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Score: 8.0 / 10
It’s not every game that keeps me glued to
my seat into the small hours of the morning. Admittedly, I’m a huge
Batman fan -- The Animated Series especially -- so everything I say
comes from that perspective – you’ve been warned. I also reviewed the
GameCube version of Batman Vengeance (BV). If I was a cynical son of a
bitch I’d just get out my “5” stamp and describe BV as a port and
lacking originality. But I won’t because I haven’t reached that level of
BV puts you in the cape and cowl of comic-doms greatest detective
knee-deep in a plot hatched by one of his greatest enemies, The Joker.
Things progress naturally from there with other super-villains, like Mr.
Freeze and Poison Ivy, getting involved. This could easily have been a
story for a two-part episode of The
The look and feel of Gotham City as seen in the cartoon series has been
nailed. Lots of dark brooding buildings with spotlights swirling – it
recreates the city perfectly. Batman is superbly animated. (I especially
like the way he bolts up ladders and the method he uses on the descent.)
Everything he does is fluid and even his multi-purpose cape reacts
realistically no matter if Batman’s using
to float to a lower level or just pummeling a bad guy. Adding further to
BV’s credibility is the original cast returning to do the voice work,
which includes Mark Hamill as Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. And I
shouldn’t forget the pre-rendered cutscenes that, although not as sharp
as they probably could be, are fun to watch and makes me yearn for the
day when a 3D version of The Animated Series is announced.
On the control side of things, there’s a learning curve but it’s not
steep. However, attention should be paid to all the moves Batman has at
his disposal – nearly half of which are accessible during first-person
mode. The first-person mode is how Batman performs all his bat-grappling
and batarang throwing (among other things). People that played Halo will
have no problem getting a handle on this mode. But the real action
happens in the 3rd Person where Batman can sneak around, jump and
clobber bad guys with an assortment of punch, kick, special and aerial
attacks. The transition between these two is entirely smooth and
activated with a single button press. The single biggest problem with
the control is executing the "break out" move. When Joker is sitting on
Batman's chest pounding his face in, rapidly pressing a button would
have been preferable to rapidly flicking the left thumbstick to throw
him off (or bust out of a block of ice). The flicking is supposed to
simulate a rocking motion, leading up to a blow-out of energy, but it's
just too hard to do properly.
Besides the up close and personal crime fighting approach, Batman also
uses his ever-trusty Batmobile, and Batplane. These sections are less
open than the other modes – in fact, it’s like riding on rails. There’s
an extremely narrow path to take and all Batman really has to do is
avoid obstacles. For the most part, these sections are short and to the
point so actually getting frustrated by any of them shouldn’t happen.
Puzzles aren’t too taxing – a bit of trial and error is required most
times. Even with the trial and error puzzles, nothing ever gets too
frustrating. There’s a good mix of puzzles though. At the start of one
level Batman is tasked with unlocking a series of Rubik’s Cube type
locks and at the conclusion he must attack Mr. Freeze indirectly using
the environment to finish him off. Mostly, Batman will need to seek out
keys and unlock doors.
Even as a Batman fan I have to admit that there’s room for improvement.
For one, the sound is incredibly muted. I had to put the volume on my TV
way up to make out what was being said – even after adjusting the
speech, sound effect and music levels to put the soundtrack in the
background where it belongs. And then the problem of the jumping
puzzles. Jumping puzzles practically define the platformer genre but
toward the end they seem to be relied on exclusively to draw out the
action. BV is a linear experience which limits it’s replay factor, but
because of the good story I didn’t mind the linear nature much – it just
makes me more adamant that there should be a sequel!
The developers at Ubisoft are obviously Batman fans because they’ve made
a game that sticks close to the source material while weaving a solid
story and giving gamers a chance to play an episode of The Animated
Series. If Batman fans don’t buy it outright (which I’d recommend), they
should at least rent it a few times.