Platform: Arcade (68000-Based hardware) Developer: The Numega Team Publisher: Atari Games Released: 1991 Genre: Platformer - Walk-and-Gun Players: 1
Batman is The Numega Team (whoever the fuck they were), under the direction of Atari, doing their best to clone Namco's classic Rolling Thunder and apply it to an at-the-top piping hot movie license. Well, that's a lie- despite what the title screen says, this came out in Apirl 1991, two years after the movie and I can only assume this huge gap explains why the game is so rushed and sloppy- they were desperately trying to get the game out so the movie was still in the public conciousness. As a result, we're left with a broken husk of a game that could've been something decent had it been given a month or so in the QA department.
Following the film's plot pretty well (although the last time I saw the film my age was in single digits, remember) ol' Batsy makes his way through the key areas of Gotham- the streets, the Axis Chemical Plant, the Flugelheim Museum, and the famous Cathedral. Although the basics are ripped wholesale from Rolling Thunder, what with the side-scrolling, platform-grabbing shenaniagns and all, Batman doesn't get the advantage of a firearm- you start off with just your fists, although there's a clumsily-implemented system where you get different attacks depending on where the enemy is when you press the button. You have to pick up weapons along the way, and except for the Batarang, they're pretty much useless, with the Batrope being possibly the worst weapon in any Rolling Thunder-style game. Aside from that, this is very standard stuff- make your way to the right, beat up bad guys, don't let your health meter empty.
What certainly isn't standard stuff is the amount of care given to the game- not much at all. The game is teeming with graphical oddities and programming oversights which scream "we coded this at the absolute last possible minute". Some of these glitches are hilarious to watch (the section I call the Theatre of Fail, pictured above), others are easy to exploit (you can make enemies freeze in a lot of places or catch them in a cosntant loop) but more importantly, there's others that make the game more frustrating to play (lots of collision detection problems, especially regarding pits). It's a damn shame, because The Numega Team tried to mix things up- there's a few boss fights (they're all the same and all crap) and vehicle sections (with the exception of the fun Bat-Copter section, these are also crap)- but their apparent ineptitude doomed the thing from the start.
Of course, even if we put the glitches and vehicle sections aside for a second, there's absolutely nothing that Rolling Thunder didn't do a million times better than this. The worst part is that, with a little bit of tender loving care, Batman, could've been a decent coin-op. The license is gold and adhered to very well, the graphics are distinctive (with some nice touches like the 'Vote for Harvey Dent' posters and Joker graffiti) and the music pulls all the right elements from the film's score (admittedly in very bad quality). It's just that their heart wasn't in it, leaving us with a buggy, broken game that taunts us with the cry of "I coulda been a contendah!", and the enjoyment you can wring out of it is minimal at best.
For being a true posterchild for the 'last minute rush-job' school of game programming, Batman is awarded...
In a sentence, Batman is... Rolling Thunder as recoded by a chimp with a typewriter- inept and full of bugs.