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Batman

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Released: 1990

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: PC Eng/Turbografx-16

Publisher: Sunsoft

Developer: Sunsoft

Sometimes – most of the time, really – a publisher will get a licence and do something obvious with it. Terminator? Shooty-shooty blam blam. Bruce Lee? Beat-’em-up. Crazy Frog? Terrible game, no matter what genre. But then there are those weird outliers – the Weetabix shoot-’em-ups, the 7-Up platformers, and the Batman maze game. Yes indeed, for whatever reason Sunsoft avoided the usual diet of platforming, beat-’em-ups and driving games we associate with the Dark Knight and instead gave us a top-down action game in which he needs to collect objects to complete stages.

Of course, Batman is no Pac-Man, and he’s hardly going to be caught defenceless against the Joker’s hoodlums. The mazes of Gotham are set up such that conflict is unavoidable, but as it’s a maze game, eliminating enemies permanently would spoil the fun. So the developers reached a middle ground in which Batman has to do a lot of work to temporarily remove his foes, first stunning them with a Batarang and then walking into them while they’re dazed to send them packing for a bit. It’s hard going at first as Batman is slow and has a weedy throw, but power-ups will soon sort that out.

While it’s an unusual take on the franchise, it works pretty well. Batman often feels powerful but outnumbered, the expanding mazes are excellent and the visuals are pretty decent. Better yet, the sound is excellently moody. If you’ve dismissed Batman as a licensed game or something you already have on other platforms, take a second look – it’s a bold game that deserves attention.