HOLY COW BATMAN - WE'VE BEEN DIGITISED!
Batman's old opponents have yet to sit back and meekly start collecting their old age pension, though. No, The Penguin and The Joker are back to playing havoc with Gotham City again. The criminal misdeeds of the troublesome twosome fill one game each, with The Penguin's 'A Bird In The Hand' on one side of the tape and The Joker's 'A Fête Worse Than Death' on the other. Holy batvalue-for-money there, Batman.
In the first adventure The Penguin (you know, the one in the top hat with an umbrella and silly laugh) has come up with a new plan to take over the world. Only millionaire Bruce Wayne, alias Batman, can foil this evil scheme. Kerpowing and biffing his way into the penguin-producing factory, he can halt production by destroying the master computer.
A more personal concern provides Batman's motivation in the second game - Robin has been kidnapped (again). The only clue is a playing card left inside the Batcave - the trademark of the evil Joker. Under close examination it gives a vital clue to the Boy Wonder's whereabouts.
Only by using his skill and considerable number of 'Bat' implements can Batman do his obligatory good deed for the day. In both scenarios, the action begins at the famous Batcave, with Batman gracefully sliding down a pole from his mansion above. Clues and a variety of useful items can be found by a careful search of all the rooms in the Batcave.
But while life may be safe here, it's only by venturing outside that the dastardly crimes may be solved. Once outside Batman faces a horde of nasty thugs and machine-gun-toting henchmen. These can be dispatched by a bit of Batboxing or by throwing the batarang at them. Get careless and your energy's soon drained by a hail of bullets. Energy can be restored by eating if you can find some food in time.
Objects collected are put into Batman's inventory, which is accessed by pressing fire and down. A simple icon system allows objects to then be used or dropped. It's also possible to turn the sound on/off, alter the background paper colour and even to choose between monochromatic graphics or glorious colour (although there's a small amount of clash). The key to success in either of Batman's crimebusting adventures is using objects at the right place. Useful items range from keys (for unlocking doors) to a red nose which is so silly that when Batman wears it he becomes perfectly disguised - for a while at least.
All the action takes place in true comic book style: each new location entered is overlaid on top of the previous ones, and as they are of varying sizes, this creates a sort of comic strip patchwork effect. Batman himself is animated in great detail, his cape flowing as he walks around an equally detailed play area (both outside and inside buildings). Colour is used well in the backgrounds, cleverly avoiding a lot of attribute clash, while creating an atmospheric environment for the fascinating gameplay.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: superbly-animated sprites fight it out in an excellently-drawn 'comic strip' play area
Sound: a great 48K title tune and some neat, bashing spot effects, but no enhancements on the 128K machines
Options: definable keys. Two scenarios to play
'Not content with having a hit Smash game with the first Batman, Ocean have made another. And why not when it's as good as this? The game is set out in a comic book style with hints on what to do appearing in the corner of each screen, similar to the descriptions of places in comics. The graphics themselves are excellent, cartoon-style and full of detail, even down to the King Kong swinging on the Empire State Building in the background! The puzzles are not too difficult to fathom, with the little hints helping a great deal but not spoiling the game too much. Ocean have made a fantastic job on Batman and being in two parts you get excellent value for money. Brilliant!'
NICK ... 93%
'Batman is one of my favourite comic book characters and it's great to see a game that is not only very playable, but also makes a serious attempt to do justice to the character. The Batman sprite is great, he really looks and moves just like the guardian of Gotham City. The baddies are a real pain in the behind, not to say face, chest and anywhere else they frequently manage to hit, but Batman can't be stopped. No his fight for truth and justice must go on, through 'game over' after 'game over'. Some of the puzzles need real lateral thinking to solve, as do the uses for some of the collectable objects, like the toilet roll. One thing that requires little consideration is whether or not to buy this. Believe me this is brilliant and will appeal to both Batman fans and games-players generally.'
