Batman: The Video Game
Review by MTLH
"Batman in name only."
The year 1989 saw the beginning of a new series of Batman films. The first one, directed by Tim Burton, pitted the titular hero against his most prolific nemesis, the Joker. The film was perhaps not as good as its direct sequel but remains one of my favourite superhero films nonetheless. Naturally, Batman spawned a host of merchandise including numerous games released on all major systems of the time, from the Commodore Amiga to the Mega Drive, and many of them where also quite different from each other. The game under review is the Game Boy version released by Sunsoft.
If there is one word that would describe Batman's visuals, it would be tiny. Batman himself, most of his adversaries and the objects he encounter are incredibly small and squat. The game looks quite similar to Super Mario Land because of this. There are some exceptions however. Boss characters tend to be a bit bigger and the same goes to some of the planes during the airborne sections.
Animation and detail also suffer because of the tiny graphics. Batman and his enemies look nice enough for a first generation Game Boy game. Nothing too special of course, especially in view of what the machine would deliver further down the road, but still very decent. It is a pity then that the small sprites render all this useless, because it is rather difficult to spot the animation and detailing when the sprites are only five pixels high. Besides the issue with the small sprites, the backgrounds also aren't that special. Functional would be a more suitable definition. One detail that I really did like though, was that when a floating block is destroyed, it leaves behind a little indentation in the wall that apparently supported said block.
This does not render the game ugly or unplayable. Batman's visuals are simply underwhelming. The only really worthwhile graphics are the cut-scenes which are nicely detailed and animated. The game looks okay for its generation but the machine could and would do a lot better.
The tunes seem to resemble the score of the film, or at least appear to be somewhat similar to the style of the score. Whatever the case, it sounds nice enough. Sound effects belong to the a dime a dozen' category.
Batman is a platform shoot m' up. In his quest to stop the Joker, the titular hero must jump, duck, crawl and shoot his way across the levels. Along the way he must also take control of his batplane and take the fight to the air in a traditional sidescrolling shooter.
Controls are on the whole responsive enough, although there are occasions when Batman seems a bit too slow to react when asked to jump. That this can become excruciatingly annoying should come as no surprise.
A nice touch is the way the titular hero's gun can be upgraded. During the game he can collect certain icons which for example increases his rate of fire or even give Batman a different weapon altogether. It becomes imperative to avoid those icons that decreases the power of his gun. It is not a particularly elaborate system but it dies add some strategy.
Batman utilizes no passwords or any other save function of any kind. To be honest, none are really that necessary. The game is not that long, just about four levels of which three contain three stages and one level contains two. Difficulty is also not that high, although Batman can become a little tricky towards the end. Seeing that there are also unlimited continues, this is not a game that will last all that long.
As strange as may sound, Batman bears more then a passing resemblance to the aforementioned Super Mario Land. Jumping, flying in an aircraft and destroying blocks did all also feature in said game. The only real difference being that Mario could only shoot his enemies when he collected a fire flower whereas Batman can do this from the start. For a Batman game, this all somehow feels a little bit off. Sure, he has featured in platformers before this game and since but in this iteration Batman seems to be more like a standard platform protagonist then himself. Where are his world renounced gadgets? Batman should for example be able to use a grappling hook but he can't in this game. And for that matter, shouldn't he prefer to beat and pummel his enemies instead of simply shooting them?
Is this a bad thing? Not really. Super Mario Land was a decent game in it's own right, simply falling short of the legacy that comes with the Mario name. There are far worse games to resemble. Batman itself is also pretty decent if a bit unimaginative. And there lies the prime problem. Batman is simply too derivative.
Batman features some decidedly mediocre visuals, tunes and sound effects. It can safely be surmised that presentation isn't the game's highlight. The platformer and shooter style gameplay is entertaining enough to endure for the rather measly four levels worth of game that Batman possesses. It is simply a shame that the game does nothing new or spectacular. It is also worth noting that although the game is called Batman, it could just as easily have been based on another franchise. Replace the Batman sprite with someone like the Punisher for example or Rambo and no one would be likely to notice the difference. Batman is diverting for an hour or so but if you're after a game based on the film, I wholeheartedly recommend the NES or Mega Drive versions above this Game Boy iteration.
OVERALL: a decent enough offering worthy of a 5.5 which for the benefit of this site is rounded up to a 6.0.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 08/06/08
Game Release: Batman: The Video Game (US, June 1990)
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