BATMAN / Sunsoft / Turbografx 16
During the era of the Tim Burton movies, licensed Batman games were known for being almost exclusively dark-tinged side-scrolling platformers ... this TurboGrafx release is the lone exception. All the more strange that it comes from Sunsoft, who had made a couple of said dark platformers for the NES.

This one instead is an oddball maze-chase game. Though released only in Japan, it is fully in English, indicating there were plans for a global release up until the last minute. It's divided into four sets of levels, in each of which Batman simply has to roam about making contact with a preset number of targets (which are often a strange interpretation of the first movie's scenes). In the first set of levels I think he's administering antidote to products poisoned with Smilex (which are just laying about in the streets for some reason), in the second one he's cleaning Joker goon spraypaint off art in the museum, etc.

Batman is strangely vulnerable in this one, with only the ability to huck batarangs at foes, and then frozen in place while throwing them and vulnerable to attacks from other directions. At first, he also throws the batarang really slow and with a really short range. You'll gradually upgrade your walking speed and batarang speed/range with different power-ups as you roam about. The game grants infinite continues, but using a continue sets you back to square 0 with your upgrades, a tough proposition in the later levels. It's thus quite a bit like Zombies Ate My Neighbors in that it's much more feasible to complete it in one sitting than to come back to it with passwords ... to go outside the genre, it's also comparable to the way Gradius games are usually designed, encouraging you to accumulate a power-up hoard then 1CC the game from there.

Though it's more challlenging than it initially looks, unfortunately a lot of the challenge simply comes from cheap enemies rushing onto the screen or firing unpredictably as you're scrolling along. Some levels also have teleporters that you have to grapple-hook between, and you can't always see your destination. If you happen to land on top of a wandering enemy, you're dead. Most deaths are preventable with foresight and caution, however. You have to constantly scout the route ahead to ensure you aren't going to get trapped in a narrow set of twisty corridors without adequate ability to shoot an oncoming enemy.

The production values aren't stellar, but do have their moments. The whole thing is cute, at least. Each new set of 12 levels is preceded by a little Ninja Gaiden-esque cinematic that usually looks pretty good. And the soundtrack is pretty nice too, apparently done by whoever did the first NES game ... they even have a kickin' grade-up of that game's memorable Level 1 music here.

It's a strange direction to take a Batman game in, but this actually ends up being fairly fun to play.
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