MARK ... 92%
A complete and utter corker of an arcade adventure game! It's like walking into a Batman comic and dealing with the Joker and the Penguin for real! Great puzzles, addictive gameplay and great graphics too!
Nanananananananananana-ananananana Batman-a-a-a-a-a-a-n! Of course, if anyone ran around in a bat suit with an enormous cape in the middle of Derby, he'd probably get arrested. But in Gotham City, anything seems to go. They happily tolerate villains, for example, that any other city on the world would just bung them in the funny farm and be done with. And for senior policemen, they have in Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara two men with the combined brainpower of an ashtray. No wonder they need the Caped Crusader and his 'friend' the Boy Wonder.
Of course Batman is probably better known in these parts for his role in John Ritman and Bernie Drummond's first stab at the 3D isometric genre a couple of years back, which paved the way for what i still think is the best Speccy game of them all, Head Over Heels. Batman 1 was a brilliant game to be sure, and kept me virtually padlocked to my Speccy for about six weeks, but even its greatest fans would have to admit that it didn't have an awful lot to do with Batman. Ocean, I got the feeling, was a little concerned about this too, so when it decided to put together a sequel it was generally agreed that an entirely different approach was called for. Step in Special FX, the Liverpool-based programming house which has already provided hits for Ocean in the shape of Firefly (a YS megagame earlier this year) and Gutz. Their version of Batman is much truer to the original, and although quite different, it's every bit as good a game as the Ritman/Drummond epic.
As for the presentation, slick is not the word. Or perhaps it is. Depends whether you like the word 'slick', really, doens't it? Like its predecessor, it's an arcade adventure, but the problem solving is now tied in with the (fairly soppy) plot. The rooms are represented by rectangles of different sizes, and as Batman moves around, the previous room isn't wiped off, but subtly faded, so you can usually see some of it behind the new room. I'm sure we've seen this palimpsest technique before (good word, eh?) but never as groovily as here.
The graphics themselves are stupendous - some of the best I've ever seen on the machine. Colourful, expressive and, most crucially, visible, they skilfully manage to avoid the blockiness of games like Karnov. You move Batman from left to right, ion and out of the screen and occasionally up and down ladders. (It's vitally important to keep an eye out for these ladders, for without them you won't get very far.) Batman walks around his Batcave and then through the streets of Gotham, all the time bumping into various heavies who occasionally take potshots at him. Every so often he sees things on the floor which he picks up and can then use later on. One such item is the Batarang, which he can fling at baddies (although oddly you never see it return). The keys control system here is very good - you only need the four normal movement keys and FIRE, and with various combinations of these you can do all sorts of things. I myself found keys easier to handle than a joystick, but you may disagree.
Press DOWN and FIRE simultaneously, for instance, and you'll switch to another screen full of icons - piccies of things you have picked up included. Other keys let you drop things, use things (and be careful to use them in the right place - once used they're gone), quit the game, toggle between black-and-white and colour and decide what colour you want your border. The border, which extends right to the edge of the telly screen, can be in any colour you want (of the eight the Speccy does, that is - let's not get too ambitious!), giving you the entirely false but somehow pleasing impression that the game is played on a larger canvas than the usual rectangle-within-the-rectangle. And each time you pick something up, or flip to the icons screen, a huge red Batman logo leaps out of the screen at you, just like on the telly. They don't much about, these Special FX boys.
But what's perhaps most brilliant of all is that there are actually two games in one here - one substantially harder than the other, but both equally brillsville. "A Bird in The Hand" (the easier one) finds you trying to switch off a renegade computer which is holed up in the Penguin's mansion, while "A Fete Worse Than Death" has you burrowing around in the sewers of Gotham City trying to defuse ten bombs planted by the Joker, before you can go off and rescue Robin from being crushed by a rollercoaster at the local fair. You do tend to get shot at a lot - or bumped into by particularly aggressive little penguins - but fortunately your energy only drops a bit each time, so you can withstand a fair few shots. As well as zinging your Batarang at your enemies you can also boot them in the Gorbals by pressing about three buttons simultaneously (I told you this was clever). And as with the best of these games there's always the next challenge - where's the safe? Where's the security pass? Which flipping door does the lockpick unlock? - that keeps you playing, and playing and playing...
