I played the Amiga 500 Batman at a friend's house a fair bit back in the early Nineties. It came bundled with the very first Amiga 500 'bundles' and boasted five levels of fun. Perhaps to us twelve year olds it delivered it. Having booted it up recently for a quick play however, I have to confess I found it ridiculously easy - I played through all five levels on my very first go! I should also point out that I couldn't really remember where to go or what to do, but the level of difficulty is so low that you can, as they say, barely go wrong.
Batman retailed separately for £24.95 and put you in charge of the Caped Crusader in a plot loosely based on the Michael Keaton film of the same name (As an aside, this film has aged very badly!). There are said to be five levels but levels one and five are platform levels, levels two and four are scrolling batmobile/batwing racing games and level three is a mastermind puzzle. I cannot imagine a lot of time was spent, by the programmer, in coding level three in particular which basically means we have a platform game with two levels and a racing game, again with two levels.
That said, what there is is done very well. On the platform levels you are situated firstly in Axis Chemical factory, dodging shooting and bomb-throwing henchmen, then in the endgame in a Cathedral, dodging the same goons but also looking out for rats. You are equipped with a seemingly invincible supply of sandbags which you can hurl at them (with a nice whooshing effect) and also a rope-lasso thing which serves a dual purpose. Aim it successfully at a platform above you and you can take out enemies with it. Aim it at rafters and you can use it to climb up, swing around and generally perform a number of moves designed to quite impressively avoid the bad guys, land behind them, spin around and take them down.
There are ladders connecting platforms too but you quickly discover that climbing up and down them is a long, slow affair - so you tend to rely on the lasso, and jumping down from platform to platform, a lot more.
The platform levels are not difficult - each time you are hit, as on every level, a little of your energy is drained. Your energy is shown as a picture of Batman at the base of the screen, showing changing to a picture of the Joker. Once you can see almost all of the Joker you know the next shot is going to finish you off. There are no power-ups to collect.
The scrolling levels are an interesting idea. On level two you are placed in the Batmobile and need to cover a certain amount of distance before a time limit runs out. You speed up the car with the up and down keys (or a joystick) and steer left and right as appropriate to try and keep your car in the centre of the four lane road. Other cars clog up lanes and generally impede progress - crash into them and you'll lose some energy. The Unique Selling Point is that, although the road twists and bends, you need to take side-streets to reach your destination. To get into side-streets you need to perform 'handbrake-turns' of sorts, achieving by flinging that same lasso-thing out of the window of the Batmobile, hooking a lamppost with it, and flying into the side-street you need. An arrow at the top of the screen tells you whether to continue straight on or to turn (and in which direction) and you get three attempts to turn before you reach a roadblock of police cars and the level is immediately ended.
On level four you're in the batmobile and can speed it up with a combination of fire and up, or slow it down with fire and down. This rather curious level has you trying to fly between various carousel carriages littering the road. You must strike them with your wings at just the right height to separate them from a gas-filled balloon they are tied to. Too high and you burst the balloon and incur a penalty; too low and you hit the carriage itself and incur a penalty. Once you master the right speed at which to fly, this level is ridiculously easy, even though the different lengths of strings does mean an element of flying skill is involved.
Level three is a bit of an insult - you are given eight chemicals and need to work out which three make up the 'Smilex' formula. So you have one minute to mix them in random combinations. Place three chemicals into the screen area and you may be informed, say, that one of them is correct. Aha, but which one? You need to try other combinations to find out! Through a process of elimination you will work out which three are indeed the formula and, if time runs out, you get a rather nasty picture of The Joker grinning at you evily rather than the congratulatory fanfare you deserve. It is literally that simple.
The game is put together well. It comes on two discs - with levels two, three and four on disc two - and can either be played by placing disc one in drive one and disc two in drive two, or on a single drive with disc swapping as appropriate. It has a nice loading screen and several nice images of The Joker or Batman depending on whether you clear the whole thing or not. Without exception, the graphics on each level are superb. There are better examples of dedicated racing games of course but what is there is visually pleasing. The batmobile level can be played at a (risky but) significant speed if you wish!
Sound also is pretty good - not only are the sound effects appropriate but there is also different music for each level, for the opening screen and closing sequences, which helps lift the game. I also like the fact that, at the end of level one, when you defeat Jack, he plunges into a vat of acid (as he does in the movie). It's sad that such end sequences aren't there in the later levels - why doesn't the Batmobile or Batwing blow up when you ram it into a building, for example? (The level just begins over again instead!)
Really though the only problem with Batman is it simply isn't big enough. I know there's something to be said for keeping things short and simple rather than, say, introducing a number of levels all of the same 'type' and I'd be the first to agree that more platform levels would probably be boring. But clearly the game should take longer to play through than twenty-six minutes. By all means, add it to your collection (especially if you're a Batman fan!) but don't expect anything approaching lastability from this one.