Thursday, February 19, 2009



PCE Batman is ridiculed quite often these days. People mock its overhead-view "rat in a maze" gameplay and bemoan the fact that it isn't a sidescroller. But back in the day, Electronic Gaming Monthly actually lauded the effort, making it one of the PC Engine titles I most wanted to play at the time. More-recent reports tempered my enthusiasm, as it seemed like the only good things about the game were its music and cinemas (and I can now say that it does indeed excel in those regards). But I'd always been curious about it, and I'd always believed that I would dig it.

The chip did not let me down. Sure, the scavenger-hunt-like action is repetitive (each and every board but the last has you do strange chores while dashing about a mini-maze), but I find it hard to stop playing once I get going. It's fun to scour the labyrinthine fields and slaughter or evade the villains. I get a kick out of the odd tasks that must be performed, like polishing paintings that look like a baby spat up on them. And I don't know why people make this out to be an overlong epic, as it's definitely conquerable in one sitting. There are forty-eight stages to play through, but they can all be beaten in short order. There's also a cool three-boss gauntlet at the very end.

I think the key to having fun with this game and avoiding the feeling that your mission is taking forever is, well, not to die very often. I probably sound daft with that remark, but when you use a continue, you lose the abilities you gained through powering up, which means Batman will revert back to his initial state as a vulnerable plodder who can toss only one slow, short-range batarang at a time. But you'll be deprived of the powers you've acquired only if you have to continue, not each time you lose a life. And if you can keep your bolstered speed and effective long-range weaponry, you'll get into a groove and probably find it hard to walk away from the game.

Yep, the cinemas are fantastic...

...but the gameplay itself is not to be slighted.

You'll have to complete a variety of strange tasks...

...but you won't get to operate any sleek bat-vehicles (contrary to what the cinemas might lead you to believe).

You will get to thump a few bosses, however.

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