The Batman Forever Game Is an Astonishingly Bad Take on the Bat-Nipples Movie

Batman Forever Genesis Game

Licensed games don’t have to be awful. In fact, in the mid-1990s, there were plenty of great ones. From the 7up advertainment game Cool Spot to Disney’s legendary Aladdin, the 16-bit era actually had some true masterpieces in the licensed game category.

Batman Forever for Sega Genesis, Game Gear, and SNES, however, is not one of them. In fact, it’s kind of bewildering — and almost amazing even — how bad it is.

Developed by Probe Entertainment and published by Acclaim Entertainment, Batman Forever suits you up in Batman’s armor and tasks you with battling against armies of copy/paste villains on your way through various locations across Gotham City. If green tights are more your thing, you can also play as Robin.

Batman Forever SNES Game

Most of my time with Batman Forever was spent with the Genesis version. I rented it as a kid, and I’ve somehow remembered many of the details pretty well considering how much time has passed since then. Of course, one thing I’d somehow forgotten was how terrible it was (or maybe my taste was just awful as a kid). Having now played Batman Forever as an adult, I don’t know how the childhood version of myself was able to stomach this for more than a few minutes. There were so many better games on the Genesis!

Batman Forever Genesis Game

Upon firing up the Genesis version of Batman Forever, the game’s most immediate flaw is that the controls are incredibly confusing. It’s actually baffling how bad the controls are.

In too many cases, simple moves require multiple button presses. For example, there are holes in the ceiling that you can grapple up through in the very first stage. If you want to drop back down, you need to jump over the hole, then press down and the kick button at the same time while you’re still in the air (it won’t work once you’re touching the ground). On top of that, you need to press the start button to block if you don’t happen to have the six-button version of the Genesis controller. None of this makes any sense.

And if you think I’m exaggerating, check out the Genesis game manual.

Batman Forever Game Manual

No movie-based brawler should have a control scheme this complex. There are so many unnecessary button combos. It’s likely that players just want to punch their way through stages that vaguely remind them of locations from the movie. We don’t want to have to take notes and memorize button movesets. This isn’t Street Fighter II; it’s freaking Batman Forever, a video-game tie-in to the movie that unintentionally coined the term Bat-Nipples.

Batman does have some gadgets in this game, but good luck trying to use any of those without reading the manual. Using even the simplest of gadgets (like the Batarang) requires button combos.

Batman Forever Game Manual

I thought that maybe the SNES would have a slightly cleaner control scheme, but boy howdy was I ever wrong. Here’s a page from the SNES manual for comparison.

Batman Forever Game Manual

I’m sorry, but if the game manual for your movie tie-in brawler game looks like any of the above images, you’ve really screwed up.

In Batman Forever, you’ll likely spend the entire first level just hitting progress roadblocks and stumbling over button combos that do unexpected things. Suddenly, Batman’s using some gadget that you didn’t even know about, but you can’t figure out how you made him use it in the first place so you can’t make him do it again. That’s basically the gameplay loop of Batman Forever.

And it’s not just the controls that are bad. This game is ugly.

This is one of those games that used real photographs of people as sprites for the game. It’s a technique popularized by the Mortal Kombat games, and it seemed to have had a pretty short shelf life (though Street Fighter: The Movie also used this technique). Batman Forever was actually developed in the Mortal Kombat II engine, so perhaps this was just an attempt at reusing a lot of the same animation techniques without having to create a new art style unique to the game. No matter how it happened, Batman Forever hasn’t aged well, with pixelated photograph characters against obviously rendered backdrops.

I do have to applaud the team at Probe for one thing, though. Every enemy in the game has a unique name. I think it’s kind of hilarious, actually, that somebody had the job of naming every single trash mob in this game — that’s how we end up with goofballs like Creditor walking around Arkham Asylum.

Batman Forever Genesis Game

Yes, Creditor.

