Batman: The Game
by Polly



It's a pretty commonly known rule in gaming today that all licensed games suck complete ass and are all programmed by first year college students who barely know Q-BASIC and are made merely to cash in on a recent trendy [REDACTED]pot fad. You'd probably laugh in my face if I told you that there was a time when licensed games didn't always HAVE TO SUCK. That sometimes companies would actually put in a little effort to make the game as good as they could with the amount of time they had to do it in. In fact, most of the time if a licensed game sucked, it was because some shitty company like Acclaim got their greasly little fingers on it and decided to wipe their ass and call it a game. Other companies like Capcom and Konami had a pretty decent batting average with licensed games, many of them turning out to be true NES masterpieces. Though this game wasn't made by either comapny, it's certainly one hell of a showing for the 'ol NES.

Batman...story...nerve gas...Joker....Batmobile...yadda, yadda. There's your God damn story. There's not really much to say about it that isn't already said in the instruction manual and the in-game opening cinematic.

For a game released in 1989, Batman's graphics hold their own and then some against some of the absolute best that the NES era had to offer. Even compared to games released late into the NES' lifespan, Batman still looks pretty damn spiffy. Unlike other great looking games like Ninja Gaiden II and Kirby's Adventure, Batman doesn't go for that bright, vibrant colorful world. Instead, Batman's graphics are more in-tune with the movie it's based on, going for a dark, edgy, and nicely detailed look. The prominent color here is black, but the way other colors sort of gradient out from that and form various details in the backgrounds really gives the game a sense of character and atmosphere. There's quite a bit of animation going on in them as well, as you'll see chemicals and water flowing ever so smoothly through sewers, exhaust fans whirling away in factories, large animated computer screens depicting The Joker as he taunts Batman from the seclusion of his hideout, and gears grinding away in the bell tower as our hero makes his way up.

Aside from the fact that he's freakin BLUE, (which I'm guessing was done so that Batman doesn't disappear into the dark backgrounds) the caped crusader looks quite good himself as well. He's packing quite a bit of animation as he runs and jumps about with his cape flapping in the wind behind him. Enemies don't come in a lot of varieties, as you'll only see about 5-7 different ones (not counting bosses) palette swapped to fit in with their environments. They are, however, still animated pretty well and come off just as smooth as Batman does himself.

Batman's soundtrack is right up there with some of the best the little grey box ever churned out. It's the first instance of game music I'd ever experienced and thought of it as more than just videogame music. It's catchy, heavy, and sounds as close to real guitars and drums as I think any other game ever got. The only real complaint I have is that there's not more of it. Sound effects are typical NES fare with little crackly explosions and punching sounds that are really only adequate, but don't take much away from the overall audio presentation.

The game's a simple action platformer. You run, jump, attack enemies, and bounce from wall to wall (is it me, or is that more of a Spiderman thing?) like nobody's business avoiding all the typical pitfalls associated with the genre. There's no real hangup with the controls, as they're responsive giving Batman that cat-like agility a superhero of his calibur should definitely have. Batman's given his trademark Bat-arangs, a three way shuriken and a weird little missile gun to help aid in his journey toward hunting down The Joker, but the problem is that they rarely ever feel very useful. Most of the time you can get by with just your default punching attack, but rarely will you ever ABSOLUTELY NEED to use them. They don't get in the way, and they can help you zip through certain areas much faster, but the levels and enemies weren't developed enough to make them feel like a necessity most of the time. All in all, the game didn't do a very good job of making me feel like I wasn't just playing any other old platforming hero character.

Batman is a fairly challenging game, though I don't think it ever gets to the point of being "really hard" or as frustrating as a lot of people have made it out to be. Many have complained about the difficulty, but it all comes down to memorization. There aren't a whole lot of random elements in the game to make it a unique challenge everytime. Enemies are at the same places everytime and always spawn from the same exact locations. Wall Jumping is an integral part of the Batman experience. Many times throughout the game the player is forced into the tricky position of having to execute a series of perfectly timed and precisely landed wall jumps to avoid the dangers below. These get even more challenging when you have to compensate for an enemy that's hanging out at your landing spot, but the controls are nice and responsive, so that all you have to worry about is your timing of the jump and not whether Batman will get his attack off before he lands to kill the enemy.

Most enemies rely on the ol "touch me and take damage" routine that every game in the known universe used. I never understood why touching the enemy meant that I took damage, but whatever. They're all placed and timed in the level to catch the player off guard and they do a pretty good job of it the first few times through. You're given unlimited continues and you'll rarely ever run short on weapons, so though it's challenging, the game never feels impossible.

Batman's boss encounters are a bit of a mixed bag, as well. A few of them might leave you scratching your head (read: cursing and pulling your hair out) trying to figure out a legitimate tactic in order to defeat them, but toward the end of the game, a few end up being straight up back and forth bitch slap fights that are won if you can simply enter with full health and just continue trading blows till it's over. But, hey. That's NES games for you sometimes.

Batman is probably the best licensed game to come out of the NES era. Though it may not be so great because it's so "true to the source," it's still a pretty competent action platformer that manages to be fun and challenging. It's clear Sunsoft put some work into this before letting it out of the bag, unlike all the other stupid, shitty movie licensed games of today and it'd definitely be a nice piece to add to any NES collection.






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