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Summary"I'm Batman! ...where's me bat-teeth?"
The GoodYet another C64 game I have been wondering about not long ago. And one of those C64 games that we would load up time to time to experience its excellent audio-visuals, mess around a little with, have no idea what we are supposed to do.
The graphics is very neat! It's some colorful, well pixellated low-res C64 graphics, which reminds me of Lego bricks (you may decide for yourself whether it's a good or bad thing, I surely like it). Despite taking advantage most of the system's color palette, the graphics still retains that dark Batman feel. Every room in the game opens up in separate windows, mimicking comic book panels. I really like this unique effect, and it does not obstruct the gameplay. At the beginning of the game look at Batman sliding down on the firefighter pipe into the batcave! His sprite is well animated, look at him walk all macho and determined! Batman himself looks a bit tiny, not beacuse of the space he takes on the screen, rather because he looks like those old action figures with messed up anatomy to appear more buff. The loader/title picture also deserves admiration (if you had a non-pirated copy ;), it's very well drawn.
The music. Oh my God, the music is excellent! It is some inspired piece that ties very well with anything Batman related. It's dark and intense all the way trough. It starts out quiet and stealthy. SUDDENLY, IT GOES MAD, ALL EXPLOSIVE! At the height point the SID chip starts yelling the 60s Batman theme ("NANANANA") in a sinister way! It's very adrenalin inducing, it makes you ready to kick some behind! I can't get enough of it! There are no sound effects but this time neither need to be.
The game consists of two missions, one with the Penguin and one with the Joker. These are actually separate games that can be loaded up independently. It's all coolness until you learn more about the gameplay, I will talk about that below. Let's just say that I prefer the mission with the Joker. It's much more playable because at least it makes some sense. You gotta find all the bombs, you gotta find something to deactivate the bombs with, you gotta seek and beat the sh*t (or at least an item) out of the Joker, and you gotta save Robin. So that one is at least pretty straightforward to get into.
Things I compliment. Every item of interest laying in a room are clearly marked as yellow boxes with Batman-logos, you can't miss them. When you pick up something, you are notified in a pop up window about what item you just obtained. In case your inventory would be full (probably with "red herrings"), or you forgot what an item residing in inventory is supposed to be, you can drop them and leave there or pick up again. In the upper-left corners of some rooms there are text boxes giving some hints (although vague). There is also an indicator of how much did you progress in the game in percentage. The inventory screen has point-n-click interface.
The BadAfter a little deeper inspection, the gameplay appears to be an interesting, if a bit late experiment to combine the once distant poles of computer gaming: graphic action, and adventure of the puzzle solving kind. As such, it's quite rough and not thoroughly thought out. Add in some campiness of the 60s Batman show, and the result is... I don't know whether to clearly file it under "BAAAD", but it's definitely... questionable, to say the least.
A minor annoyance first. You press down+fire button to pick up an item or to bring up the combined inventory/stats/menu screen. This makes the music stop. When you return to the game, the music restarts from the beginning! To play the game as it is supposed, you got to be constantly picking up items and manage the invetory, so there is barely a chance to let the full music loop play out!!! This makes me almost not wanting to play and just continue to just scoop around.
Another minor annoyance. Speaking of the inventory screen, it is confusing. Here the detailed graphics works at disadvantage, it looks pretty but not very functional. The icons are small, and all the pixel deatils crammed into that small space at this resolution does not help. And also the icons are pretty abstract. There are some icons doing different actions, and they are marked with three similar hand gestures that could mean anything. It takes time until you remember what is what. Don't even bother about the meaning of all the different icons and graphs at the bottom of the screen. The point is if they wanish, you die.
Frustrating is, fighting is nearly useless. The enemies spawn randomly and constanly in most of the rooms. They are either henchmen or little annoying toys of the foe of the selected mission. They are constantly firing at you or bombing you from above, and you can't do much of anything about it. Not sure how much damage they do if they do any at all. Punching or kicking them make them bounce back a little. Hit them enough times and then they leave the room. But they take many hits, and things spawn in their place shortly, so it's just a waste of time mostly. Worse yet, there are some more aggressive enemies that punch you whenever they can. In that case Batman gets immobile for a while. Amusingly, when Batman gets punched, he suddenly goes from macho and determined, to a stance that looks like an anime schoolgirl trying to hold her skirt down in a windstorm XD When you obtain and use the batarang, you get unlimited ammo you can throw at the enemy, and it freezes them... for about one milisecond.
The inventory puzzles. Yeah, we got lots of that. They are the main element of the game. And they remind me of Monty Python jokes for some reason. The first mission with the Penguin is a waste in my opinion. The goal is to shut down the Penguin's computer that controls the army of robotic penguin toys. Well, good luck with that. Watching the longplay on YouTube, all I can say that wow, it's abstract. You don't even get to face the Penguin. You gotta be a lunatic to get into this one.
Regardless of all the dangers, poor old Batman is slowly dying anyways. No, really! His heatlh constantly drops. Even when he is not bombarded. Even when he is wearing the gasmask in poisonous areas. Even when you are looking at the inventory screen. He is also old like an aged grapms. He needs to get the bat-ears to hear Robin shouting, and bat-teeth to be able to eat food (for regaining some health), lol.
Somewhere to mention, that the USA/NTSC/floppy disk/Data East release (or how to differentiate it) is slightly different to the probably more known UK/PAL/tape/Ocean release. It's much harder because it spawns the more aggressive enemies very frequently. This version is notable for its slightly different arrangement of music.