DC’s animated TV series are attached to some of the best (The Adventures of Batman and Robin on SNES) and worst (Superman 64) video game tie-ins. Given that there was a plethora of games based off of both iterations of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Teen Titans and eventually Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it’s very surprising that one show that never got any type of console game was Justice League. With a cast of iconic heroes each with their own unique abilities and skills going up against equally famous villains from the DC Universe, a lot of the work is already done for a game designer who choose to interpret Justice League into the interactive medium. Previous DC animated series games were worked on by the likes of Konami, Ubisoft, Kemco and Titus, but it was Midway, who were mostly at the time known for making arcade style games, who snagged up the Justice League license and only ever released Game Boy Advance games based on the property. The first Midway published Justice League title, Justice League: Injustice for All, is a game you probably didn’t even know existed and it’s not one you’ll probably remember much of after you play it either. Which is a sad thought when you consider how important a game based off of one of the greatest animated series of all time should be.
Loosely inspired by the episode from the show of the same name, Lex Luthor joins forces with a group of deadly villains and forms the Injustice Gang whose ultimate plan is to destroy the Justice League. It’s up to League members Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl to put a stop to their plans and the devastation they’re causing the world. The plot of Justice League: Injustice for All is not a terribly deep one, but it’s serviceable enough in bringing context to linking a group of diverse environments, like the streets of Gotham City, the island of Themyscria and a hidden volcano base. There’s very little effort put into the presentation of the story with between level plot rolled out via screens of text with a small picture of whatever character is talking in the corner.
Justice League: Injustice for All is a typical action plat-former side-scroller where in each stage you’re provided with a team of two characters that you can freely swap between. In the Gotham City level for example, you take control of Batman and the Flash while in the volcano stage your designated characters are Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter which is a pretty bad way to break up your teams considering green Martians are weak to fire. Levels are non-linear in nature with doorways that lead to interior areas opening up new pathways through stages, but for the most part you’ll just be doing about what you expect to do in a game like this: punching bad guys, jumping on platforms and about as advanced as things get is having to find a key to open a locked door.
The best thing about Injustice for All is that it gives the player a lot of freedom on how they want to go about tackling the game. After a brief introduction mission that sets up the plot for the game, you’re given a choice of three missions each with their own team of two Justice League members and completing that group opens up another one. If you get stuck on a stage, you can exit it with no penalty, try another and come back the one you had trouble with later on. This is about where the positive aspects of Justice League: Injustice for All end.
Basic things like jumping and punching are handled poorly in Injustice for All and considering that this is what you mostly do here and you’re also playing as the Justice League, that’s pretty inexcusable. There’s very few bottomless pits thankfully, but there’s plenty of instances where you’ll try to make a jump that looks pretty easy to land, miss it, and then have to retrace a lot of progress only to fall again and work your way back up. Your basic attack feels just as imprecise as each punch you throw never feels like it truly connects, but luckily most enemies, including the bosses that make up the Injustice Gang, don’t put up much of a fight. Save one boss, Cheetah, where I had to activate Green Lantern’s shield to reduce the damage she was doing, all other ones can be beaten by just standing in front of them and hitting attack until they die. You might end up losing one teammate in the process implementing this strategy, but it’s still a sound one. Needless to say this game does little to make villains like Joker, Shade, Solomon Grundy and Felix Faust among others feel dangerous.
As this is the Justice League we’re talking about, each hero has their own specific power or gadget but they’re so useless that they might as well have not even bothered to add any of them at all. Superman can fire his heat vision from his eyes, Wonder Woman wields the lass of truth, but neither are as effective as just simply walking up to most enemies and bosses and using your fists. Injustice for All toys with using a character’s powers to navigate the stages, Batman can wall jump like he could in the Sunsoft NES game and Flash can run up walls, but there’s rarely an instance where this is needed and when it is required, it’s never communicated to the player effectively and it leads to frustration. In the volcano stage I was stuck with no clue on where to go and eventually figured out that you needed to use Martian Manhunter’s power to phase upwards through a rock in order to get past where I needed to go. Five of the characters have the ability to fly, and even that’s taken away in the final few stages but I will give the developers credit for coming up with contextual reasons as to why this ability is suddenly taken away.
When you think of Game Boy Advance only licensed games, you more than likely think of B or C-tier cartoons and movies with just enough awareness to warrant getting a budget handheld game and certainly not the Justice League. Outside of being able to choose your own path through the game for the most part, Injustice for All does about everything wrong from the poor platform and combat mechanics, unchallenging bosses and a lack of creative use of the abilities of the cast. DC’s super team deserve far better than this blatant cash in.
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