So, yet another triumph for Ocean, and without doubt Special FX's finest achievement so far. I know what I want for Christmas...
Before the Teenage Merchandising Totals there was Batman, the original Hero of Hype. This is the second of his 3 Ocean games (sandwiched between 3D and The Movie) with 2 separate scenarios and the action laid out in comic strip panels. Depending on which side you load, you're either trying to foil The Penguin's latest world domination plot, or else out to congratulate The Joker on disposing of that irritating git who's been tagginf along with you for years... (what? Oh, sorry)... or else out to apprehend The Joker to free your kidnapped buddy. (Ahem.)
Whichever baddy you're up against, the basic idea is to traipse around Gotham City, biffing the villain's henchmen while solving puzzles. These often have clues in the panels' captions, and their difficulty level is more 'afternoon gameshow' than 'Don Priestley' (use the torch in the dark room etc). Graphics are crisp, there's a snappy title tune, and as you'd expect from top programmer Jonathan Smith, you couldn't get this game more polished if your name was Mr Sheen. The best of the Batgame trio (3D was too silly, The Movie too serious), it has a nice line in humour and oozes playability. In short, the spankiest comic conversion since Dan Dare and a des res in barg city.
"Holy two-game double-up confusion, Batman!"
"Yes indeed, Robin. This case certainly looks as though it needs some... unravelling. Ah, as I though, the Bat computer tells me that there was another game a few years ago which was also based on our crusading exploits, but it was in the style of some game fiends describe as 3D, and while many thought it was 'fab', some complained that the atmosphere was slightly lacking."
"Damn it! You're right!" (punches fist).
"This seems to be another cunning plot by Ocean to cash in our name. I think we'd better proceed very carefully, old chum. Let's get this tape loading..."
"But how? We've only got our Bat-computer."
"Aha, With my handy BatSpectrumemulator." (Produces same from belt) "Now we'll see what those ingenious devils are up to. But wait! What's this? There seem to be two different games - one on each side of the tape!"
"Holy nightmare! How are they different?"
"I'm glad you asked me that old sausage (sausage?? are you sure? GT). One game has us pitted against the evil Penguin and the other features the mad, bad Joker as our foe. Now, take a seat on my knee, and we'll see what we're about."
"Jeepers creepers! Who's that fatso with the funny hat on the screen, Batman?"
"That's me Robin. Actually, I think I've been rather endearingly adapted to the computer. It seems that, if my Bat-senses aren't deceiving me, I can walk around the screen collect objects and climb things."
"Holy perception! You've got it! ! But what's that strange boxed-off effect?"
"Looks to me like another example of comic book style, Rob. And cleverly done. As you leave one room, the next frame will overlay like the frames in a comic. Nice touch. Now, we're out of the Batcave and into the harsh world. I smell crime in the air. Which side did we load, old fruit?"
"By Gotham City! It was the Penguin!"
"As I thought. I think we may find that our old friend the Penguin is about to try and take over the world with an army of robotic penguins and Henchmen in an operation he's running from a fake umbrella factory somewhere in the city."
"Holy Sixtiesexpression! Look out! Here comes a Henchman!"
(Impressive martial-arts fight breaks out) Biffo! sokk! Poww! "That dealt with him, Robin. I seem to be able to fight pretty well, and there are lots of moves available. I can even use the Batarang if I can find it."
"How in the name of Commissioner Gordon do you handle objects in this thing, Batty?"
"By using this cleverly designed Object-handling screen, Robin. I can highlight the objects I want to use - assuming I've found them in the very large play area - and then, while playing, I simply press the Use item key. I can then pick locks, disguise myself, find door passes and even have something to eat."
"Holy variety! So there's lots to do. How difficult is the mission looking, though?"
