The game opens at twilight on a December night in Gotham City. The skyline is oddly muted; the incandescent bulbs in the towering offices are barely able to pierce the gloom. Danny Elfman’s iconic Batman score rises up through our computer speakers. Suddenly, the Bat-Signal appears in the clouds. Once again, the Gotham City Police has called upon the aid of their secret benefactor-in-the-shadows, Batman. We zoom in to the Batcave where the Caped Crusader is dressed and ready for action. The bat-cursor appears. What should we do first?
|You have to admit that this is a pretty nice workspace.|
I can mouse over different panels in the Bat-Computer to use other aspects of the system. The evidence computer and the video player appear important, but I can’t use them as I have found neither evidence nor videos. It seems that my only choice is to head to the armoury to stock up on gadgets or head out in the Batmobile. I’ll start with the former since I’d hate to arrive unarmed to a riot.
|Questions about whether or not Batman is “in the closet” have been around since the 1950s.|
The computer on the right allows me to load up my utility belt. We start out with eight slots, all empty. Annoyingly, there are nine separate gadgets, plus I can take more than one of each, so I have to choose carefully. Will I need two batarangs? Two smoke bombs? That seems possible. I hope that I will not have to restore frequently to replay sections with the correct gadgets. Since I have no idea, I add one of everything except the sonic batarang. Each of the devices has a nice illustration and a different little icon on the belt. Some of the icons are easier to discern than others, but there’s a guide in the manual. It’s not the worst icon interface we’ve seen.
|A “scanner” is a portable document scanner. These days, he probably uses his Bat-iPhone.|
- The grapple, gauntlet, rope, and lock pick are presumably used to get around Gotham City, to reach high or locked places. The manual says that these items are not consumed as we use them.
- The batarang, bolo batarang, sonic batarang, smoke bombs, and knockout gas are all offensive weapons. I expect they will only be useful in combat, but I could be wrong. The manual says that each one is single-use. I have no idea what the real differences are.
- The scanner is used to take pictures of evidence that we find along the way.
Once I am loaded up, I head to the Batmobile garage. Let’s go and see what these “hoodlums” are up to!
|Nice animated sequence of Batman jumping in.|
|Chicks dig the car?|
|Map of Gotham city with three “hot spots”.|
The map shows four areas highlighted in red: Wayne Manor, Gotham Plaza, the mayor’s office, and downtown. The game probably wants us to start with the rioting at Gotham Plaza so let’s not get too creative yet.
|This is a very nicely composed scene.|
This is the first screen where we can see how the game actually plays and it’s not that deep. We have no verbs so all we can do is move the mouse around the screen to places where the cursor changes, indicating that we can do an action. That action is almost always “go” and there’s no way to examine anything closer, use any items, or even move around. We’ve seen this style before in games like Willy Beamish: the transition animations are fantastic (look at the Batman’s boots in the snow!), but we have no free movement. Unfortunately, I do not realize all of this at first and click on the people running around below which causes Batman to jump off the ledge, slowing his descent using his cape. I guess we’re going to be in the thick of it!
|Oh crap. An 80-pound acrobat against an armored crime fighter.|
My control options are limited: I can select how hard to fight (“easy”, “normal”, or “fierce”), but I don’t see any immediate differences. My guess is that it will adjust how much damage Batman deals out or receives with “fierce” potentially meaning that he takes more risks to score bigger rewards. I can also use some weapons, but before I do the acrobat just walks away. Did I win? Or did I lose? Draw? I have no idea.
|The devil you know?|
|Where did you get that mustache?|
|No thanks. Bats only eat insects.|
|Finally, a clown!|
|That’s why I blog about video games.|
After that, the acrobat comes back and I try the bolo again but she dodges it easily. She also dodges my regular batarang and is unfazed by the smoke bomb. The fight drags on and on. She hits, she runs, I hit her, but she kicks me. I should have run away at some point, but Batman is a superhero. Before long, my utility belt blinks and I am whisked back to the Batcave, too injured to proceed. It is my first “Game Over”!
|Yeah. That gymnast (and her fire-breathing friend) did a lot of damage!|
|Insert coin to continue.|
I play again, this time taking fewer support items and more weapons. I defeat both acrobats with knockout gas, although that does not let me interrogate them. Anything else I try is either dodged or ignored. I bolo both the clown and the devil-guy for an interrogation round. I grill them about their leader but they are no more helpful than before. Once I defeat them, I can explore but it is a fruitless effort. There is nothing to do here except to cross the plaza and fight some more.
|Same thugs, different view.|
I return to the Batmobile to discover a new news report to watch. The newscaster reveals that rioting has spread downtown. I drive there to discover absolutely nothing. No combat. No rioting. Do I need to wait? Did I spend too much time exploring? At this point, I’m frustrated and take a break for the evening. I start over the next day with a new playthrough.
|Nice Batgirl reference, two movies too soon.|
|Nicely animated scene of Batman walking across a beam between two buildings. He’ll only cross the street from up here.|
Downtown consists of:
- A jewelry store and the roof above. The roof has a tight beam that Batman can walk across to get to another rooftop.
- That rooftop is equally boring although we can climb down to discover the outside of a bank.
- From that roof, we can use the batarang and rope to swing over to a third rooftop. This one has some nifty windows, but the only thing we can do is jump down to the liquor store.
That makes six total screens downtown, plus four at Gotham Plaza where I was earlier that I can explore with the correct grapple guns. None of these locations have any clues or anything to click on at all. I probably should map which screens require which bat-gadget to access them, but with so few screens there doesn’t seem to be a reason to bother.
|Time for some knockout gas!|
Were those enemies the “riot” or did I miss something? I am not sure. Eventually, I give up and explore the final section on our map: the mayor’s office.
|Snooping around and having a good time.|
|What kind of tape is that? It doesn't look like VHS.|
We cannot play the video in the car, but we can take it back to the Batcave with us. I am momentarily confused because we have to check it in as evidence (in the evidence computer) before we can view it. Once it is there, it shows up on the list of videos. We can either “play” or “transmit”, but let’s just see what it is for now.
I search the city again, every nook and cranny in every room, but that’s all I can find. I do stumble on a few more thugs and have a few more brief fights, but nothing else new. With nothing else to do, that is the end of Day 1. I send Batman to bed by returning to Wayne Manor. I’m sure Alfred will tuck him in and read him a bedtime story. As for me, I’m going to hold my tongue for now. Exploring is fun, but the game feels empty and the combat pointless. I may feel differently after I get a bit farther in and understand the game more. Then again, maybe not.
Time played: 1 hr 50 min