Batman and Robin, Back on Portable Systems
The Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994 Game Gear)
There is a difference between creating a game based on a character and creating one based on a specific license. So far, as we've dug through all of the various Adventures of Batman & Robin games they've done, to greater or lesser extent, what they could to tap into the vibe of the series. They've had sprites and art and design clearly inspired by the cartoon. Hell, in the case of the Sega CD version, the designers even brought in voice actors from the series to voice their characters for cut-scenes. Whether you liked the game play of each title or not, you had to appreciate the effort put into the games to make them feel like the cartoon.<
But then there's the Game Gear game. This one struggles to have an identity. While it does well enough playing as a BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen., it doesn't really feel like a game based on the animated series. This game feels like a generic Batman title, a dry and uninspired one at that. Perhaps that's the best that the Game Gear could do, but considering a year earlier the Game Boy had a pretty decent adaptation of the series, I have my doubts.
In the game, Batman has to venture out into the city to battle against the JokerOne of Batman's first villains, and certainly his more famous (and most popular), the Joker is the mirror of the Bat, all the insanity and darkness unleashed that the hero keeps bottled up and controlled. after the Clown Prince of Crime kidnaps Robin and holds him hostage. This forces Batman into duels with three of his rogues -- the Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, and Scarecrow -- battling through their maze like headquarters before taking on the foes themselves. Then he has to get over to the abandoned amusement park to find Harley QuinnCreated to serve as "Joker's Girlfriend" as well as his primary minion for Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn quickly grew to be one of the most popular characters of that show, eventually finding a solid life beyond the cartoon in comics, movies, and media. before a final fight against her boss.
Structurally, the game feels like the others in that it's episodic. There are four chapters to the game, each dedicated to the specific villain. That means you're battling through a television studio to deal with Mad Hatter before going to a frozen building for Mr. Freeze, and so on. The artistic style of each set of stages matches the style of the foe, to an extent, but the goons are simply reused from one stage to the next while much variance. The same foes, the same traps, and same hazards.
More variance and personality in each stage would help. Aside from the art of the stages themselves everything feels very same-y. Each stage is just a windy maze, either climbing up or venturing back down, over and over. It not only doesn't feel very creative, it also doesn't feel like a good use of the animated series license. There are specific locales, very creative bases for each villain, but none of the stylistic flourish from the cartoon is reflected in this game in the slightest.
The lack of vibe from the cartoon extends to the villains. Each stage will start with a drawing of the villain, which feels on point. But when they show up in the stages for a fight their sprite barely resembles the cartoon version at all. The only one that feels at all accurate is Mr. Freeze... except he has a giant, non-freezing gun that he uses. It feels very silly, and not at all like the creators were really talking, or plotting to try and use the licenses in any accurate way.
Batman, too, doesn't really look or feel like his cartoon counterpart. The colors are off, for one, looking more like Batman's colors from the the old 1960s TV series. His move set feels inspired by other Batman games. He can punch, kick, slide, and then float slowly down after a long, floaty jump. He doesn't have his grappling gun, which he used quite often in the cartoon, nor any of the other expected gadgets, save the batarangs, which cause their own issues.
Like with the Genesis title, Batman's default fight action is to throw a batarang. There's a pause after he does it, and then any attacks in the combo after are punches, until his batarang regenerates and he throws it again. He can also throw other projectiles (bombs, bolos, etc.), meaning most fights are resolved with Batman "shooting" at his foes, often with deadly weapons. We've already discussed how silly this is, both for Batman (who doesn't kill) and anything based on the animated series (which had standards and practices to downplay the violence), so we won't rehash that.
Even if Batman felt like a proper version of the hero from the series, though, the game would still need to work on its controls to play well. To be blunt, the Game Gear game plays terribly. Batman struggles to consistently move. His jumps are floaty, but he doesn't always jump to the same height because the game drops inputs. There are more than a few jumps over traps that require precision that the game (or maybe the hardware) simply can't provide. It can be frustrating to try and get through some zones when you essentially have to face-tank damage just to get through.
It's pretty clear the designers knew they expected too much of the Game Gear hardware because they made the game as easy as they could in other ways. When you die the game respawns you (after a little animatic) right where you died to continue. That is if you die since the game throws a lot of power-ups at you in every stages. Lots of weapons to use, lots of energy refills to gain. It's a weird zone with the game is both painful to play but hardly a challenge at the same time. It doesn't really feel... good.
Frankly, this is just a bad game. It's not a very fun Batman game by any measure, but it's a terrible Adventures of Batman & Robin game (especially since Robin isn't even in the game at all). I wouldn't say this was just a generic platformer that got the animated series license slapped on -- I bet the creators were aiming to actually adapt the cartoon -- but it's not much better either.