"Pretty tough, I'm afraid, old pomegranite. Gotham City is puzzling, and we don't have use of the Batmobile, so we'd better make a map. Here take this pen and paper..."
"Holy Swizz! I always have to make the maps!"
"I can't be bothered with such trifles, Robin. My energy level is getting low, as are the other two gauges which I don't understand the nature of. Pay attention to the graphics. Too much attribute clash for my liking, but on the whole they look good enough to me."
"And there are clues a at the top of the screen to help us when and where to use certain items."
"A good job, my caped suzette, because things would be a bit too mysterious without them I fear. There seems to be so much going on, I fear even my Bat-instincts wouldn't tell me where to begin."
"Holy thoughtful programminmg! So what' s our Bat-verdict?"
"I think it's a damned fine game, Robin. These graphics make the action clear and attractive and both games use different map areas and there are different sets of bad guys to deal with. It also has a sense of humour, which makes a change from all this sombre Dark Knight malarky I've had to deal with recently. I'd advise the kids to buy it."
Author: Joffa Smith (SFX)
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
Batman licences? Ocean Gotham...
Not a sequel to the Jon Ritman game by any means, this begins a new generation of Batman licences, the first in what is rapidly set to turn into a series - the next one is going to be Batman The Movie.
This comic-strip style arcade adventure is essentially two games in one. One side of the tape has you up against arch-villain The Joker a caper called A Fete Worse Than Death, and the flip side of the tape pits the player against The Penguin in A Bird in The Hand. In the Penguin game, the dastardly criminal plans to dominate Gotham City by unleashing an army of mechanical penguins that he's manufacturing in an old umbrella factory. In the Joker game, Batman has to prevent bombs that have been placed under the Batcave from exploding while rescuing his youthful assistant Robin from the clutches of villains.
Both adventures start at the Batcave. Taking control of Batman, you wander around the game area collecting items (which sit on the floor flashing), before using them in the correct locations in order to progress. An element of combat is involved, but true to the original stones, no-one actually dies.
There are two main screen displays, and pulling down on the joystick with fire pressed toggles between them. In the main display mode, each location is viewed side-on, the size of the display depending on the size of the location and whether there are any objects in it. Leaving a location causes another frame to be laid over the old one on-screen - this continues until you either use or pick up an object, when the overlays clear and the display starts afresh. The other main screen mode is the static utilities screen which reveals health, strength, stamina and so on. It also contains a group of icons including a "use" icon and a "drop" icon, surrounded by the objects collected on your travels. To use an object, select it and click on the use icon.
As well as wandering around collecting objects, there are the criminal's minions to avoid or fight. Be careful though, because fighting takes energy which can only be replaced by collecting and eating (using) food, which is sometimes difficult to find.
Of the two games, the Penguin one is the easier. Comic strip captions often give you clues as to which object should be used where. There aren't so many clues when you're playing against the Joker though, so beware.
Batman The Caped Crusader is great fun to play. The puzzles can be tricky but with a little bit of lateral thinking they get easier.
Reviewer: Andy Smith
Atari ST, £19.95dk, Imminent
Amiga, £24.95dk, Imminent
Spectrum, £8.95cs, £14 95dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Imminent
C64/128, £9.95cs. £14.95dk, Imminent
IBM PC, Under development
Predicted Interest Curve
1 min: 88/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 95/100
1 week: /80100
1 month: 60/100
1 year: 20/100
MACHINES: C64, Spec, Ams
PRICE: Spectrum, Amstrad, C64 cassette £9.95 cass, disk £14.95, Amiga, ST £24.99
VERSION TESTED: C64, Spectrum
Oh me. I could have a lot of fun with this opening. After all, there must be hundreds of different Batman cliches I can use to open and pad out this piece. But I won't. I'll get on with the review.
This is the second Batman undertaking Ocean have, well, undertook, the first being that wonderful Filmation production. This one is, strangely enough a conversion of the movie (?) due for release sometime next year, just as soon as they start filming it.
You play the Coped Crusader himself, minus Robin the Boy Wonder (as usual), as he battles through not one, but two adventures in his struggle to uphold justice in this unjust society we live in.
