Batman wasn't always cool.

For a start, he was once a man in grey pyjamas. And as scary as that is, this is scarier: Batman Forever

Now, before you assume I'm dashing copyright and ploughing my way through every title on the Super Nintendo on an emulator, I have a sad confession to make.

I own this game.

You'd think that was bad enough, but it gets worse. I own this game because I was sent a free copy from the Nintendo Magazine System some time in the early '90s. I was sent the free copy because, if I remember correctly, I drew an unoriginal sketch of Cammy from Super Street Fighter 2 in her underwear. Y'see, I'd worked out that the magazine distinctly favoured drawings of naked chicks. Even if they were just traced from the box-art and given ineffectual breasts. I have the magazine clipping somewhere.

Anyhow. Nintendo Magazine System -> Badly drawn naked Cammy -> Free Batman Forever game.

I assume they had a warehouse of shit games they'd dole out to kids who sent them drawings. I assume by the time they got to mine they'd run out of Cool Spot.

Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with Batman Forever. It's playable, it's somewhat fun, it looks cool. It's flawed, though, because it's a) fairly shit, and b) cashing in on the Batman Forever license and disappointing a crudload of people. Well, the ones that paid for it, anyway.

Before I chew through Batman Forever's problems, let's summarise the good points.

The graphics are splendid. Much like Mortal Kombat, the characters are entirely digitised. They hired a bunch of actors (clearly not Val Kilmer and co) and stood them at blue-screens while they kicked and punched and bat-a-ranged their way through the characters various moves. Batman looks great. Robin, however, suffered a bizarre retrofitting of his costume:


On the left, Chris O'Donnell in costume as Robin from the film, resplendant in a metallic nipplesuit. On the right, the Boy Wonder makes a re-appearance in red and green tights and a bright green masquerade mask. I guess there was some concern about the similarity between the Batman and Robin sprites if they were both dark and brooding. Or someone really wanted a game character in a leotard.

The fighting style isn't entirely bad. It plays slightly better than the first Mortal Kombat game, but I admit that's not saying much.

The music is rather nice. It's eerie and appropriate.

The, um, backgrounds are nice.

Okay, I'm grasping at straws. The graphics are great. There the awesomeness ends. Allow me to introduce you to the title screen of Batman Forever:


Oh, wait. That's not the title screen. But it might as well be. You get to see it more than you get to see the levels, title screen and end credits combined.

Someone in the Batman Forever programming office had an epiphane (or an aneurism) when it comes to gaming styles, and decided to mix the fighting genre with the platform genre. It's not a bad idea on paper (kind of like communism), but in reality it plays out like a wet sock.

The first problem is the levels are too short. They're essentially no bigger than the fighting arenas in Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. Each stage has perhaps four or six foes in it, who appear out of doorways or pipes. You kill them, the door at the right of the stage opens, you move on to the next one. (After a bit of "Hold On".) And there are dozens and dozens of stages. Done properly, this would have worked well. For example, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story handles the same style of play properly. Instead of the game being primarily a platformer, each level in Dragon is primarily a fighting genre brawl. The brawls last for considerable time, and the game moves on afterwards with nary a pause. The other side of the coin is something like River City Ransom for the NES, where each level is played out as several dozen enemies are battled and defeated, then the scenery changes.

It's far, far, far from a good idea to set the game up so each level involves only defeating a small number of very easy foes before moving on to the next level. After a pause. That's longer than the level was.

Here, Batman delivers a crotch-distending roundhouse kick to "Mad Ned", a pyjama-wearing inmate of Arkham Asylum. It's best to admire Batman Forever in screenshots. It really looks quite nice. It's a shame it plays so very, very badly.