Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Not Arkham Asylum, City, Knight or Origins. Just plain old Batman. Based on Tim Burton’s film of the same name, Ocean Software’s game was typical of licensed products of the time, taking key scenes from the film and turning them into tidy little sections of game. So there’s some platforming, with a tricky-to-master grappling hook, then a Batmobile bit, then a Batwing bit, then a Batcave bit, and then a gothic cathedral bit that’s actually quite a lot like the chemical processing plant bit at the beginning.
Batman is, to my mind, the Platonic ideal of the nineties licensed game (it came out in 1989, natch). You could probably swap out all the graphics and tweak the level a little to make a perfectly decent Robocop game, but there’s just enough in there that is Batman-like that it felt totally authentic and brilliant to Childe Adam, who to the Dark Knight came. The grappling hook is a great example – you’d think it’d make Batman super-mobile, swooping and diving, but it’s actually more like a stair lift that he attaches to parts of the level so he can bobble from one platform to another. He’s basically too chunky to get around without using purpose-built ziplines.
It’s the car that I remember most fondly though. You’re driving through dark, neon-spatter streets and you have to follow arrows that flash up on the screen, while making sure not to smash civilian traffic. But you can’t turn corners simply by steering – you have to fire the batgrapple out of the batwindow and attach it to scenery items so that you can swing around the corner without slowing down.
For years I thought Batman was just a really bad driver, or that the Batmobile was shit, but I’m pretty sure he’s supposed to be going so fast that THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO MAINTAIN MOMENTUM. I should never have doubted the Bat-like Man.
On a side note, around this time the Manchester Arndale Centre had a Batmannequin with Batmobile on its lower level, and I was too scared to walk past it because I was convinced it was going to move at any moment.