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.

Book, movie, video game: Congo

I’m a fan of Michael Crichton. I like his books. I also somewhat enjoy the movies that are based on his books. His books make good movie material. Generally speaking. Congo is the exception to this rule. Congo was a decent book, but it’s far from a good movie. Congo

The basic storyline, for those unfamilar, is as follows. A telecommunications company, wanting to get an edge on its rivals, seeks the mystical blue diamonds of the mines of King Solomon, which have been located in the lost city of Zinj, in the Congo, Africa. In order to properly locate the city, they enlist the aid of a gorilla, Amy, who has been taught American Sign Language by her keeper, Peter. Amy was born near the city of Zinj, and has had dreams and drawn pictures of symbology from the area. And that’s about it.

Congo: The Movie

Here are a few of the subtle changes made between Congo, the book, and Congo, the movie.


A telecommunications company wants blue diamonds because of their superconductive properties, so they can build better silicon chips and destroy their competitors.


A telecommunications company wants blue diamonds so they can BUILD LASERS THAT WILL CUT APES IN HALF.


Karen Ross is a career-driven psychopathic super-bitch who wants to find the diamonds because her career depends on it, goshdurnit. She’s also blonde, tall, and in her early ’20s.


Karen Ross is a spectacularly benign individual who wants to locate her ex-boyfriend (played by Bruce Campbell, no less), who was on an earlier expedition to the jungle. She’s still blonde, but she’s now in her ’30s and is played by Laura Linney, who’s only claim to fame to date has been Melrose Place.


Amy, the gorilla, speaks American Sign Language, and is entirely believeable.


Amy, the gorilla, speaks American Sign Language, which is translated by a Nintendo Power Glove into the gorilla equivalent of Stephen Hawking. Except retarded. Very, very retarded. Somehow, in the translation from novel to film, Amy also became entirely made out of rubber and acquired a neck that would make Godzilla jealous. I’d like to include a picture of this, but Google Image Search turned up squat. Sorry.




For no apparent reason, Tim Curry exists. As a Romanian philanthropist with an utterly ridiculous accent. His character literally serves no purpose. There is no reason for him to be there, whatsoever. Ostensibly, his character is there to fund the expedition to the congo. However, once they reach the airport, he explains in his stupidly stupid accent that he cannot afford the fuel for the plane, so Laura Linney pays for it, instead. Curry then tags along, occasionally providing a snippet of exposition that could have just as easily been spoken by one of the African porters. Or a tree.

Tim Curry


A great deal of narrative is reserved for the investigation of the city of Zinj, and for the discovery and explanation of the mystery behind the grey gorillas.

“Holy bejeezus, grey gorillas!”

“Look, convenient heiroglyphics, they must be the guardians of the diamond mine!”

“Look they’re eating Tim Curry!”


“Now let’s dice them with the laser.”

So there. Congo, the movie, sucks. It’s enjoyable, if you like turning your brain off, though.


I found “Congo: The Movie - The Secret Of Zinj” for Super Nintendo. It’s….far from the best piece of video game programming I’ve yet to encouter.

Congo: The Game

Here’s the title screen, resplendant with rubber ape. So far, it’s not too scary.

Interactive cut scenes.

A nice touch: Interactive cut-scenes. In both film and novel, there’s a part where the first expedition’s campsite is remotely surveyed by a rotating video camera on a tripod. As the team back in the US watch the footage and rotate the camera around, they see grey gorillas and a whole bunch of dead bodies. In this lil interactive cut scene, the camera rotates randomly and wildly and you can shoot at the gorillas. Evidently if you don’t shoot them, nothing significant happens. Boo.

Congo: Boat level

And this is the point at which I stopped playing, because it became totally and unbearably shit. You play the part of Munro Kelly, the “great white hunter”. Apparently the rest of the Congo cast couldn’t make it, perhaps they all went to Devonshire Tea in Mombasa. Alone in his inflatable dinghy, you must steer Munro through the rapids of the Congo river, collecting floating diamonds.

Various obstacles block your way, most of them kill you. Sticks and sharp rocks puncture your dinghy causing you to lose one of your three lives. Ramps are required to jump over some obstacles and require ridiculously precise aim and impossibly correct speed. The river currents are seemingly random, and often pull you backwards at the time you should be moving forwards, sending Munro to his seething death atop a rock pinnacle.

