Amstrad Action1st December 1989
Published in Amstrad Action #51
Batman: The Movie
The mist-shrouded night is pierced by a shrill scream. A mugger's body hits the ground, his booty scattered around him. A shadow disappears into the dark alleys of Gotham City to continue its hunt... the Dark Knight has returned, and he's looking for prey.
Jack Napier's got to laugh. In fact, he's been unable to do much else since the accident. Falling fifty feet into a chemical cocktail wasn't exactly hilarious, but the results were hysterical. His face turned white, his hair green, but he got one wicked sense of humour into the bargain. But, as he's the first to admit, "You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs".
The stage is set for a classic confrontation. A twisted criminal genius and a caped crusader bent on revenge are about to come to blows in the most spectacular battle since Goliath's re-match with David. The Joker's twisted mind has brought together a bunch of hardened criminals and some pretty evil plans, but Batman has that nice left hook and all the futuristic hardware a crime fighter could wish for. Who will win?
Forget Messrs Keaton and Nicholson, this one's up to you. The on-disk-movie opens in the Axis Chemicals warehouse. Jack Napier (the Joker) is trying to recover some incriminating documents and, naturally, Batman wants Jack. The plant is a maze of twisted pipes and vats, leaking toxic vapours that injure on contact. To make matters worse there are so many of Napier's men after Batty, you can hardly move without having to kill one - a crying shame!
Your tools are the Batarang throwing stars, Batrope, that funny rubber suit and native Gotham grit. The factory is a multi-platform building and our hero has to find the soon-to-be Joker. Normal people use the ladders to change levels but real men use Batropes. It looks dead smooth, is good fun, and makes you a harder target for Jack's gun-toting, bomb-throwing thugs (booo!). Add this to the difficulty of dodging the leaking chemicals that weaken you every step of the way. plus a tightish time limit, and it's a total house of pain.
Having battled your way past these obstacles in the best superhero fashion, you're expected to use what little energy you've left to give Jack Napier a helping hand - into the chemical crucible that will transform him into the malicious Joker. A great touch, as the energy bar showing how long you've got left to live is a portrait of Batty changing to reveal the visage of the laughing madman himself.
The factory is a dark and dangerous place where a bat may feel at home but your average games player doesn't. But it looks sweetness and light compared to the chase through the Gotham City streets in the infamous Batmobile. A huge 'Vet with a nuclear motor, this black beast has the power to literally tear up those backstreets. Unfortunately, it does share the handling characteristics of its American ancestors - i.e. an overweight dead cow with a sprained ankle! To negotiate corners you need to send out a grappling hook to grab hold of lampposts to help you turn that much quicker.
Still in the land of the living? Then the next challenge is the product identification test. You've got to find out which of the three products Joker has poisoned. If they're used together then they form a deadly laughing gas that leaves the corpse with a fixed and ugly grin on the kisser. This cannot be allowed to continue as the products chosen are those of the personal hygiene variety, and Gotham City will grind to a halt if ozone and people-friendly deodorants cannot be found. There are limits! Taking a man's property is pretty low, but robbing him of the ability to raise his arms in public is beyond a joke.
Once you've solved the problem with the smellies then you climb in to the Batwing and head downtown to have a look at the big parade. You aim is to stop the Joker filling the streets with poisonous gas balloons, which means flying your plane in and out of the streets and houses to catch them.
Finally, you're Bat on the street again, chasing the Joker and his mad minions into Gotham City Cathedral. As in the Axis Warehouse, you're in hot pursuit of the foul felons, up and over the belfry stairs. The Batrope and its grappling hook come in more than handy here again as you fire it up to the next level, avoiding the steps where you're a sitting duck. Then after you've beaten his cohorts you get to face up to the man you created in the first scene. Complete this and you're the real superhero, not Batman.
The whole game is held together by the graphics, which manage to capture the spirit of the movie, menace and comedy combined in an atmospheric film game. Batman himself is great. His cape flaps, he ducks, dives and jumps. When finally beaten by the Joker's hordes he slumps to the floor, cape billowing out over him. a broken and battered man. The Batrope allows you to attack, climb and swing to dodge shots; the Batarangs are accompanied by a heroic pose when thrown.
The vehicles are disappointing but play well and prove to be a strong part of the game. As you hurtle along, the Batmobile is seen from the side, guided by huge white arrows on the road. Turn when you see the sign or you've got to spin and drive against the traffic to have another crack at it. A view from above and behind might have been better and more realistic, but viewing the car from the side keeps the movie motif alive.
The action in Batman is constant rather than overwhelming. It erodes your nerve, forcing you to make that one vital mistake that will cost you your last energy and send you straight back to the first level... That's right - none of those credit things, a blunder can cost hours of intensive gaming and yet another visit to the Axis warehouse.
On tape it's a multi-load, but even this can't disguise the game's innate playability and addictiveness. Soon you forget the film and begin to create your own superhero mythology, taking great pride in killing awkward-to-reach bad guys with over-the-shoulder shots from the Batrope. and swing out of grenades' way when the going gets a little too hot even for the Dark Knight.
Surely it's impossible for any game to live up to such hype? Is the Caped Crusader just 'a wimp in a rubber suit'? No. The game is the best movie licence this year - if not ever - capturing the same dark and dominating air that pervaded the film. It still manages to retain its own personality and doesn't just trade on a famous name. Dance with the devil in the pale moonlight, and you're assured hours of frustratingly addictive gameplay.
Holy guano, Batman! Despite the hype, Batman: The Movie has turned out to be excellent. Brilliant graphics combined with spot-on gameplay provide a Zzzzapping game you'll be playing long after the present batch of Bat-mania has died down.
First Day Target Score
Green Screen View
Couldn't be better.
P. A do-it-yourself movie.
P. Holy artwork, what fun sprites!
P. Good theme music.
N. What, no Prince?
Grab Factor 81%
P. Tricky but easily learned moves.
P. You'll go far fast.
Staying Power 93%
P. Four levels of fun, one of puzzles.
P. Outstanding movie licence.
P. Yes, a hyped game can be that good!