Welcome back Batfans to my retrospective on the Batman games I played.
As we leave Batman Forever behind, next up is Batman’s first foray into the open world/sandbox genre.
Batman & Robin: Developed by Probe Entertainment and published by Acclaim. Batman & Robin was unleashed on the Playstation in 1998 and based on the movie of the same name.
This time around you could control either Batman, Robin or even Batgirl and each character had their own abilities, gadgets and even their own vehicle. Batman with the Batmobile, Robin had the Redbird motorcycle while Batgirl favoured the Batblade.
Following the plot of the film with the trio of heroes having to take down Mr. Freeze (compete with endless freeze/cool puns) and Poison Ivy.
The game featured a semi-open world/sandbox style and even utilized Batman’s detective skills by having to use the Batcomputer to find clues. You’d even have to search around to find Riddler question marks…sound familiar? In many ways, this was the foundation for the Batman Arkham games we have today.
Game reviewers were not very kind to this title, just as film reviewers were not towards the film. But overall the game was just very “meh”.
Batman & Robin was a great idea, but poorly executed and maybe just slightly ahead of it’s time. The clunky controls and sluggish combat really slowed the game down and the awkward camera was a pain.
It was a game that was just too ambitious and the limitations of the hardware at the time could not deliver what the game was trying to do.
A good effort, but just not good enough.
Sticking with the Playstation for Batman’s next outing, this time he’s taken up racing.
Batman: Gotham City Racer: This one was developed by Sinister Games (how apt) and published by Ubisoft. Based on the new (at the time) animated show: The New Batman Adventures and was released in 2001 of the Playstation.
There were quite a few of these kind of games poping around this time, where they took a franchise and turned it into a vehicle based game. 007 Racing (2000) was another one.
This one was a simple point to point kind of affair. With you controlling various Batman vehicles around Gotham trying to stop the villains of the Batman universe.
Some missions would be as simple as go to [insert location here] or follow [insert villain here] with very little variety or depth of gameplay.
You would control Batman, Robin or Batgirl…or at least their vehicles anyway, all while being guided by a big floating green arrow.
This one was just bad. Dull, empty and lifeless environment and no real gameplay variety.
Now Nintendo get into the mix with a game from the Gamecube.
Batman: Dark Tomorrow: Unleashed onto the public in 2003, developed by HotGen and published by Kemco. Released on the GameCube and Xbox.
This one really had a lot going for it.
Veteran DC Comics writer Scott Peterson as well as Final Fantasy’s Kenji Terada collaborating on the story for the game. Even the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were hired to play the game’s dark and moody score. The game was wonderfully dark and atmospheric.
But none of that could hide the this games poor controls, terrible camera and repetitive gameplay.
This one received mostly negative reviews with many gamers calling this “the worst Batman game ever”. Really? Yeah it’s bad, but at least it’s not Batman Forever on the SNES.
Really a shame about this game as it had a lot of potential. The graphics were really well done and detailed (for the time). The presentation was amazing with sublime cutscenes and great music. But the gameplay was horrible, dull uninspired missions, confusing navigation and sluggish controls just killed any hope this game had.
So far, the Batman games seem to be getting slowly worse. Bringing new ideas to the table, but just not pulling them off very well. Where to “begin” on the next one?
Batman Begins: Based on the film and released in 2005 for Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Developed by Eurocom and published by EA Games. I’m going to be talking about the Xbox version here.
Christopher Nolan breathed new life into the Batman franchise when he made his film, but could the game version do the same for the game world?
Bringing back all the original cast from the movie (except Gary Oldman) to record all new dialogue and even using footage directly from the movie itself. Batman begins followed the film very closely, but also added plenty of features solely for the game.
One interesting feature was “intimidation” where Batman could use the environment and his gadgets to strike fear into opponents, which would weaken them up for combat. The game also relied heavily on stealth by allowing Batman to sneak and use shadows to his advantage.
This game brought a lot of new and great ideas along with it. The environments were impressive with plenty of details and interactions. The voice acting was top-notch and it really captured the film well.
But overall, it was very, very average. The game was ultimately very linear, the AI was embarrassing making a lot of Batman’s skills redundant and it just felt very patched together. A real shame as it could have been the game Batfans had been waiting for.
So what next for Batman?
Well we’ll find out in part IV, the final part of my Batman gaming retrospective where the games finally get good again.