumping on the spot several times before it worked. This is made more painful by making the 'up' button jump, and 'up, up' glide. Several times when I solely needed to jump, I'd find myself merrily gliding off over an edge into the abyss below. There are several puzzles in the game that require quick jumping, grabbing, gliding etc. Needless to say, these were made way more frustrating than they needed to be.
While pointlessly jumping up and down or gliding off edges, be sure to take in the mixed-bag of visuals the game carries with it. The 3D characters aren't bad for the time, reminding me of the characters in the 'Mortal Kombat' games. Same can't be said for the backgrounds though. They mostly capture the look of the movie and they aren't terrible to be honest. Their moody, shadowy tone is quite unique and gives the game it's own style. But moody and shadowy can also be translated to drab. The fourth level for example is so steeped in shadows that it's almost entirely black, save for some shadowy crates and metal beams. The later levels show off a more varied style, and I found myself enjoying the last few levels the most. Every stage features some nice little touch to liven things up. Riding elevators between floors as the city passes you by, fighting on top of a vault being carried over the city, battling on top of a moving train, there are always little diversions to keep you from beating up endless armies of thugs, which is nice.
Then there's the sound. The sound effects are pretty low key, never really jumping out at me, and there were a few poor quality sound clips from the film. But the biggest gripe is the god-awful music. Not only do the songs not fit with the tone or mood of the game at all but they are annoyingly repetitive and just plain painful. You'll be thankful there's an option to switch the music off. There was one decent track during the 'batcave' level but that doesn't make up for the shocking 'bank vault' music that pops up several times during the game.
As you may have noticed, Batman Forever did not exactly ignite my world. There are some nice concepts and ideas, and a decent enough fighting system, but it's all pulled down by frustrating controls, hit-and-miss visuals, maddening platforming puzzles and painful music. It had enough style and substance to keep me going to the end, but it's not an adventure I'll be taking up again any time soon, with or without a second player.