As if it’s not bad enough already, half-way through this horrible level the water turns piss yellow and the sticks and obstacles become virtually invisible because they’re the SAME COLOUR. The game also speeds up to a blistering speed and your avoidance of obstacles becomes more of an exercise in repeating the level over and over, memorising the directions to press.

It’s worth noting that the graphics here are quite nice. Munro’s boat is pre-rendered CG and has loads of animation frames in its rotation. The water surface is a texture that’s warped around using Mode-7 and is quite effective when the level is moving slowly. Once it speeds up, though, it becomes epileptically nauseating and suffers from an irritating strobe effect once the speed of horizontal movement catches up with the speed of pattern repeat, kind of like the illusion of car rims spinning backward under strobing street lights.

I gave up after this level, the flaws in the game are too unbearable to continue. Looks good, sounds average, plays like a meatloaf.

Hello I'm made of pixels

Super Star Wars was released in about 1872. At the time, it had splendiferous graphics. Of particular note, virtually every character from the (then only three movies wide) Star Wars movie universe was represented in a little 16-bit sprite. I intend to have a look back over said characters, and see how well they really fared.  

Boba Fett.

Fresh from his annual visit to the Coruscant Shoulder Pad Enhancement Studio, Fett sports unusually stumpy shins and a new Dragonball-Z inspired colour scheme.


Lando Calrissian.

Wearing an inverted stop-your-pet-from-licking-its-wounds cone and astronaut pants, Lando’s grinning wildly within a four-pixel radius.


I….I don’t know what the hell that is. At some point between The Empire Strikes Back and Super The Empire Strikes Back, yoda became a small greenish-blue peanut. Well, there you go.


I don’t remember Artoo’s legs being collectively as thick as his body. At least his little light is red.


Threepio now sports an unexplanable coppertone tan, and has lost all of his facial features. At least his eyes will be safe from Salacious Crumb, now.

Emperor Palpatine.

Not so much the brooding Galactic emperor that put the fear of the Dark Side into you, Palpatine is now resplendant in a blue velour dressing gown and has borrowed C. Montgomery Burns’ walk. Apparently the Dark Side doesn’t cure arthritis.


Oo-teeny. I hated these things, they make the most annoying noises. They also weild Nintendo Super Scopes, apparently.

Tusken Raider.

It’s a hessian sack with an eye. Somewhere in the reality-to-pixels conversion, the sandpeople lost all of their facial distinction, and now appear as cycloptic homeless people.

Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Alec Guiness one, none of this Ewan McGregor crap. His beard’s a bit longer, he seems to have a paunch. The desert’s been good to old Ben.

Bib Fortuna.

For some reason, Bib always reminded me of John Inman. Since I realised this, I’ve concluded that Return Of The Jedi could only have been improved by the actual presence of Mr. Humphries. For some reason, in Super Return Of The Jedi, Mr. Fortuna gained the ability to shoot pellets of burning something-or-other from the tip of his longest tentacle. I'll leave determining the significance of this as an exercise to the reader.


Jabba The Hutt’s dancer, largely famous for being the only character in the Star Wars series to have flopped her boob out (Jar-Jar not withstanding, he simply was one). She’s now taken to skipping rope, and markets a splendid new line of purple leg warmers.

Luke Skywalker.

Here’s a nice piece of video game evolution, for you. On the left, we see Neanderthal Luke, hunched over and wearing a hessian bag. Central, we see College Luke, uniformed and upright, making a good impression on all. On the right, we see Goth Luke, hardened to adversary and dressed in black leather, weilding his Greenpeace-savvy verdegris lightsabre.


The old walking carpet is now an indistinguishable vertical sausage.

Han Solo.

That’d be Indiana Jones with his hat off, to you and me. Han has an inexplicable red stripe down his otherwise shmick pantaloons.

Darth Vader.

Vader’s typical dark attire takes on an unusually colourful hue, presumably because the sprite was designed to match the environment it was originally found in. Unfortunately, the sprite, originally located in the Ughnaught Mining Factory on Bespin, was lated placed in the Emperor’s Chamber on the Death Star, where no such colourful lighting existed. So Vader was having a disco all of his own, and the Emperor wasn’t invited.

I apologise for the crappy update. I’ve been busy, and truth be told, I just wanted to put the words “indistinguishable vertical sausage” to good use.