Saturday, 18 April 2015

Game 50: B.A.T. - Final rating

Written by Aperama

Welcome to your inevitable demise

I can really only say so many times how much I dislike this game. That said? I really, really dislike this game. There's just nothing about it that ever drew me in. I would not have completed it were it not for the fine ladies and gentlemen of this blog.. I'd not have even bothered using a walkthrough. The game's just not fun. There was exactly one point at which I felt the game had some small amount of promise – and it essentially ignored it entirely as best as I can tell, with no point ever seeming to take advantage of the 'RPG' elements – nothing ever increased in ability (I finished at level 4) and there was never a random element (I tried 'stealing' from about fifteen separate people – each and every last one of them caught me.) I can only imagine how poorly this is going to do on the PISSED score – so much so that I was trying to think of an extra 'E' to turn it into a 'DESPISE' score – but hey. There are better games waiting for me over this holiday break I'm presently on to soothe my worries (Pillars of Eternity has remained unplayed since release) – I think I just need to put this behind me. Like, y'know, someone who has witnessed a horrific murder. Uh. I mean, Vive le France! Baguettes and expensive wine, oui oui!

The game's start was its strongest, and even then it didn't do that too well

Puzzles and Solvability

I'm of two minds, here. I'd like to be as fair as humanly possible in trying to give some kudos to this game for what it has to offer – but I think that if I called this game an adventure game, I would also have to credit DOOM for its innovative design choices in having 'keys' to open 'doors'. That is just about literally the extent of puzzles in this game. There are several things that cannot be accessed at first. Some of them require sheer luck. No, scratch that. Most of them do. For instance, to find Sloan (required to get into the DRAG airlock) you need to meet (what is apparently him – more on that in sound/graphics) at the arcade. At 1:00. If you don't click on Bizzy between about 1 and 1:10, he's not there. That's not a puzzle – that's just sadism. If anyone were to even mention that this guy existed elsewhere in the game, that'd be one thing – but the only things you can talk to people about are Merigo, Vrangor and the city. Even they give no clues as to what you're going to end up having to do. I don't know how many times I can insist I'm trying not to be unfair! The only saving grace I can say for these 'puzzles' is that a lot of them can apparently be solved in other ways (if you don't stay in the hotel that has the technician's access card, you can apparently sometimes find it on random people being sold). Not a single 'puzzle' left me feeling satisfied that I'd done something worthwhile at the end of it – I think that has to be the real benchmark here. One point for them existing, another for alternate ways to get through them.

Rating: 2

I think that ID software should really pay some penance to the French developers here.
They virtually pioneered the 'find random keys and use them in doors' approach!

Interface and Inventory

This was what I was prepared for – anyone who has ever played, reviewed or even mentioned this game has spoken of its appalling interface. I can admire that the game's problems are largely that it wants to do too much. It wants to have combat, a (driving) simulator, a maze section, conversation.. it offers everything. What it really needed to do was any one of these well. To have a hunger/thirst system that doesn't show onscreen unless you use your inbuilt wrist thing – which you access by finding a point of the screen that hasn't randomly offered something else to do in spite of whether it's visible on-screen or not – unless you use a program in it, which you can only use one of and you need to decide between 'bodily function', 'combat readiness' and 'translation'? It's just silly. Having an icon on screen which says 'DYING OF THIRST YOU IDIOT' would have done everything. Keep the translate/combat readiness functions and it's a legitimate idea that'd work okay. I also drank (at a fountain in the park) so much that I got thirsty again – I went over 100 which made it 1. That's just a silly bug that could easily have been ironed out. Oh, and the inventory is just worthless. Ceaselessly clicking 'next' as each inventory item is listed, no 'previous' function to go back, and getting minimal information on items? I knew more about items out of King's Quest 1. This is probably the most regressive interface we will see in this blog's history – it would have been clearer what was going on were this a pure text adventure.

Rating: 1

It has so many options, but the majority of them are worthless. You never need to attack anyone, stealing is useless even with my 'high stats' in it, only a few people have anything useful to say – and the 'offer' command is never used in the game's solution. Just so many failures!

