I know what I'm about to say is going to shock you, but Batman Returns for the Game Gear is actually a solid action game. It's not going to win any awards for innovation or creativity, but it manages to have the fundamentals of 2D platform action down. This is definitely better than most of the Game Gear movie games, and it blows the horrific Lynx game of the same name out of the water.
A scrolling beat-em-up in the tradition of just about every other Batman video game, this flashy adventure somehow manages to inject a sense of freshness into the action at nearly every turn. From the solemn cinema-style introduction to the stylish, evocative ending sequence, Batman Returns spares no expense in delivering a classy video game experience to the Game Gear player.
To say that there are five levels in the game is to underestimate its length, Not only is each level broken down into at least two subsections - six in the case of the last stage - but there are two alternate routes in each of the first four areas. That's a total of 16 different paths to the final battle against the Penguin, and most of these areas feature distinctly different music and scenery. I refuse to believe Sega when they boasts that the background graphics have been "digitized from the real video footage on the movie set," but they're still a big improvement over the standard brick buildings and clouds.
The characters are very well-drawn: Batman's cape billows in the wind; Catwoman tumbles like an Olympic gymnast (albeit a leather-clad one); and most of the "generic" bad guys are distinctly different from one area to the next. The Dark Knight even gets to do a little big of Spider-Man-style swinging. The controls are readily understandable, and, if the earlier levels are a bit on the easy side, it only serves to draw you into the game's more advances levels with a sharper hook. Sadly, the snap, crackle and pop of the Game Gear's sound chip can't quite do this game justice.
With larger characters and a little bit of layered scrolling - which I've hardly seen on the Game Gear - this might have been even better than the blockbuster it already is. But the most controversial question raised by Batman Returns is this: Why can't every movie game be this good?