Your Sinclair1st November 1989
Published in Your Sinclair #47
Batman: The Movie
You've worn the T-shirt (well, I have), you've seen the movie (about 16 times), you've stuck on the stickers, pinned on the badges, even read the YS Megapreview. And you're probably sick to the Bat-gills of this whole so-called Bat-phenomenon by now. But hold it! Just one more Bat-thing to cope with, I promise you! The best is yet to come...
Or so Ocean keeps telling us, anyhow. Batman (The Game Of The Movie) didn't quite manage to make it out in time for the height of Bat-fever, but it's done a lot better than some film licences I could mention. And not only is it current, it's also a blooming good game! Let's take a look at it shall we?
For a start - as seems to be Ocean's wont these days - it's a multiload (on 48K anyway), with each section based closely on a sequence from the film. Two of them (the first and the last) are platform and ladders shoot-'em-ups, and very snazzy platform and ladders shoot-'em-ups they are too. The middle two (or two and a half if you count the quick Joker's puzzle sequence that appears between the second and third loads) are a different kettle of fish, though. They're much simpler, more limited games, though just as flawlessly executed.
Anyway, the first level.This is the bit where you're pursuing the Joker around a chemical factory. There are two different types of gun-firing hoods after you - men with hats and men, erm, without hats - as well as other natural hazards like energy-sapping, dripping gunk and jets of steam. The main problem though is making your way to the top of the building. Arrows appear to point out your route (another recent Ocean trait) but - oh no! - there seem to be loads of big gaps you have to cross. Luckily Bats not only comes equipped with his normal take-out-the-bad-guys Batarang, but a Bat-rope too. Aim up or diagonally up and he throws out a line which either winches him up a level or allows him to swing Tarzan-like across a gap. In fact, it's more Bionic Commando than 'Tarzan' but better animated. In fact, this whole section is extremely well done. Largish and very clear monochrome sprites, good smooth animation and scrolling, and well though-out gameplay - it's all here. It's large too, and Tipshop should see the new Bat-maps start flooding in any day now.
Load Two is a different box of tricks altogether. You're driving the Batmobile back to the Batcave against a time limit, but other cars keep getting in your way. It's a horizontal scroller which involves dodging in and out of the other cars and watching out for 'turn left' arrows. When one appears you should deftly shoot out a Bat-rope to spin you round the corner and head up-screen (or in my case, miss a corner, turn around, head back against the traffic, miss the corner again and so on). You can't fault this level - it's fast, and the blue cars are very clear against the black road - except to say "Is that it?" Basically it's a very well executed bit of simple budget gameplay, and I exepcted more.
The same goes for the next level too. It's the parade sequence, with the Joker's lorries - complete with poison gas balloons trailing above them -cruising down Gotham High Street. Here you come now in the Batwing, flying along at a set distance above the ground (though you can move the plane left, right forward and back). Your job is to cut the lines holding the gas balloons and send them floating harmlessly away. Every so often a few helicopters appear which you have to dodge, and then it's more lorries again. I dunno. It's very faithful to the film, and very well done, but again the gameplay is just so simple. Too simple really. The Joker's quiz sequence, which comes between these two and gives you a minute to work out what three household items contain the Joker's poisons by a process of deduction, is a nice little touch - but that's all it is. A slightly disappointing centre section then, but things come alive again on the last load.
This is a reprisal of the first scene, though set in the Gotham cathedral. This time some of the men throw bombs at you rather than shoot (very tricky to deal with) rats snap at your heels, and some platforms crumble as you walk on them. The map seems even bigger this time and there are even more sequences demanding skilful use of the Batrope. All in all it's as snazzy a platform game as we've seen in ages. Get to the top in time, defeat the last two goons who lurk there, and you can catch the Joker climbing the ladder to his waiting 'copter. Toss a Batarang at him and you get a great end sequence as he falls down the outside of the building passing gargoyles as he goes, for what must be about six or seven screens.
I liked Batman (The Game Of The Movie) a lot. It's as faithful, supremely well executed and generally wazzy a film conversion as you could ever hope to see. But... there's a 'but'. The platform levels are great, but the simplicity of the driving sections is a bit of a let-down. Add a shooting element (after all, both Bat-vehicles were armed in the film), or more variety to these bits, and it would have been a better game. In fact, it would have stood a good chance of a Megagame.
Actually (has a quick rethink), let's be fair. It's blooming good. It's probably Megagame-good. It's just that The Untouchables (a brilliant game, perhaps the best released on the Speccy this year) is even better. I dunno. Buy them both. You won't be disappointed. And I'm sure you'd make Ocean very happy.
A brilliantly-done film conversion, but (ever so slightly) let down by limited driving sequences.