Story and Setting

They really put quite a bit of effort into this side of things, I can give them that much. I certainly do think that someone back at French Developer HQ (I refuse to give the company name again out of fear that it is like the Candyman, and will break down my door with more shoddy games if I do) had a very clear idea of what was going on in this game. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate particularly well ingame. There is one monologue which explains the game's story (outside of the manual)

“Hello agent AFGNCAAP, I hope you enjoyed your trip. I'm the one who has to explain your mission in detail. You are well aware of the important role that Selenia plays in supplying raw materials to Earth. As a matter of fact, if Selenia was seized by an enemy, Earth would soon be in serious trouble. We have received information, from a reliable source, that this dreadful possibility could soon become a reality!!! An outstanding, but raving mad scientist, has escaped the penal colony of St. Yver of the Angels. This would not be so important, if it were any scientist other than Vrangor!! We lost all trace of him after the escape, but recently discovered the presence of an ECG wave corresponding to that of Merigo, a prisoner who escaped with him. Merigo is our only possible lead to Vrangor. Also, the governor general of Selenia has received an ultimatum which, to cut a long story short, states that we have ten days to evacuate Selenia, after which every human being will be destroyed. The ultimatum was actually signed by Vrangor!!! The loss of Selenia would be a lethal blow to the Galactic Confederation... That's all I can tell you. It's up to you to eliminate all of the risk factors. Here is your equipment...We've added a hologram of Merigo. Everything depends on your success...”

The problem I have with this? This is the only real time at which the game's storyline is explained outside of the manual. For a game that has a twelve page fake novel interspersed with fake encyclopedia entries, I expected an awful lot more in-game. Having Merigo give a death speech was a nice touch – there just wasn't enough of it. And why not have Vrangor give a Bond villain monologue before he begins to open fire? Sure, it might not be realistic, but it would have given a lot more depth to the storyline. Again, I see this on the level of Doom – 'you're in a place, if you take too long you'll die. Kill people and you'll win.' Oh, and I really hated the manual's text, it was just.. gibberish. But hey – you have a clear directive, and the setting is unique. I can claw back some points here, because I'm nice.

Rating: 6

Crisa Kortakis seemed to know what was going on, at least.
Mind you, the game never let me press her for details..

Sound and Graphics

I'm going to be generous and call this an 1989 game for the sake of this portion of the review – according to most sources I can find, it was released in 1989 for the Amiga with a PC conversion being the reason we're playing it in 1990. There are three musical tracks in the game. I am being extremely polite in calling them 'musical'. I disliked the music that blares away at the game's start from moment nought, and it never got any better – I'm guessing that they really were a small team and didn't have any devoted musicians coming up with anything, just resulting in them putting together some slapdash instruments. Graphically, there are some portions which look alright – and others which really don't. The majority of people look like people, aliens look like aliens. There are still a few things that I find myself looking at in my screenshots that I can't quite place. However, there is really no excuse for having a character with an ambiguous name be dressed in such a way that I actually believe he is of the opposite sex.. or at least, the walkthrough I checked after playing suggests that Sloan is a 'he'. That we can have two conflicting ideas of what the picture shows is a bad thing – this isn't a Magic Eye puzzle, it's just a picture of a person. No text identifies them in any way, so we're left entirely with our graphical interpretation – it wouldn't have been hard to, say, not give him lipstick. (I'd not have a problem were he intended as a transgendered person – I just feel that they drew someone of roughly Native American origins and figured that'd be good enough. It's a nitpick, yes, but I feel a valid one.) Without the manual, I'd still not fully understand what a Kradokid is, either, or a Glo(c)kmup – the pictures weren't ever particularly clear, even if they did convey the right atmosphere. Still, the graphics weren't offensive.

Rating: 4

I still see a woman! It's the glossy lips, I think. Do I just need my eyes examined?

Environment and Atmosphere

This game, according to Trickster, was one of those that sucked him in and in spite of terrible interface and difficult playing conditions never let go of him. I don't hide in so much as the slightest that my experience was different. Perhaps it all started badly when I couldn't really read the manual without feeling like I was reading the middle of Dune without knowing what an Atreides or a Harkonnen was, being confused why all of these people were so excited over cardamom and paprika – but the game's interface was enough to keep me at what was well and truly arm's length. Were there just one or two interactible alien characters that gave off some character to the game, it'd be so much different – but instead, I felt repeatedly that the game was suffering heavily from trying to keep to what was in the story in the manual without giving enough to be dragging people into its own nature. What I suppose is the real killer for me is that if the entire game were a 1970s crime series episode – say, you were Starsky (sans Hutch because this is a single player game) – the entire game would have made no difference. Starsky runs through the sewers of Bay City, California after taking down a perp, Mervin, to find key DNA evidence that leads him to drive around to find the evil.. science guy.. Vernon.. who is planning to set off bombs in the city. Done and done. The exact same game. With a rich sci-fi universe these guys were trying to create, they could have done so much more to grip and drag me in – but all this is is a (particularly bad) episode of a cop show set in space without all of the tropes that make the cop scenario fun and vibrant. Having someone from 'home base' to talk to, for instance (one of the many things they could have taken from Tex Murphy that would have actually been good) would have made the game so much more fun.

