Sunday, August 2, 2009

"History of Batman in Video Games" (Part 4)

This week we have something a little different ... Darkwing Duck, a fellow member from the Batman: Arkham Asylum forums is doing the review of our feature this week, Batman: Return of the Joker! Enjoy!

Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)
NES, Sega Genesis

I could not possibly tell you how excited I've been to get to review this game. It's one of my earliest memories of gaming, alongside one of my earliest memories of Batman, and thankfully I've been given new reason to play this classic once again.

The plot is as basic as you get, so don't expect any award-winning material here. Put simply, the Joker is back wreaking havoc in Gotham and Batman has to stop him. Nothing more is explained, but I'm not worried about that, I'm here for some basic shooting fun.

Yes, that's right. Batman has a gun. Of sorts. You can power up your so-called "Batarang Launcher" using icons found in boxes throughout the game. Explained only by the letters N, S, C, and B. No, I haven't got a clue what they stand for either. All you need to know is that C is the best power up.

In terms of gameplay, it's really about as simple as it gets. But it seems I'm a simple man of simple pleasures, so I find it enjoyable. It is a welcome break from the complexity of modern gaming, I must admit. The game is a side-scroller in which your job is pretty straightforward. Shoot the enemies, avoid the obstacles and jump the gaps. Yet the game somehow makes this challenging, and I love it for that. The only forgiving element in the game is the password system. So when you throw your controller through the wall and pull the plug on your beloved Nintendo Entertainment System, you can come back later and have your rear end handed to you again.

There are twelve stages for you to battle through, including a snowy landscape, moving train, military base, and sewers. The first level is in a cathedral, possibly in tribute to the location of the Joker's demise in the Burton film. You will continually jump from location to location, but if you're really looking for an explanation about anything at this point, you should probably move on now. Or you could stick around for probably the best moments in the game.

Yes. Batman has a jetpack. These were the greatest levels in the game to me as a young'un, and the novelty hasn't worn off after all these years. You fly up, down, left, right, shoot and dodge. But it's Batman, on a jetpack. If that doesn't make you want to play this game, I don't know what will. It's Batman on a jetpack people!

Now for the boss battles ... These were probably the only part I didn't like about the game. Boss fights are generally pretty intense, but fall back into the pattern finding fights in which you have to figure out the pattern and exploit it. Also, who are these people? It would've been nice to have some familiar faces in there, but maybe I'm asking for too much in a NES game with no film tie-ins.

Visually, Return of the Joker looks good enough to be compared to some of the 16-bit games of the same era. While there is some room for improvement with breakdown in the images, the theme of dark shadows and dirty streets as well as intense battles is kept up fairly well. The different motions that Batman goes through in either looking straight ahead or upwards will captivate you for a while, though there isn’t much other than that. The weapons effects and the locations that you encounter are all top notch for an older Nintendo game and it shows.

The music is what you'd expect from a adventure game from the early 90's, just with a little attitude thrown in for good measure. To me, it matches up with the feel of this dark Batman venture. But others will disagree. Each to his own I suppose. The sound effects don't make much of an impact on what you do with Batman and really don’t have much demand on the overall experience of the game.

Return of the Joker is a decent game that will keep Batman fans happy throughout the various stages. You’ll find that the password feature helps to keep you in the game, even if you don’t play it for weeks on end and is always a welcome addition to the older action games. The difficulty is a little steep to start with, though seasoned vets of the action game genre should be able to kick through it with some ease. All in all, this is an above average game that belongs in any collectors bookshelf and is worth playing time and time again, that has stood the test of aging with this reviewer.

And you know, I'm still yet to complete it ...

-Darkwing Duck


  1. Great Review dude...could replace Amp. Lol Just kidding Amp, but really you did a great job.

  2. How dare you!? HaHa, yeah you did a good job though!

  3. Thanks guys. Really glad I got the chance to do this.