The Fiends of Gotham are Calling
The Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994 SNES)
Among the pantheon of 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. games, Konami has certainly proven themselves to be more than capable developers. Coming onto the scene for the Caped Crusader as players on Nintendo consoles for adaptations of Batman Returns, the cranked out two of the better games for that film: the NES version and the SNES version. Both of those were not only excellent beat-em-up adventures, but they may have been the best versions of Batman Returns released by video game companies.
Needless to say when I saw their logo come up for the SNES version of The Adventures of Batman & Robin I was excited. Another action game from the company that knocked it out of the park before? Yes, please. And delightfully the company does yet another fantastic job with this Batman. While not a beat-em-up like the previous home consoles games they produced, this is still a solid action adventure that lovingly mimics the style of the DC Animated UniverseStarted as with Batman: The Animated Series, and overseen by Bruce Timm, this universe of shows and films went onto be oneof the most influential crossover franchises in DC Comics history. cartoon.
Designed, not unlike Konami's Game Boy adventure Batman: The Animated Series, as a series of mini episodes from the series, The Adventures of Batman & Robin (which, it should be noted, doesn't feature Robin in a playable role) fines the Caped Crusader taking on a series of villain as each of them try to take over Gotham in their own unique way. From Joker luring Batman to an old amusement park to Poison Ivy attempting to wipe away humanity to protect the planet world, or Scarecrow attacking a party with his fear gas, each villain is given their own scenario in which they battle the hero. Batman must win or Gotham will fall into chaos.
Like the Game Boy title, The Adventures of Batman & Robin swaps out the beat-em-up style of Konami's earlier efforts for a action platforming style of play. This is fine, as Konami has proven themselves to good in the platforming genre as well (lest we need mention Castlevania and ContraStarted by Konami in 1988 the run-n-gun platform series Contra was, for a time, one of the flagship franchises for the company.). This game's action is smooth and flowing, the the game providing plenty of interesting platforming challenges, along with action sections and puzzling moments, to keep the player interested and entertained.
For the most part the game sticks to the basics of action platforming. Batman will run, jump, grapple, punch and kick, and throw items as he moves his way through the villain's goons. He'll have to navigate levels, jumping over pits and scaling higher platforms, all to make it to the end of the stages. Those stages are lengthy, but not overly so, ensuring that each villain gets a fair representation of their style and the unique challenges of their areas. No two stages feel the same, and everything has this well designs, varied quality to it.
Most of the game moves at a quick, solid pace. The early stages, against first 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. and then Poison Ivy and CatwomanOnce a thief (but a pretty damn good one) and rogue of the Bat-man, Catwoman went from villain to anti-hero as she found love with the man that once pursued her., are great examples of Konami's action prowess. It's fun to move batman around in these stages, watching as he jumps and scales and makes every movement seem easy while you're pressing the buttons for him. The straight platforming stages are absolutely the best parts of the games as they show off all the solid design elements Konami had perfected up to that point.
Things do get a little slower in some of the more creatively design stages. Penguin's attack on a museum is pretty boring, if I'm being honest. Here you're supposed to search a museum for missing staff members, saving all of them, but the design of the area isn't all that complex or interesting and the stage ends up feeling like a lot of make-work without much pay off. Similarly the stage set within Riddler's cyberspace is also pretty boring. It's got a neat concept where you have to explore a labyrinth, answering questions and finding hidden paths, but the whole area goes on for far too long, far outstaying its welcome.
Areas like this are few and far between but they do drag the energy down some. They feel like a bit of padding to get the game well over the hour-long mark. Now, I will say that I appreciate the length of the game. We've seen a lot of short, twenty minute adventures for the Caped Crusader, so a game with varied challenges that's able to get over the hour mark wins a few points. There is a password system so if you have to stop halfway in you can, which works on every difficulty mode except Hard. Passwords are blocked here, so at the hardest difficulty you have play through on one coin, no passwords or saving, which maybe would feel like a slog to someone just looking for some pick up and play action.
I loved the artistic design of this game. The artists at Konami absolutely were able to nail the look and feel of the Batman animated series. The animation is smooth and flowing for all the characters, and everything has a lovely crisp quality to it. This is coupled with a soundtrack made for the game that hits the qualities of the music for the animated series, translated to the capabilities of the SNES. This feels, in many ways, like an episode of the show that you get to play.
That being said, there are two big failings that are hard to ignore. The first is that Robin isn't playable. If you played the Game Boy game from 1993 then you know Konami could put Robin in. For whatever reason, despite this coming out a year later, and under the name of The Adventures of Batman & Robin, Batman's sidekick doesn't get to join the action. He does appear during the Penguin attack as a non-playable character, but it feels bad that a main character from the series, one you'd expect would be available in this title, isn't there for you to play.
The other major issue is that while the game look and sounds like the animate series it sure doesn't have that cartoon's quality writing. Every stage is bookended by text cut-scenes and while the artwork here is great, the dialogue for the characters is wretched. It's very rote, one-note, and hardly feels like the kinds of things the characters on the show would say. I'm guess an in-house staff writer at Konami devised the dialogue but, really, they should have brought in a writer from the show to give the text some polish. Its just so, so bad.
The Adventures of Batman & Robin isn't a perfect game. It's failings though, are easy to ignore in the moment as your traveling around, kicking ass as Batman. In these moments it's pure bliss, a game based on the cartoon that feels like the cartoon. As long as you can embrace that, you're going to have a fun time with this SNES adventure.