Rating: 4

At least it's better than Cleopatra 2525

Dialogue and Acting

Nope. None here.

Rating: 0

Okay.. maybe a little unfair. (I've been trying so hard all of this review, dammit!) The game has a very limited amount of dialogue. I've included the large monologue in this post which takes up probably around about 80% of the text listed ingame that isn't the bare minimum to virtually say 'no, we've written this up in the manual'. For instance, my gun by the end, the Nova. It has a rather awesome manual description – 'The most powerful weapon offered, its cannon is in fact a genuine photon accelerator. It is carried on the shoulder and is equipped with multiple shock-absorption systems. In short, it's not to be used in a very busy public place...' In game, all that's given is 'NOVA.' when looking at it along with a piddly little picture. Speaking to people rarely comes up with more than one lot of dialogue (for instance, 'Haven't I seen him on Tri-Dee?' is one of the most common things spoken about finding Merigo – but when around about 20 people say it in a row, I can't really call it dialogue.) Just having a few more individual characters instead of all of the 'random encounter' styled people would make a huge difference here. Unfortunately, as with so many other things in this game, an initial promise falls critically short in all the ways that count. I'm assuming that they made the game out of fear that small text would be too hard to read on the awkwardly formatted conversation screen they created – but really, they'd have been better off taking the gamble and actually including some proper speech, even if it wasn't ever going to be a dialogue between two characters. I'm giving it points for having talking as a necessity (can't get into Xifo without it) and having it be varied.. albeit ever so slightly.

Rating: 2

This is literally some of the best dialogue in the game – it's clear, functional and not dressed up in space-talk about space-things that space-space just to sound interesting. Distressing? I think so

2+1+6+4+4+2=19, which divided by 60 equals .3166 recurring – 32 rounded up. However, I'm going to take two points off. Not out of anger at the game's many lackings – it really did have so many moments with promise, falling short at every single one of them – my problem with the game is far more simple. I encountered a game-breaking bug which literally would have stopped progression. Yes, I wouldn't have found anything new after that point if I'd stopped the game there, but having a game-breaking bug is enough to make me want to lower the score on this. Even without it, though, the game was illogical, unfun and generally made me question my faith in humanity.

Cap Distribution

120 CAPs for Aperama
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For blogging his way through game for our enjoyment
  • Daredevil Award - 20 CAPs - For getting through a maze half blind
40 CAPs for Ilmari
  • Clue Master Award - 30 CAPs - For giving me lots of clues when I did ask
  • B.A.T. Master Award - 10 CAPs - For making my double post into a curio of alien culture
30 CAPs for Renke
  • French Bird Lover - 30 CAPs - For helping our avian friends survive in the land of mad adventure games
20 CAPs for TBD
  • Backstage Antics Award - 10 CAPs - For providing me with a map when I needed it
  • Reference Extraordinaire Award - 10 CAPs - For finding my references to geek culture (when I fell into different games)
20 CAPs for Laukku
  • Ant Apocalypse Preparation Award - 20 CAPs - For answering the riddle re: Greg Bradley
15 CAPs for Jan Larres
  • B.O.B. of All Trades Award - 10 CAPs - For helping me with my programming woes
  • Clue Award - 5 CAPs - For giving me a clue even when I didn't ask
10 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
  • Genre Appreciation Award - 5 CAPs - For announcing a Steam Sale
  • B.O.B. Apprentice Award - 5 CAPs - For discovering food and toilet apps reminiscent of my onboard wrist computer
10 CAPs for Laertes
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For predicting the score I would give the game


  1. Ouch! A bit of a scathing rating there. It did come across as a really frustrating game to play though.

    1. If I had written this directly after playing the game - at any point, that is, just starting the thing up - I wouldn't have been able to give it past a 20 in good conscience. AVOID AVOID AVOID AVOID

    2. Now, you could burn the thing on a CD, piss through its hole and fling that damn thing out the window while it throws off your residual pee via centrifugal force so that you could share your pain with your neighbors!

  2. Judging by the score, B.A.T. seemed to be as good as Wizard and Princess. B.A.T. had definitely better graphics and somewhat better story and atmosphere. Wizard and Princess wasn't buggy and it got better interface, puzzles and dialogue. Who would have guessed!

  3. haha, I never thought I would get CAPs for something not even remotely connected to this game :)

    and I'm glad this is over, watching you playing this horrible thing triggered not my schadenfreude reflex - you should be compensated for this cruel and unusual punishment