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22nd November 2012

Retro Corner – Batman: Vengance

With the recent success of Arkham City, Thomas Lee looks at one of the Caped Crusader’s earlier efforts

I may be speaking to a niche audience when I ask “Does anyone remember Batman: Vengeance?” But hear me out.

As a kid, I loved superhero cartoons, but was too young to catch Batman: The Animated Series (which I’ve since purchased on DVD, and can heartily recommend). I did however play the video-game spinoff, Ubisoft’s 2001 Batman Vengeance.

It was my first video game and my first encounter with the caped crusader. Eleven years later, I still collect Batman comics. And I still swoop around Gotham beating up Joker thugs, but now I tend to do it on a seventh-generation console. The Arkham series has been tremendous, but for me, Vengeance will always be the original. In more ways than one.

Vengeance was great fun. The decopunk noire of the animated series was captured beautifully in a game where Batman roundhouse kicked his way through his usual rogues gallery in a chain of episodes that were bound together by a shady criminal conspiracy, with voice talent from Misters Conroy and Hamil. Some things never change. The plot worked and the dialog was ripped right out of a 40s gumshoe detective novel, but the controls were awkward – the Arkham series make Batman’s utility belt much more utilitarian.

The new games are, objectively, much better (even if they haven’t yet let me drive the Batmobile). But it’s hard not to notice how they ‘borrow’ from Vengeance. There are several intentional tips of the hat, including Joker quotes and Oracle’s reminder of what happened the “last time” Batman fought Mister Freeze – but Arkham Asylum’s plot of Joker is putting strange fluids in the sewers was an almost direct steal, as was the miraclous ‘Titan’ formula. The theme of the Joker’s death features in both game and the fact that Vengeance ends with a remarkably farsighted cutscene of the Asylum makes you almost wonder if the Joker has something in store for us.

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