Dilemmas, problems, hassles. How, we wondered, can we review Batty? It's a good new game, so it deserves coverage - but it's just one sixth of a Hit Pak compilation, and can't be assessed entirely on its own. After all, you couldn't hand over 01.66 and ask for one Batty, hold the rereleases...
The solution: a brief rundown of the five old(er) games on 6-Pak Vol. 2 based on their Crash reviews, and the complete treatment for Batty. After endless deliberation we decided against rating the compilation as such; make up your mind whether the good games outweigh the poorer ones.
The star of the 6-Pak Vol. 2 re-releases is Lightforce from FTL, a colourful and speedy shoot-'em-up which featured on the cover of Issue 34 (November 1986) and was awarded a Crash Smash with 91% Overall. The first sight of Lightforce reduced Ben to 'a gibbering wide-eyed heap on the floor'.
Into The Eagle's Nest by Pandora got an Overall mark of 82% in Issue 39 (April 1987). This Gauntlet-style war game received mixed criticism from the reviewing team. Paul loved the graphics, a feeling echoed in the other two comments, but didn't find much lasting appeal; Mike, however, said 'it's playable and addictive'.
ACE from Cascade is the compilation's only simulation. You take the controls of an AWAT fighter and blast four colours of gut out of the enemy. This was hailed as 'possibly the Spectrum's best flight simulator' by Mike but it didn't keep Paul interested. Ace got 81% Overall in CRASH Issue 32 (September 1986).
International Karate, originally released by System 3, is felt by Crash reviewers to be the weakest game in this compilation. The three original reviewers left it jumped on the beat-'em-up bus too late and simply wasn't done well. Still, it got a respectable 68% Overall in CRASH Issue 24.
Shockway Rider, FTL's second offering on 6-Pak Vol. 2 and also the newest of the rereleases got an Overall mark of 67% in Issue 38 last March. It tells the story of a 22nd-century man who rode in the fast lane of the Shockway (a new kind of public transport) and forgot to get off at his stop. Ben found the game 'appealing - because you can hurl bricks at innocent bystanders (and get points for it)'.
And now to Batty...
Batty, a small horizontally-moving bat, exists in a world of rectangular blocks. These blocks are arranged in different configurations at the top of the screen, and he/she/it fires a small ball at them; it then rebounds according to the pattern and consistency of the blocks.
Batty must try to stop the ball bouncing off the bottom edge of the screen, by obstructing its path. If Batty is not sufficiently quick or accurate, the ball disappears and the flattened batsman loses one of his/her/its three lives.
The multicoloured bricks have different characteristics. Some are easily destroyed by a single contact with the ball, others require several hits, and some are indestructible. For every block wiped out, Batty receives points.
Some blocks, when destroyed, drop things down toward Batty. By moving to gather these, Batty can gain extra points and lives, elongate him/her/itself, increase the destructive power of the ball, slow its speed, split it into three, or obtain a laser that quickly destroys blocks. Yet another feature allows Batty to capture the ball and carefully consider his/her/its angle of fire. And all these features add points to Batty's score.
When all the destructible blocks on a screen have been removed the next of the 14 levels is reached. But catching a jet pack gives Batty quicker progress - it automatically takes him/her/it to the next level.
Batty can possess only one supplementary feature at a time, and on collecting a new one loses the last (except when the ball has been split into three, in which case another feature can be added).
To create difficulties for Batty, magnets contained within some block patterns alter the predictable movement of the ball, and bomb-dropping aliens patrol the upper reaches of the screen. These alien swarms grow at higher levels, and progress further and further down the screen; their bombs kill Batty.
Batty can destroy the aliens by touch, by firing the ball at them, or by picking up the 'kill aliens' add-on. It's a bat's life.
Batty is really neat. The graphics are great, even though most of the screens are made of little coloured blocks, colour is well-used and the characters are well-defined. The speed is fairly consistent, with unpredictable speed-ups being far less common than in Arkanoid. Fourteen screens may not seem a lot, but the first half dozen are going to keep me happy for a while! There's enough gameplay to make this one last - Batty is everything Arkanoid should have been.
Paddles out again, chaps - it's time for Batty, the best 'breakout' game to grace the Speccy yet. It's not another boring old bat 'n' ball game; Batty is different. The gameplay isn't exactly original - it's dangerously "Arkanoidesque" - but there are some excellent extra features which, along with the sensible controls, make Batty well worth the price of this 6-Pak. My only niggle is that there are just fourteen levels - they're not easy, but I doubt they'll keep you busy for long. Still, Batty is great fun!
Batty is one of the most unoriginal games I've ever eyed - Sinclair gave one like this (Thru The Wall) away with the first Spectrums, and of course there's Arkanoid with almost identical graphics. There are some neat touches in Batty, though, and the graphics make it better than Arkanoid.