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HOLY JOYSTICK BATMAN!

BATMAN: THE CAPED CRUSADER (1988)_ AMIGA / AMSTRAD CPC / ATARI ST / C64 / APPLE II / MS-DOS & ZX Spectrum

HOLY JOYSTICK BATMAN! Is a series that follows BATMAN video games through the years. Not in any set order and mainly the bad ones. This entry is 1988s Batman: The Caped Crusader on Micro PCs.


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NTSC Atari ST Box Art

Always wanted an adventure game that makes less sense than the best LucasArts and Sierra efforts? One that is clunky, poorly designed, and very frustrating to play? Then my friends Batman: The Caped Crusader is the game for you!

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Developed by Special FX Software (a company formed by Ex-Ocean employees, so you already know we are in trouble), and released on every MicroPC available in 1988. Batman: The Caped Crusader is a slow, lumbering, dull, and confusing as all hell Adventure-Puzzler. While admittedly, it is slightly pretty to look at depending on which port you play. But the gameplay and repetitive music (the 1966’s TV theme played on a loop ad nauseam), will make you stick a screwdriver in your PC speaker in frustration. This is not advised, however as the music can be turned off in the options screen*. 

*Blast Processing HOT TIP!™

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At least the previous Holy Joystick Batman entry had the desire to push boundaries. This just feels like the developer secured the Batman license, saw that Manic Mansion and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders was popular at the time then thought, “Surely we can do it that?” They were wrong. 

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You pilot Batman with the cursor keys and the space bar, which serves as the ‘Action’ button. Holding down the action button while pressing a cursor key will allow Batman to perform a specific action, for example: 

  • ACTION + LEFT – Punch Left
  • ACTION + RIGHT – Punch Right
  • ACTION + UP – Punch Up

The game spices proceedings up if you press ACTION+ DOWN. This opens the Inventory menu. Sexy. This menu allows the player to use the cursor keys as a mouse (most MicroPC’s had a mouse?) and select an inventory item or another action. Which could have been assigned to other keys on your keyboard, but when you are at the cutting edge of game design, a user-friendly interface is second to designing everything for a joystick with one f@#!king button!

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The game also has a countdown, which is represented by the slowly dissolving Batman head in the Inventory screen. At first, we thought this would be representing the time it takes for the crims (Short for ‘criminals’, saves time when we type) to enact their plans, so time was of the essence. But Batman can eat junk food he finds on the ground like a foraging piglet to restore his health, so maybe he is dying of hunger? Nevertheless, this is a major source of the game’s frustration as every second you are fighting the terrible controls, Batman is slowly dying of Radiation poisoning/ food scarcity. 

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So with a control scheme that actively hates you, a timer that is working in tandem with the controls to personally defeat you, and music that wishes insanity upon you, the only fallback the game has is at least the graphics are pretty. Plus it is kinda neat that when you move from screen to screen, as this is represented that you are moving from panel to panel in a comic book. In the top left corner, there are hints for the puzzles in each panel, s@#t hints. Hints that would be better if they were not there, some painfully obvious, other needly obtuse to the point that it appears the developer randomly picked words out of the dictionary and threw them together. Some choice cuts:

  • “Bruce’ll fix it” – A room with a broken computer and a spanner (also a reference to a British TV show hosted by a nonce).
  • “Insert the disk” –  A room with a computer and a floppy disk.
  • “Too risky to enter here” – Warehouse doors with a police officer shooting indiscriminately.
  • “Defuse the Situation” – A sewer tunnel that is home to a lit stick of Dynamite
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The game is split into two stories, against two classic Batman ‘crims’. Both are around 25-30 minutes if you know what you are doing but because of how poorly designed the puzzles are, this will take days longer, providing you can keep your Batman alive on a constant stream of dumpster snacks. 

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The Penguin portion of the game is about The Penguin supposedly going legit and opening an umbrella factory next to his mansion. However, what he is actually up to is creating an army of robot penguins to take over the world. 3ft high penguins armed with revolvers, the world’s slowest gun. Batman must install a virus on a small PC in the penguin’s hallway to foil his idiot plot. This kind of supervillain plot would foil itself in a short period of time and a moderately armed police force, plus Batman’s non-involvement.

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Robin’s been kidnapped… Again. And The Joker is behind it. He is holding Robin hostage at an abandoned fair that is rigged with dynamite, while The Joker wanders around not caring if/when it goes off. This is another one that Batman shouldn’t be involved in. This sounds harsh but in the 80s Batman’s turnover of Robins rivaled that of the retail sector. Plus if the kidnapped Robin is Jason Todd, the player would have already called up the hotline to have him killed anyway. So if Batman sits this one out, he loses the worst Robin, The Joker kills himself and the city has an area of prime estate cleared for condos or some gimmicky factory for a future villain. Triple-Win!

PORTS

You honestly expect us to play the other versions of this terrible game? Sorry, we like to believe this relationship with you, reader, is not abusive.

RELEASE INFORMATION

PLATFORMSCommodore Amiga / Amstrad CPC
/ Atari ST / Commodore 64 /
Apple II / MS-DOS /
ZX Spectrum
DEVELOPERSpecial FX Software Ltd
PUBLISHEROcean (Europe)
Data East (United States)
RELEASED1988

BAT-CONCLUSION

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Words cannot convey how much of a car crash this game is. Last time on Holy Joystick Batman, we boldly stated that Batman & Robin, was what PlayStation’s used to describe hate crimes, but Batman The Caped Crusader is what MicroPC use to call each other c@#ts. Best avoided unless you want to be a Batman completionist or are insane. 

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