Firstly, the Penguin is making a nuisance of himself. Batman sets out to put a stop to his 'demented squawkings'. Once he's done that, it's down to the fun house at the local funfair for a do or die battle with the Joker.
Rather than use that plot and come up with an arcade game which, let's face it, would have worked quite well, Special FX have come up with an arcade adventure.
The map is arranged as a semi 3D scroller. Left to right is smooth scrolling, and of certain points in the scenery (doors and suchlike) you can flip in or out of the screen.
As it's an arcade adventure, its obvious you're not going to get anywhere until you find some objects, and these are to be found in boxes with the bat-symbol on the side. The batarang is a handy item, as is the lockpick.
To stop you from getting anywhere are various kinds of enemy. The smallest, and least harmful are the robot penguins. These roll around, no taller than your waist, occasionally spitting out the odd bullet here and there. Then there are the knife throwers. These will only throw from a distance, so stay close to them, and they're harmless. Hardest of the lot are the armed guards. These will stand anywhere and shoot you. The problem is, you're Batman. Anyone who knows their Batman will know that it's against his code to kill anyone. He can't even hurt anyone. All he's allowed to do is to hit them to stun them for a short while so he can get past.
The main manipulation is fairly simple. Face front, pull down and press fire and you go into the menu system.
There are five icons in the centre of the screen and all round the screen are pictures of an you've collected. The five icons are, turn tune on/off, drop object, return to game, use object and quit game.
The graphics are 'Holy bat socks' good. The detail and animation of all the sprites is crisp and the screen flips smoothly.
As you move onto new screens, the next overlays the former one, but never perfectly, giving that 'comic book' impression.
A tune plays throughout, but is nothing more than a parody of the Batman tune. In game effects are nice, not brilliant, but nice.
Quite a fun game but, to my mind, not nearly as good as the first one. Nice packaging, though.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
The Caped Crusader - now also known as the Dark Knight, due to one of the recent in-vogue graphic novels - has had a long history in DC Comics, and the recently revived tacky television programme. His computerised life is not so long, having starred in an isometric 3-D game in May 1986, but is sure to go further as next year, there will be a third game, based on the forthcoming movie.
Pulling on boots and mask, and tying your sweeping cloak around your neck, it's time to take a heroic stance as Batman, guardian of Gotham City.
Two dastardly enemies threaten peace, hence Batman is split into two independent halves.
The first features the vile plans of the fat waddling villain with the strange laugh - the Penguin. The plot entitled A Bird in The Hand, has him apparently going straight after a stint in jail. The Penguin opens an umbrella factory, near his luxurious mansion, needless to say, this is a cover (pun intended!). Robot penguins are manufactured and let loose as part of a plan for world domination. You must infiltrate his mansion and shut down his master control computer.
The first few locations feature the Batcave (as do those of part two) which leads out to the street and eventually Pengy's mansion. Locations are shown in frames of varying shape and include short captions, comic strip style - as the game develops, location frames are overlayed.
You walk left, right and in and out of the screen (using marked doorways), picking up objects as you go. A command menu allows objects in your inventory to be dropped or used, music to be turned oft game quit, and shows your remaining energy as a series of bars.
Energy is lost on contact with bats, mechanical toys, henchmen and their bullets, but can be regained with consumable objects. Revenge can be had on hench-persons with fighting moves or your batarang.
The second and most difficult half is A Fete Worse Than Death, where Robin has been kidnapped by the Joker. From a cryptic clue left behind, you deduce he is being held at the local fair, and also that your cavernous home is under threat by several bombs planted beneath it.
A simple arcade adventure, albeit with beat-'em-up undertones, is an unambitious game format for a licence, but solving crime in Gotham City through logic and violence is an amusing vocation. It is hindered by the number of henchmen, particularly on the C64, who don't die, fall unconscious or simply go away no matter how much you hit them. Luckily, with two independent adventures, their attacks are bearable.
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