Batman Returns — 4Q2020 issue

Dark Knight’s sec­ond out­ing a rous­ing adventure

As a Bat­man fan, I hold a spe­cial place in my heart for most of the big-screen adap­ta­tions of the Caped Crusader’s fight to clean up Gotham. Bat­man Returns, despite its prob­lems, is at the top of the list in terms of favorite aes­thet­ics in a Bat­man film. That said, I wasn’t sure if I felt the same affec­tion for the game version.

The story is the same as the film: You, as the Dark Knight, bat­tle the nefar­i­ous Pen­guin and his equally fool­ish part­ner Cat­woman as they join forces to take over Gotham and wreak havoc. Because you are tech­ni­cally supe­rior (and richer) than your foes, you have an arse­nal at your dis­posal that helps you take out the crim­i­nal ele­ment that is doing the bid­ding of the med­dle­some bird man and trou­ble­some minx. Really, if you’ve watched the superb film, you shouldn’t be at a loss here as to what you need to do. It fol­lows the plot exactly, includ­ing the encoun­ters that Bat­man has with lesser hench­men. Being a game based on a movie prop­erty some­times has its perks.

Con­trol­ling the Dark Knight is much like you would expect from watch­ing the movie. Bat­man is easy to guide around, though there are a few spots where the direc­tions and what to do could be a lit­tle more clearly pointed out. How­ever, Bat­man is fluid and moves quickly enough that get­ting around Gotham to take on the Pen­guin and Cat­woman isn’t much of a problem.

Returns, fore­most, is stun­ning visu­ally. Much like the film, the game’s graph­ics are top-notch and evoke that well-known Tim Bur­ton feel. The graph­ics are so well done that it almost appears that they were taken directly from the movie and inserted into the game. The col­ors are rich and pop when nec­es­sary in the game’s color palette, though it doesn’t stray far from the movie’s muted col­or­ing too much.

Much like the graph­ics, the sound is also spot on and close to the movie’s back­ing tracks. Of course, there are a few appro­pri­a­tions because you’re not get­ting a full orches­tra with com­poser Danny Elf­man on the SNES chip, but the music is suf­fi­cient and gets the job done.

Bat­man Returns is a decent adven­ture set to the tune of the pop­u­lar sequel on the sil­ver screen. It’s a paint-by-the-numbers sequel with gor­geous, rich visu­als that some­how man­age to do the movie ver­sion jus­tice in the 16-bit era. It’s com­fort­able and easy going, so you’re not miss­ing any­thing if you’re look­ing for the best fol­low up that fea­tures Bat­man. The Bat, the Cat and the Pen­guin have a good adap­ta­tion on their hands with this 16-bit recre­ation of Gotham.

Injustice: Gods Among Us — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Polygon.com

Jus­tice takes a new form

There have been a few DC Comics fight­ing games that have taken advan­tage of its vari­able super­hero and metahu­man ros­ter. Jus­tice League Task Force and Mor­tal Kom­bat vs. DC Uni­verse are among those that come to mind. And because of MK vs. DC Uni­verse, brought to you pre-Midway implo­sion by the com­pany that cre­ated that step in the direc­tion of redemp­tion, DC was able to fore­see the fruits of mak­ing a decent game based on their prop­er­ties. Enter Injus­tice: Gods Among Us.

Let’s get straight to the point: Mar­vel has had the mar­ket cor­nered on fight­ing games involv­ing super­heroes for some time now, thanks to the resource­ful­ness and shady under­tones that are Cap­com. So, for Injus­tice to stand a chance in the sud­denly re-crowded fight­ing game arena, it had to be some­thing spe­cial. Thank­ing those gods among us, it is.

Injus­tice plays much like the 2011 reboot of Mor­tal Kom­bat. The com­bat sys­tem is a lot like it in tone and rhythm and the ani­ma­tion style and fram­ing is much like it as well. If you can play that incar­na­tion of MK, more than likely you’re going to be able to pick up Injus­tice and run with it in a few short hours. And much like the MK reboot, there’s much more under the pretty coat of nos­tal­gia. Injus­tice is deep, with plenty to keep the fight­ing game crowd com­ing back for more and just enough to pique the inter­est of casu­als who don’t know much about fight­ing games but want to see who would win in a Bat­man vs. Super­man battle.

That’s some­thing else that’s going to draw in even the unini­ti­ated: the name recog­ni­tion. Yes, lots of folks now know who the merry band of mutants are over at Mar­vel, but mil­lions more know the names Bat­man, Joker, Super­man, the Flash, Lex Luthor and Won­der Woman. That instant brand recog­ni­tion is what com­pels a cer­tain part of you to come back and learn more about what’s really a good game. While you might not know who Dooms­day is or why the Omega Sanc­tion is instantly fatal to most liv­ing beings, you know the names behind the main char­ac­ters for play, or at least most of them, by sight alone.

That brand recog­ni­tion plays a large part in why the game is suc­cess­ful in its mis­sion: The pack­age around it doesn’t have to be slick and beau­ti­ful, but it is. And it’s enough to make the price to play worth it. Tak­ing into account the work that Nether­Realm Stu­dios pre­vi­ously com­pleted, Injus­tice is quite the step up graph­i­cally. Every back­ground is gor­geous and lav­ish in the game that’s already beau­ti­ful from the out­set. The graph­ics step up from MK vs. DCU in a way that have to be seen to be believed. And while it doesn’t seem like the game could get any bet­ter look­ing, then there’s the char­ac­ter mod­els. Every char­ac­ter is accu­rate, down to the details from sto­ry­line arcs such as Cri­sis on Infi­nite Earths dif­fer­ences. How­ever, while the graph­ics wow, the music isn’t great. It’s not ter­ri­ble, either, but it’s not exactly turn-up-the-volume qual­ity. It’s just there, which is highly unusual for the team known for pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing sound­tracks in the MK series.

I may not be able to tell you exactly who would win in a fight between Dark­seid and Black Adam, but I can make the point that Injus­tice does the DC uni­verse quite a bit of, well, jus­tice when it comes to a qual­ity fight­ing game fea­tur­ing the Dark Knight, Boy Won­der and Man of Steel.

Which ver­sion to buy?

There are two ver­sions to choose from: reg­u­lar edi­tion and ulti­mate edi­tion. Ulti­mate edi­tion, while cost­ing con­sid­er­ably more, is the bet­ter bar­gain because it fea­tures all of the released DLC and char­ac­ter skins. It also comes with Mor­tal Kom­bat com­bat­ant and stal­wart Scor­pion as a playable character.