WHO DO YOU prefer, Batman or Superman? You can probably divide people psychologically by their choice. Superman - heroic, invincible, on the side of light. Batman - a figure of vengeance, lurking in the shadows; a mere mortal and, in the earliest adventures at least, morally ambiguous - more likely to throw a crook off a roof than fly him into jail. I always preferred Batman.
In terms of computer games you ain't got much choice, now that Beyond has discovered that their incarnation of the big blue and red hero won't be mistaken for a bird or a plane - he flies like a turkey. Luckily Batman is 100 per cent hero, even if the computer incarnation does base itself on the tongue-in-cheek TV version. So pull on your underwear over your grey tights, slide down the Batpole and into the Batcave!
As Batman descends you'll notice that he's looking rather portly - obviously too many business lunches with Commissioner Gordon - but he's beautifully animated. As he drops, his cape swirls up and, if you leave him standing too long, he puts his hands on his hips and taps his foot impatiently. The other thing you'll notice is that this is yet another Ultimate look-alike but believe me, it's a good one.
The plot concerns boy wonder Robin, who's committed the boyish blunder of being kidnapped just as he was servicing the Batcraft. First task for our hero is, therefore, to find the disassembled pieces of the wonder vehicle which are scattered around the new look, enlarged Batcave.
Naturally, much of the early stages of the game are concerned with gathering all of those everyday luxuries that make a Batman's life bearable. These include the Batbag, without which items cannot be moved other than by pushing them. Even then they can't be moved from their starting location, and the problems faced in the Batcave are of the type where you have to solve one location before proceeding to the next. So what use is the Batbag? Stay tuned to this same Bat-review and we'll tell you.
Your next useful object is a pair of Jet Batboots. Until he has his high power footwear, Batman won't be able to jump. This means that some doors, situated on ledges, are effectively one way until you can leap back through them. If the sill is still too high you can use your carrying ability to place objects in front of it and climb onto those first.
Remember, kids - Batman can't fly! That's the warning which went out to all of us impressionable youngsters with the TV show, and you'd better take note because there are lots of nasty tricks here that will drop our hero onto deadly spikes or the like. To overcome them you'll need the Bat-thruster - Holy Bat-thruster! - and, of course the Low Gravity Batbelt, which might also help control Batman's spreading girth. The former lets you steer yourself while falling; the latter slows your rate of descent.
An added arcade appeal can be found in the search for energisers. The Batcave is full of these, and Batman must pick them up to ensure a long and fruitful life. There are a wide variety ranging from extra life, which is self explanatory, to energy which gives extra speed. Some shield our hero making him temporarily invulnerable, while others are useful for those 'with one bound he was free' situations - they let him make double-sized Bat-leaps.
All of these, like the objects, are logically placed, so you can be sure that if you find an energiser you'll be grateful in the long run. But beware, they all look the same - like little Batmen. There are also neutralising energisers which immediately cancel out any benefits remaining from other objects.
You start the game with eight lives, but one invaluable and, as far as I know, unique feature of the game is the Batstones. Passing them seems to have little effect until you lose all your lives. Then, when you restart the game you'll be given the option of carrying on at exactly the point, with exactly the same status, as when you collected the stone.
Better still, this effect nests, so that if you have collected two stones your first return will be to the later starting point, but if you can't continue you'll still be able to restart at the earlier point. It's a neat alternative to a Save feature.
Quite how the Batcave got so busy I don't know, but it's alive with the sound of nasties. They're an odd looking bunch but one thing's certain - they're deadly. Bumping into them makes Batman vanish in a puff. Some are relatively stupid, following a set course, but others home in on you and move fast so you have to outwit them. A good technique seems to be moving away from them, then dashing for the exit between them as they make for your previous position.
Be careful though, because several doors drop you onto slippery slopes or conveyor belts which call for immediate action. This one will keep the mappers happy for ages, though the fact that objects appear in a set order means that apart from some routes being safer than others, there is a single, ultimate solution.
Still, once you've solved it all - and that's no easy task - you can always try again at a higher skill level, What the programmers have so cleverly done is to provide two types control sensitivity. On the easier one alignment mistakes are catered for and Batman will swerve through doors. Try the other and you'll need to be much more accurate in steering him.
The other initial options are the inevitable joystick choice, key definition which is extremely comprehensive, and sound which ranges from a wickedly loud rendition of the Batman theme and footsteps, to a silent version with nary a Biff nor a Pow, for late night play.
I can see this being one that will be played into the night too. It's extremely addictive and nicely atmospheric with some clever puzzles, and each challenge conquered leads to another original problem.
Reaching the Bat-thruster is particularly tricky as it lies on the far side of an apparently impassible floor. Once you've solved it though you'll kick yourself for not seeing the answer before, it's so logical.
Yes, you'll definitely want to play this one again and again - because leaving it unsolved will drive you batty.
Programmers: John Ritman, Bernie Drummond
Joystick: Kempston, Fuller, cursor/Interface II
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