Have You Played… Batman?

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.

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17 Comments

  1. MerseyMal says:

    There was a much better game called Batman though and by same folk who did the marvellous Head Over Heels game.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Addie says:

    I had the spectrum version of this, back in the good old days when every platform conversion meant redoing the entire code by hand in assembly, and then redrawing the graphics to suit the platform limitations. Good times.

    Had to get one of my mates round to do the platforming bit that I was rubbish at, and then I would do the side-scrolling batmobile bits that he couldn’t do. Now that’s real multiplayer collaborative gaming.

  3. Lotofsnow says:

    I did not know this game existed. Instead, I would play Out Run on my Tandy 1000 with the brightness and contrast turned all the way down to pretend I was playing Batman. As I recall, it looked very similar to that screenshot.

  4. jonfitt says:

    Oh gosh, that takes me back. I remember playing it on my friend’s Amstrad. I believe the end of the last level has you grab joker by the foot as he’s trying to climb a helicopter ladder like in the film.

    This was back when licensed games were pretty much always 5 levels so you knew what to expect. Bart Vs The Space Mutants is another that springs to mind.

    On computers like the Speccy each level was loaded individually from the tape (you stopped the tape after each one loaded), but being a Speccy there was a 60% chance the next level would fail to load and the machine would crash. Can you even imagine the frustration of finally getting to level 5 only to have it lock up and crash. Darth Vader’s NOooooo has nothing on my childhood self.

    One time I “made” a James Bond licensed game by having my brother play one level from various other games I owned. I would tell him the story linking the levels. Outrun, and Rolling Thunder are the only two I remember. Maybe he never got to level 3.

  5. Jay Load says:

    What they often dont tell you is that on Spectrum the music was ace as well. I can recall the theme tune like it were yesterdaaay…..

    • Glacious says:

      This is remix, that says it is based on a NES game, but is it familiar?

      link to dwellingofduels.net

      Because it’s rad and I always wondered about the game it came from.

      • Ace of Space says:

        That remix is definitely from the NES Batman game, I remember it like yesterday. You can get the game soundtrack here, but I think you need a special media player to listen to it:
        link to ocremix.org

  6. Dirk says:

    Played it on Amiga back then. The car section was always a little bit too short for my taste, but really exciting. That satisfying “ping” when your grappling hook hits its target and you screech around the corner. Better than Outrun.

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    phuzz says:

    This was one of what I think the kids today would call a “launch game” for the Amiga 500.
    Only if you bought the games pack though. My parents weren’t so easily persuadable so we got the ‘education’ pack.
    Fortunately one of my mates at school had parents who did love him (I’m kidding mum) so I borrowed it off him. Never did get past the second level though :(

  8. Sin Vega says:

    JAMMMMMMM

    I didn’t know there was a PC version, but I played this to death for years on the Amiga. Despite being a series of barely connected subgames, it was actually pretty good, particularly the music. Even if it did take me years to grasp that the point of the driving section was just to floor it to escape the (unseen) Joker, not to suicidally ram into his dudes.

    I still remember the unbearable tension the first time I got to the joker on the last level. Several dudes suddenly ambush you and you have to splat them and then catch him with your rope before he gets up the ladder. It’s absurdly easy now of course, but to my mildly inbred infant mind it was terrifying.

  9. thekelvingreen says:

    You could probably swap out all the graphics and tweak the level a little to make a perfectly decent Robocop game

    To a certain extent, that’s what Ocean did, albeit in reverse, because Robocop came out first. The Ocean film tie-in almost became a genre in itself, and was mocked for it, despite some decent games.

    • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      I played a bunch of their movie tie-ins on the Ninty, and remember them being okay-to-great.

    • CartonofMilk says:

      remember playing Ocean’s Robocop 2 on the NES (the first was based on the arcade game) and Darkman. I believe i finished both (definitely Robocop anyway) but what i mostly remember these games for was the insane(ly annoying) sliding when you landed from a jump. It’s what made the platforming difficult. Seems especially ridiculous now when i think about the fact that it’s a Robocop game and you’re JUMPING. It was an ok game i guess but shit if judged as a Robocop game.

  10. Pozzo says:

    My dad got a boxed copy of this for the Amiga at some point in the early nineties from a flea market and it was a staple of my early gaming life until the late nineties. I always skipped the bat-cave level though, that logic puzzle was beyond my 8 year old attention span

  11. Marclev says:

    Had this on the Amiga. At the time it was widely considered the best movie tie-in game around.

    I remember being ever so proud of myself when I finally managed to complete all levels.

  12. Stevostin says:

    Did play it quite a lot on Amiga. If this is a trap to spot older readers, well played. Have to “me too” this because yes, fond memories of a great game.