I never know what to expect when I get my hands on a Game Boy Advance version of a game that’s designed for a console. Sometimes you get a hidden gem, like X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, other times you get a complete dud, like Superman Returns. Batman: Vengeance doesn’t surpass its big brother on consoles, but it does do some things differently that I will give it some credit for.
Vengeance on the Game Boy Advance follows the basic story line of the game on consoles, but cuts some corners in order to accommodate some of its unique gameplay ideas. The caper starts off with Batman rescuing a citizen by the name of “Mary” who has become a target of the Joker. During a battle with his greatest nemesis, the long time rival of the Dark Knight appears to meet his end. This series of events sets of a crime wave that puts the Dark Knight in the crosshairs of other rogues Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze while he tries to uncover the mystery behind the Joker’s disappearance.
The majority of Vengeance plays like an unspectacular 2-D side-scroller. As Batman you can jump, attack, glide with your cape and use a variety of gadgets including your trusty Batarangs and a healing spray. Batman also has a grapnel hook but its limited to pulling him straight up and only then when there’s an icon on-screen prompting you to use the device. The controls perfectly okay for movement and plat-forming, however the one punch attack feels off, and honestly it makes it look like Batman is getting into a silly slap fight with enemies. When I could, I tried to leap around foes to avoid fighting them, a strategy that fortunately works well a lot of the time.
Much like you could in Batman: Vengeance on consoles, you can also pilot the Batmobile and Batplane. The Batmobile sections reminded me a little of The Adventures of Batman and Robin on the SNES as the perspective is moved overhead and your goal is to race to your destination before a timer runs out. The Batmobile missions are a lot easier than that game thankfully as you don’t have to make tight turns and the clock is more lenient. You can shoot an electrical projectile attack by pushing the “R” button, but I can’t think of any time where I actually had to shoot anything.
The Batplane levels are a much better change of pace than the Batmobile. The game turns into a 2-D side scrolling shooter as you pilot the vehicle above the Gotham City skyline. Controls are simple enough: You use the “A” button to shoot and use a temporary shield that recharges when you hit the “R” trigger. The stages won’t test your twitch skills, but they’re more action packed than the race against the clock Batmobile driving levels.
One of the more surprising and welcome additions here is the inclusion of Robin as a playable character, as in the consoles he didn’t even make an appearance in the story. All the Robin missions differentiate themselves from his mentor as they’re all played from the overhead perspective, much like a Zelda game. Robin can fight enemies, but your objectives revolve around simple puzzle solving, mainly shifting boxes out-of-the-way to move forward. The Boy Wonder also gets an additional gadget: a radio controlled car you can slide through vents to obtain a button sequence to open laser grids. I found myself enjoying these parts better than the Batman sequences as they move away from the just okay plat-forming and boring combat. The puzzles however, aren’t that challenging so don’t expect to give your brain a work out trying to figure out where to move which box where.
For a Game Boy Advance game, the graphics do a serviceable job of capturing the aesthetic of The New Adventures of Batman and Robin animated series. In the outdoor rooftop levels as well as the Batplane flying the skyline has the red tinted skyline taken right from the show and the characters as well as the vehicles are easily identifiable to their animated counterparts. The environments do a good job of reflecting what villain your presently up against like the Poison Ivy stages where the Gotham Chemical plant is covered in vines and plant monsters. In between levels the game uses stills from the in-game cut-scenes from the main console game to communicate the story. The lack of fully voiced video is not to be expected given the hardware, and the images are compressed nicely.
The regular story campaign won’t present much of a challenge to a seasoned player, but don’t take that negatively, it simply means it’s well designed. You don’t have to worry about lives and when you die you either start back to a reasonably placed check-point or at the beginning of a stage, but they aren’t terribly long so they’re both good for portable play sessions and reducing frustration. You get a Batman themed pass-code after every level, like “Bruce,” “James,” or “Batarang” so if you’re fan of the character, you’ll remember them pretty easily and can pick up right where you left off. Those seeking a greater challenge can try the “Advance Mode” where the levels have a timer and three discs that must be collected before you exit.
Batman: Vengeance on the Game Boy Advance is a couple of games in one that gel surprisingly well into one cohesive Batman experience. Had the main sections where you play the title character been a little more interesting, I’d probably recommended you run out and track it down. The best I can say is you see a copy and still have a Game Boy Advance around, by all means check it out, but you’re not missing out on anything if you don’t play this game.