Retrospective: Batman • Page 2

Go West.

It's hardly surprising to discover that the game didn't start out as a Batman vehicle. Programmer Jon Ritman has revealed that he admired Ultimate's Knight Lore and set out to clone it. Once he'd cracked the tech, he and graphic artist Bernie Drummond looked for a suitable hero and Batman seemed to fit the bill. Ocean agreed to license the property from DC Comics and the game began to take shape. You can imagine that Ocean didn't pay a great deal for it, with it being several years before Tim Burton's monster movie took flight.

However, it would appear that not everyone involved was reading from the same page. Bob Wakelin's cover art features a square-jawed, muscle-bound Batman that's clearly based on Neal Adams' take on the character from the 70s comics. The striking loading screen by F. David Thorpe references the same Batman era, but here the character adopts a more menacing, shadowy appearance.

Yet brilliantly, the game itself borrows the version of Batman from the camp 60s TV series. After a quick snippet of the show's theme tune, Batman begins the game by sliding down the Batpole and is revealed as a tiny, perfectly drawn version of Adam West. Holy digital doppelganger Batman!

The decision to use the TV Batman infuses the game with a real sense of fun - something that's often missing from Ultimate's rather po-faced adventure games. And 25 years on, the game still retains all of its original charm.

Following the success of the game, Ocean would go on to create two more Batman games. 1988's The Caped Crusader was a more traditional tie-in with Batman going up against the Joker and the Riddler in two separate adventures. The game cleverly depicted locations as comic-style panels that appeared on top of each other.

2
Overcome this early difficulty spike by crossing the bridge that disappears beneath your feet.

The following year, Ocean released Batman: The Movie to tie in with the hit film. Like most of Ocean's licenses from this period, it was a formulaic affair that mixed platform, puzzle and action segments, but at least you got take control of the Batmobile and Batwing this time around.

Since then there've been loads of Batman games and most of them belong in that barrel of toxic waste that Jack Nicholson fell into in the first move. The few noticeable exceptions are Batman: The Video Game on Game Boy, Batman Returns on Mega-CD, The Adventures of Batman & Robin on SNES, and of course the recent Rocksteady brace.

As for Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond's game, its true legacy has little to do with Batman. Instead, it served as the dry run for the pair's next game, the delightful, nigh-on perfect follow-up Head over Heels. But don't get me started on that game as we could be here all day, and I'm guessing that right now you've got pressing issues in Arkham City to take care of.

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About the author

Martyn Carroll

Martyn Carroll

Contributor

Martyn has been writing about video games since 1997. He launched Retro Gamer magazine in 2004 and has been typecast as a lover of rubbish old games ever since. His specialist subject is actually the Crabs novel of Guy N. Smith.

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