Batman Returns is a pretty sweet game.
I’ve never been a fan of the 2d beatemups, really. I never understood the point. It always felt like button mashing and holding forward; either it was a game designed to eat up quarters, where there’s really no way to successfully defend and stay alive and it’s a game of attrition, your wallet versus the cabinet. Either that, or it was too easy, and you were just wading forward, tapping the attack button as waves of feeble clones fell beneath your reaping fists.
This game, though, is absorbing. Much like another game I’m playing a lot of right now, which rhymes with Teat Biter Whore, you have to do a lot of “zoning,” controlling where your enemies are in relation to you so that they are vulnerable to your attacks, but you’re not getting hit by theirs. Pick the right attacks to do damage enough to kill and chip away at the wave, but don’t get carried away, or a fat clown will jump on you and take away about a sixth of your health. The tradition of the zeroeth life last chance before a continue is dropped, here, so you have to be very careful.
What this amounts to is a game that makes you feel like a tiny black god of murder. Waves of clowns – it’s always fucking clowns, isn’t it – waves of them crash down on the beach head of Gotham City, and break on the obsidian rock that is the Batman. You are the Batman, and you don’t just punch punch kick in little canned combos. You grab dudes, just like other beatemups. But all you have to do is walk into them. They don’t even stand a chance; your grim might is overwhelming. And what do you do when you grab one of these puny jerks? You cast them aside like the low scum they are. You fucking hurl them against the wall, often taking down two more filthy clowns on the way.
You can jump kick, of course, sure – but you can also press down and attack to fling your cape wide and come down on your enemies like an vengeful spirit. I’m sure I could see the fear in their eyes, if there were enough pixels for eyes, if they weren’t soulless clown automatons. You’ve got a batarang but it does not damage, it only stuns, and you have a grappling hook for swinging. You have vials that you can drop, a nod to Bruce Wayne’s genius, which explode and kill everyone around you.
Really though, all that other shit is just there for when there aren’t walls at which to throw clowns.
It’s fairly easy to die if you’re not careful. But that’s okay. Because when you come back, you can grab that little bastard by the throat and punch him to death. You can punch all of them to death, and you will, because you have a horde of little bats hiding in trashcans, waiting to give you powerups, little avatars of your rage bearing gifts.
Besides your standard 3d stage, you also get a 2d stage with ducking and projectile-focused combat, and occasional mode 7 street battles in the Batmobile. It’s all pretty cool. There are even some really, really slick little cutscenes with high quality graphical versions of the actors from the movie. It’s a very pretty game.
I really have to emphasize, though, that throwing a Fat Clown into a wall, crushing a Thin Clown between the two, is one of the best feelings you will ever get from a video game.
Go do it right now.