Batman Beyond - Return of the Joker © 2000 Ubi Soft.
Here's a guilty pleasure equal to your old videotape of Lambada: The Forbidden Dance.
Based on the direct-to-video release of the same name, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker gussies up a creaky genre (the side-scrolling fighter) with Spandex, fairly witty screen text and a cool music score. While the result won't make anyone forget Banjo-Tooie, it's a pleasantly diverting old-school button masher.
No longer up to the Bat-crobatics of his earlier years, Bruce Wayne can only brood in the cold Batcave as criminal scum overrun his beloved Gotham City. The perpetrators-in-chief are the Jokerz, a bunch of low-rent thugs who can only dream of matching the Joker's extra-legal panache but who can nonetheless wreak plenty of havoc.
All changes one fateful day when Terry McGinnis, a teen headed for a life of late-adolescent mischief, accidentally stumbles into the Batcave while pursuing the Jokerz. The graying Wayne takes a shine to the trespasser and decides he's just the person to bring a semblance of peace back to the city.
As the game's title makes abundantly clear, Gotham City is menaced once more by Wayne's pale-faced nemesis. Terry must battle his way through Gotham Air and Space laboratory, Wayne Enterprises, Arkham Asylum and other shadowy stages teeming with run-of-the-mill malefactors, savage human-animal hybrids, rampaging robots, hazardous machinery and toxic-gas leaks.
Batman Beyond slightly modifies the classic mechanics of side-scrolling fighters, allowing Terry to move freely in 3-D space within a room. As is typical of this genre, Terry cannot exit a room until he has defeated all the troublemakers. A raging rock score inspired by the TV series theme keeps things pumped up, but since none of the enemies are exactly rocket scientists, the action can get pretty tedious for non-fans. Power-ups include keys, health boosts and weapons like the long-range Dark Knight Discus.
You have a choice of four Wayne-engineered Batsuits, each of which gives Terry superhuman strength, agility and defensive ability. Bruce Wayne and others can relay advice via the suits' built-in comms gear; also, Terry can overhear gang members' conversations through locked doors. Everyone is long-winded, so be prepared for lots of reading.
The Standard Batsuit balances speed, power and armor, plus it's the only suit that lets Terry use the potent Magnetic NunChaku. Advanced moves such as spin kicks are a bonus with the Offensive Batsuit. The Defensive Batsuit's hand shields let Terry swat away projectiles. The Nimble Batsuit doubles Terry's vertical leap and lets him roll away from attacks.
Exceptionally easy on the brain, Batman Beyond delivers pleasant nonthink fun. There are worse ways to fritter away a cold winter's afternoon.