It took me awhile to figure out what game I would tackle this week. That is until I found my stash of stored games and came across one of my many 8-bit nemeses, Batman. I could not remember what it was that kept me from finishing the title. I do however recall a lot of hours spent mastering the first half of the game. Tying a towel around my neck and putting on largely black attire, I sat down controller in hand and began to Level Up Batman.
History and Mechanics
Batman was developed by Sunsoft in 1989 shortly after the release of the cult classic Batman movie. The game features five levels separated into two or three mini sections. The final section of each level contains a boss. The game plays like a lot of titles around the same time via side scrolling action and a few special mechanics. These mechanics in Batman include wall jumping and 3 weapons: Batarang , Bat Missile Gun, and some crazy 3 pronged fireball attack. Batman is a wizard too, I guess. Wall jumping in particular becomes a necessity to success as you progress into the difficult levels. To help with progression, Batman has unlimited continues that start you back at the beginning of whatever stage you fail on. The exception being the bosses, which will require you to finish the previous zone as well.
Interestingly enough, the game had a twin developed on the SEGA Genesis system that did not include the same features. It did follow the storyline of the movie a bit more and included some interesting mechanics of it’s own, including a few levels where you drive the Bat Mobile and Batwing.
Unlike last week’s Mega Man 2, the mastery I put into Batman had not worn off. I was able to fly through the first two levels with little or no trouble. Of course, during level three all of the memories and hate came flying back as though someone had rolled them into a bat, and hit me in the face. Particularly challenging were the toad like jumping men of the sewers. There is a pattern to killing them that is easily recognized but hard to execute. They jump, you run under them, turn, strike, rinse and repeat. The problem is the hit boxes on the enemies are so long that often times you are caught in a helpless loop of attacks from which you cannot escape until you die. It is a recipe for high blood pressure and/or holes in the drywall. It took me most of yesterday to pass the two zones in which they inhabit.
After finishing the sewers I came to the next part that always gave me trouble, the boss of level 3. All morning I worked on finding the pattern to killing him. I cried, cursed, and debated on deleting the column. Eventually I was able to figure out a tactic that worked. Full all out assault with Batarangs. I beat him with one bar of life remaining. HUZZAH! I moved beyond the level 3 boss for the first time. That feeling was like a piece of Zebra Stripes Gum, delicious for a few seconds, then you are just eating crap. Levels four and five gave me lots of challenge and I finally stopped. The final two bosses are some fast punching, fireball throwing ninja guy and Joker himself. I have yet to figure out how to defeat the former, so I can’t comment on Joker at all. I R fail Batman.
Analysis and Conclusion
One of my favorite parts to Batman is the linear progression from zone to zone. Each zone offers unique, interesting, and sometimes maddening challenges to overcome. The boss fights are are tests in pattern recognition and execution, yet different enough from each other that every one inevitably slays you a few times before you move on. Sure it may not be the most epic game in terms of variety, but it did a great job of creating an adventure for the player.
I have a standard rule of thumb when it comes to games made from movies. Don’t play them. I find this rule sad because the horrid design of movie based games of today is not something that has always been true. Batman branched away from the movie scenes which gives the player a fresh feeling to their adventure. Yet the game still contains enough resemblance to the movie that you do feel like part of the original story. I like having differences in the game because they make the experience new. I don’t want to know exactly how each turn or level will end. Batman adds a lots of enemies and bosses that we did not see in the film. They were creative without being destructive to the story. They deviated enough to make it fresh and fun something that is a rare find in the movie based games of today.