The first stage is Gotham Ci- wait, wait a minute. Is that for serious? There's a TM straight after Gotham City's name! Oh, mercy. This sort of thing always amuses me in licensed games. It's like the creators are utterly paranoid about their precious licenses being sullied without trademark symbols being flung about left, right and centre.
Anyway, after that tangent, here we are on the mean streets of Gotham CityTM (TM and © are copyright of DC Comics. Batman, the Bat Signal, the Batmobile, The Joker, Vicki Vale, the Bat Nipples and all related indicia are trademarks of DC Comics) where the first stage begins. It's practically a straight line, and no-good street punks will, on occasion, try to attack you. They spend most of their time going through their sloppily-coded AI routines, though, and potter around the place aimlessly.
I'll give the guys at The Numega Team one thing, the visuals are quite nice and very fitting for The Batman. Gotham CityTM (TM and © are copyright of DC Comics. Batman, the Bat Signal, the Batmobile, The No Good Street Punks, the Bat Copter, the Shark Repellent and all related indicia are trademarks of DC Comics) really does look like a total dump- there's garbage strewn about, every other shop seems to be a gun store, and in a rather nice touch, looking through the windows in the apartments reveals a woman being threatened by a man with a gun. Bonus points for the 'Dent for District Attorney' sign, too. There's a few high ledges to go up to, mostly for the purpose getting hard-to-reach extra lives and whatnot. As an aside, the guy in the right screenshot is amazing- that's what the enemies look like the very second you punch them. I'm not sure if he's been punched, or if he's auditioning for West Side Story.
The screenshot on the right shows one of my favourite glitches- the enemies are as dumb as bricks, and when they're trying to get you, they'll walk off the edge of ledges and fall to the ground. This would be amusing enough, but just look at the pose of that guy! And he does that all the way down. Awesome. There's a couple more glitches regarding the enemies and ledges, but we'll get to those a little later. Just keep walking, while punching the daylights out of your fellow man, and then...
The Batmobile is your ticket out of this dump. You hear Batman gruffly say, "BE CAREFUL" (or, on occasion, you'll hear a street punk cry, "WHAT ARE YOU?!" and, naturally, the reply is "I'M BATMAN") and the next level begins. As an aside, it obviously doesn't come across at all in still pictures, but every level is peppered with voice clips direct from the film. It's amusing at first, but eventually gets mildly annoying and, indeed, stops making sense. Especially when the characters talking aren't even on the screen.
"Napier's cleaning out Axis Chemicals."
Oh boy, cutscenes! To make the game seem even more closely tied with the film, most levels have digitized screenshots inserted in-between them to keep the story moving. They also come packaged with more voice-over for you to 'enjoy'. OK, so most of them are akin to getting a still frame from the original movie and smearing it in Vaseline, but it's a nice little thing to have. Some of them end up looking a little scary, mind you...
Now we have the first of not one, not two, but three amazingly short and utterly pointless driving levels. I mean, I never liked the driving stages in the Mega-CD version of Batman Returns, but these are even more pointless, as they usually last about 30 seconds. I'm amazed I had time to get even one screenshot for this stage, let alone two. You take control of the gun on the dashboard, moving the bat-shaped cross-hair around, and have to shoot the black cars. On this first stage, they offer very little resistance, and they'll only damage you if you miss them entirely. There's also some yellow bar on the top of the screen, but it doesn't seem to do anything. Finally, another glitch: A thin bar will appear on the left side of the screen for no discernible reason. This is the textbook example of filler material, and very poor filler material at that. Gah, let's keep this train wreck moving.
Next Stage: Batman, can you hear me? This is the Commissioner. You must destroy Metal G- I mean, find Jack Napier!
I'm really conflicted with this game. I don't know whether to comment on what happens in each stage, or whether to just take the piss out of the horrific sprite priority issues (for those not in-the-know, that's when the characters/objects/backgrounds overlap in ways they shouldn't, and it's abundant in this game) and dumb-as-hell art on the enemies. Guess I'll have to have it both ways. In the Axis Chemical Plant, you're introduced to the rather annoying fedora-wearing gangsters, who often carry a little heat with them. As a bonus, you also get some weaponry for the first time, including the much-lauded Bat Rope which you'll use for approximately 2 seconds and then discard. Awesome.
There's a few chemical vats dotted around here and there, but the one in the screen on the left is important. You'd think that our buddy Bats will be able to jump across it, but noooo, that would be far too easy. Any attempts to jump across fail miserably as The Batman slips on the edge and s-l-o-w-l-y falls into it and dies. No, you've got to go around, and use the Batrope to get to the highest floor, and go that way. Even though he could clearly make that jump. There's Batrope Use #1, folks! Keep going right, and you'll eventually end up on a high railing, attacked by...
It's our good buddy, Jack Napier! He applauds your dress sense by booming "Nice outfit" and combat begins! It's a shame he's just a lazy palette-swap of the other gangster enemies, mind you, but this battle sets an important precedent for the rest of the game; every single boss battle, as well as being against Jack Napier/The Joker, involves pushing the enemy away. No health bars or any of that crap, just keep ol' Jack as far away from you as possible, and keep hitting him. In this first fight, once you've pushed Napier far enough...
Oh my. Napier gets intimate with the chemical vat, as The Batman makes a hasty retreat.
"Wait 'till they get a load of me."
GAH! You know, after watching The Dark Knight, Burton's version of Joker is even weirder to look at. Especially when it's in The Numega Team and Atari's special Vaseline-o-VisionTM(TM and © are yadda yadda yadda tired of this joke already let it die) In any case, the ULTRA PHOTO REALISTIC digitised pictures seem to suffer from the same random line on the left side of the screen that the driving segments do. Let's keep things going, only 5 more stages to go. Yay?
The story of one crazy millionaire's quest for justice continues on the next page.