Not-So Classic Games: Batman: Revenge of the Joker

Way to put the text across the focal point of the image, guys.

With Halloween fast approaching I felt it necessary to do a couple of Halloween themed Not-So Classic Games features. Then I remembered that I promised a friend I would do this game. Then I remembered that one when I was little I dressed up as Batman, and when I was older I dressed up as the Joker. The Halloween theme fits! Will this game be more like a surprise razor blade in your candy or will it just be an apple? Is it spookingly bad or is it only frighteningly mediocre? Will I have more terrible Halloween jokes and puns in the body of this article? Only one way to find out…

Now usually I like to start out by talking about all the non-gameplay stuff the game has to offer, like graphics, music, sound effects, and the like, because it’s easy to do, and most of the time it sets the stage for how terrible the game is. Well, with this game it fails to set the stage at all; everything except the gameplay is gorgeous. In fact, it’s really hard to hate this game because of how nice everything is. The graphics are extremely rich and colourful and all the environments seem quite original and interesting. It’s probably one of the best looking Genesis games I’ve played. Of course later in the game it becomes obvious that most of this game’s budget was spent on art direction.

The music is actually pretty decent as well. A lot of it is reminiscent to Mega Man, which makes sense because more than a couple of the songs are remixes of songs from Mega Man games. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I guess it’s pretty cheap to do something like that, but usually the sound is so different that you don’t realize what you’ve heard until you think back about it. It just sounds too damn good for me to get mad about a little corner cutting like that.

So far so good, what could possibly go wrong?

With a setup like that how bad could this game possibly be? You would be surprised. Jumping is a huge pain in the ass. There are a couple instances of precise platforming which are terrible to try to do with the way Batman controls mid-air. It’s either he goes flying or he comes up short – he can never seem to get it just right. Overall Batman feels pretty stiff and it’s hard to get him to do what you want him to do. If you get hit by something it seems to reset your control input. For instance, if you were crouching and you get hit it puts you back in the standing position. If you were firing, it’s not happening any more. Also, the recovery period where you can’t get hit by anything else lasts for approximately a single second. This makes for some annoying encounters with enemies and a lot of frustration.

The enemies themselves are extremely cheap. Most of them are in a crouching position so you have to crouch to hit them, but jump to avoid getting hit by them. Not that something like that is possible when most have a machine gun weapon that fires an unavoidable stream of continuous bullets that is too long to jump over. In level 3-1, and possibly later in the game, I don’t know, I couldn’t beat level 3-2, there is an enemy that fires a tornado at you. This tornado doesn’t have a consistent pattern or speed. All it does is go down then up off into the sky. The problem is sometimes it goes down further than other times, sometimes it seems to travel in a straight line, sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes it goes slowly, but never does it give you any indication of what’s about to happen. It seems like the enemies are aiming for you, but it’s incredibly hard to predict the resulting parabolic movement, so you’ll never be able to properly dodge it.

Apparently they're also Nazis.

Also, every once in a while you get something firing at you from somewhere else that you can’t hit. All you can do is dodge the bullets. In level 1-2 there is some airship firing at you, in 3-1 some random bombs are being fired at you from somewhere you can’t even see, and all you can do is get out of the way. How is that fair for the player? Guess how much warning you have. That’s right, none: something hits you and you lose health. If you’re not watching for it you could probably fail to even realize what happened. The game becomes so hard in level 3 that I couldn’t make it any further, and it’s all because of parabolic tornadoes and mystery bombs.

Then we have the weirdness that are the boss fights in the game. Basically up until this point you have a health bar of 8 that decreases by one point every time you get hit. In the boss fight you get the number 80000 that decreases by some number depending on the projectile that hit you. The bosses also have a superfluous amount of health. It is incredibly tedious to battle any boss without a power-up of some sort because your base weapon only does 400 points of damage. Thus, the final boss would require 625 hits to die. Let that sink in for a second. SIX HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE HITS. How the fuck are you supposed to do that. Have you ever done anything 625 times at once? Of course you haven’t! What is this shit? His attacks do 4000 damage, so you can only be hit 20 times. Now that’s equity!

Also, how the fuck is this the Joker?

Furthermore, there are no typical Batman objects, like grappling hooks or Batarangs. All you get is a gun that does less damage that a kick, and I’m serious about that. There is no way to recover the scores of health you’ll surely use, and no way to get a power-up when you’re in a boss fight. The power-ups are just weirdly programmed types of guns, some of which are useful, while others, not so much. There’s a homing gun and a super-charged gun which both have their merits, but then there is one that shoots ninja stars in 3 directions at once. That sounds awesome, but it isn’t because of the angles it shoots at and how little damage it does. You can’t glide or fly or anything like that to help with the jumping problem, nor can you climb anything. Nothing except for Batman even looks like it has anything to do with the series, so you could easily swap out Batman for some general tough-looking guy and there would be no difference. As you see from the previous image, not even the Joker looks normal (except in cutscenes).

It’s a shame the gameplay is so bad because this game could easily be considered one of the best Batman games ever aside from it. As I said before, the graphics and music are incredible. The level design is highly varied and very well thought out and a lot of fun stuff happens in the background like moving trees. The sprite animation is some of the most complex I’ve seen in any Genesis game. Even the password system is exceptional. The gameplay, on the other hand, is straight garbage. The game is incredibly unbalanced in regard to enemies, and the controls are broken. And why is there no Batman stuff in it? There are a lot more things I like about this game than there are things I dislike, but those bad parts are so important that it ruins the rest of the game.

  • Manic Maverick

    Man, I remember this game. I couldn’t get past 3 either. But I kept trying because it was all so goddamn pretty. The one thing I kept asking though: “Why the hell is Batman in any of these environments?” XD

  • Noisetank41

    It’s a shame they didn’t even try to make the game relevant to Batman. Maybe when they got the license to use him they just put him in a game they were already working on.

  • Pat Reddick

    @Manic
    Yeah I thought that the whole time too. The game really doesn’t have much of a story. Usually games have an explanatory cutscene at the beginning, but this game doesn’t even have that.

    @Noisetank
    That’s entirely possible. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that were the case. Though this game isn’t tied in to anything so I don’t see why they wouldn’t spend a little more time on it.

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