There’ve been a lot of bad Batman games over the years. Batmen Vengeance, Batman Begins, Batman & Robin – but there’s one Batman game that stands tall, and holds its mediocre reputation proudly. There’s a game that silently tugs at my feet in the middle of the night, willing me to just try one more stage. There’s a game that’s brutal in its arcade mechanics, yet addicted me all most to no end. There’s one game that doesn’t only throw in co-op just because the license practically says it should, it’s actually good.
That game is Batman Forever: The Arcade Game.
OK, OK. Let’s just backup here for a sec. I know Batman Forever (PS) is hardly going to win any awards for its repetitive side-scrolling fighter thrills, but if there’s one guilty pleasure I just can’t deny it’s this one.
Back in 1998 my brother and I didn’t have many PS1 games, so we aimed to get the most out of the few we had. As soon as we popped in the disc, we went straight for the two-player co-op option and began our mission to clean up the streets of Gotham. Jumping out of the dorsal fin-shaped Batmobile – or rather forcibly ejected against our will – we headed into the backalleys, a horde of goons immediately shuffling forward to greet us.
What really is the heart of this game is the aggressive/scavenger-like gameplay. What I mean by this is one minute you be surrounded by bad guys, you and your buddy will take them down and then you’ll be rushing to collect the energy power-ups they drop. The more energy you have the stronger your attacks and combos will be, the stronger your combos the more enemies you see blink into oblivion (and the more the screen will ritualistically flash – as if counter attacking an epileptic with strobe lighting). And with two-players it doubly addictive.
Many ‘game over’ screens and repetitive audio clips later and we eventually made it to the penultimate level, and of the most infuriating arcade bosses I’ve ever fought, the monarch bat. Explosive batarangs, grappling hooks, tasers – no matter what we tried we just couldn’t seem to beat this boss. Inevitably, our credits soon ran out and it was ‘game over’ yet again. Now normally at this point I would take out the disc and feel cheated for buying such a frustrating and repetitive game. Yet despite all of it numerous faults, dodgy collision detection, half-baked walking animations and bosses which required equally as much luck as skill, we continued to play it.
You see, after you’ve played Batman Forever for a long as we did back then you begin to see the puppet strings and clockwork that makes it tick. With the right combination of moves and equipment we soon found that you could have all sorts of fun inflicting pain on these CPU drones. It’s actually possible to pull off x99 combos or more by furiously repeating the same combo move while in power-up mode. Once we realised this we returned to the crimebusting scene, with a vengeance. Memorising most enemy encounters and with improved combo knowledge we fought our way all the way to the Riddler’s throne room. Success was finally within our grasp. Unfortunately, the monarch bat had cost us most of our saved credits so when one of us when down fighting Two-Face we defeat was only a health bar away.
We did manage it that time. And we still haven’t beaten it. But Batman Forever remains one of my all-time favourite two-player games, for its gameplay rewards button mashing mayhem.