Batman on the Atari
One of the early games was a Batman adventure game. At that time games with pseudo-3D graphics were quite popular and one of Britain's top game studios, Ocean, decided to release a Batman game. The consisted of several screens, each displaying a room. The graphics were almost monochrome and therefore the differences between the different computers were very low. The sprites and background were excellently drawn but Batman devotees may dislike that their hero looks more like a fat child dressed in Batman's clothing. A lot of work has gone into the animation and the game has a true cartoon feeling. The gameplay is a jump 'n' run combined with many puzzles.
A lot of game had similar graphics and gameplay (e.g. Head over Heels, Attic Attac) but Batman received both good reviews and sales. In the same year Amstrad released their Joyce/PCW word processing computer and although it was never designed as a game machine, Ocean ported the game to the Joyce.
Ocean was a company that relied very much on movie and cartoon licenses. One year before the official game for the first movie was released, the programmed another game: Batman - The Caped Crusader. This time the game was a 2D action-adventure. The game was divided into two parts. In the first part Batman had to fight the Penguin and in the second part the Joker.
BTCC had a unique look. Each screen was displayed in a window like a comic image. Once you leave a screen the previous screen remained but a new "window" was opened with a different size and position on the computer screen.
While the game looked already impressive on 8 bit machines, Ocean ported the game to the ST and Amiga - with much better graphics of course.
The game starts in the famous Batcave. Once Batman leaves the Cave he will meet a lot unarmed and armed enemies which can be eliminated by a bit of boxing and his Batarang. Batman can enter buildings in order to search for useful items. Batman is not safe in this building and there are even mechanized penguins which battle him.
Although BTCC was a fine game, it did not sold as well as it predecessor. However, Ocean still had the rights to the Batman license which became useful in the next year.
Batman - The Movie was the game for the movie and it became a blue print for Oceans other tie-in-games. The game was released for the Atari ST, Amiga and various 8 bit machines. At first sight the game plays similar to "BTCC" but puzzle elements are less important. Instead, Batman fights his way through with his Batarang, fists and a rope. There is a short puzzle sequence in the game but the rest is pure jump and shoot.
The game follows the storyline of the original movie and starts with Batman chasing Jack Napier. Jack falls into a vat of acid and thus the Joker is created. Later you will get the chance to drive the Batmobile and fly the Batwing. The last level is set in the Cathedral, but reaching the final stage is quite hard. Like other movie games, Batman had to be finished in time to be released simultaneously with the movie. The game is very similar to Robocop and the same gameplay can be found in almost every other tie-in game released by Ocean.
Atari also did Batman games.Batman Returns was a pack-in game for the Lynx (but it was sold separately, too). Batman has to battle the Penguin in a game which has no puzzle elements. This version of Batmat shows the graphical capabilities of the Lynx. There is plenty of action on the screen and the environment and all sprites are well drawn and animated. A personal favourite of mine are the little penguins.
Unfortunately, the game is almost unplayable. Enemies come from the left and right shooting at the caped crusader and Batman's energy status shrinks to zero within seconds. The game has also one of the most boring level designs which is a pity if one looks at the graphics. Atari did not forget to build a cheat code into the game to jump to each stage but even the cheat code is hard to type in.
Atari also did an arcade game for the first movie which is very similar to Ocean's game. The arcade machine features digitized speech and graphics from the movie and follows the movies storyline. In the first stage Batman fights through the city to reach his Batmobile. Then follows a driving sequence similar to Atari's arcade hit Road Blasters: Batman shoots "evil" black cars without hitting the "good" ones. The factory stage is more difficult and it can be frustrating to fall into an acid vat for the thirteenth time. If you have Batarang it should not be too hard to push Jack Napier into the vat.
The gameplay is average and there are dozens of arcade games which play like Batman. The strong point are the graphics and unlike
Batman Returns, Atari's arcade Batman is more playable.
In conclusion, the Batman games have a good quality (with one exception), especially compared with Superman. Unfortunately, the Batman game from 1986 is not available for the Atari platform but it should run using the Spectrum emulator for the ST/TT/Falcon should you find a copy. Holy missing joysticks, Batman!