I’ve spent most of this article talking about the Genesis version of Batman Forever so far, but I have played the SNES and Game Gear versions as well. Not extensively, mind you, but as much as I could reasonably take in order to write a thorough piece on this game.

While the SNES version is mostly the same, it does have some differences, mostly in the graphical elements. The SNES version is brighter and more colorful than the Genesis version (which is almost always the case with SNES/Genesis comparisons). On top of that, some of the UI elements are different. For example, the health bar looks less awful (but still not great) in the SNES version.

Here’s a video comparison between versions, in case you’re interested:

The SNES also features loading screens between the game’s fairly small areas, so every time you move onto the next area, you’re confronted with a black screen that says, “HOLD ON.” It feels like the game is either apologizing for the loading screen or condescendingly hollering at the player for trying to progress any further.

The Game Gear version is the ugliest version by far, but in my opinion it’s the most playable. The Game Gear’s two face buttons forced Probe’s development team to show some restraint in the moveset department, creating a more intuitive control scheme as a result. Now, the start button is still block, and using gadgets requires button combos, but this version of the game feels a bit more pick-up-and-play than the other ones. Plus, it skips past the terribly claustrophobic Arkham Asylum opening level, which is a choice the other versions should have probably made as well.

Batman Forever Game Gear Game

GamePro actually reviewed Batman Forever in two consecutive issues of their magazine.

In the November, 1995, issue, they reviewed he SNES version, calling it “boring and useless” and stating: “In comparison with the other SNES Batman games, Batman Forever is for the bats.” Somehow, they didn’t seem to struggle with the controls as much as I did, saying they were “satisfactory but sluggish.” I agree with the sluggish part, but satisfactory is not a word I would use to describe any element of the Batman Forever video game.

The following Month (in their December, 1995, issue), GamePro tackled the Game Gear version of the game. (I should point out that the two versions were reviewed by different authors.) This review was… not flattering? This is the final paragraph:

Acclaim tried to pack a lot of options into this cart, but the sluggish gameplay, mediocre graphics, and weak sounds really kick this cart to the bat curb.

And there’s that word sluggish again, though this time it’s not offset by satisfactory. Perhaps the existential dread of having to review not one, but two versions of this game was chipping away at the forced optimism of the entire GamePro staff. Having now played all three versions of the Batman Forever game, I can say that I have partaken in that exact same misery.

Here are scans from the GamePro reviews, if you’re interested in reading those in their entirety.

Batman Forever GamePro Review
Batman Forever GamePro Review
Batman Forever GamePro Review
Batman Forever GamePro Review
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Dan Faulkner
Dan Faulkner
2 years ago

Great review

A retro gamer
A retro gamer
1 year ago

This is not a good review, it sounds like popular option to me. You didn’t even try to review the game correctly. The older reviews from the mags give it more credit. Game pro said the game is good, but the characters are stiff. You said the gameplay is bad, which is popular option. Bad review thumbs down all the way

Paul Hanover
Paul Hanover
6 months ago

I actually really like the game. Now, on one hand, yes, the controls have a heavy learning curve and an 8 or 9 year old might have been like, Ooh, Batman and had a lot to struggle with. However, I ended up becoming a better player on games where you had to work to get good at the controls. Through focus, you get better at it, and you have to, because there are some tough levels in the game.
At any rate, I loved the use of photo realistic people. It actually looks really good compared to say SpiderMan for SNES, which is actually a better game but cartoony, which I like for that game. However, the realistic early version of MoCap here(not the same, I know) is perfect for a Dark Knight game where it has dark music and a real Batman fighting off real crazy villains and asylum escapees. It gives the game an eerie realism that works very well on SNES. That is what I played it on and that is what I am replaying it on. And it is still a good game. It is not a super easy party game, and it is difficult when you have to get used or reused to the controls, but again that is just part of the challenge. The things you dislike about it, I actually feel the opposite, that you are coming down too hard on a unique take on gameplay and graphics. Sure, it is a bit of a hack and slash at times, but still a very good game.

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