The Dark Knight has returned. The success of Frank Miller's groundbreaking graphic novel has revitalised a hero presumed extinct. Further novels, repeats of the TV series and a new film have followed. Now there is the game of the film, pitting Batman against the Joker in what can only be called a cataclysmic confrontation.
The battle takes place over five sections, related to scenes in the film. Curtain up on the Axis chemical factory which is being attacked by jack Napier and his cronies. Batman has to find his way through the plant to Jack and deposit him into the acid vat that turns him into the Joker.
The factory is depicted by a 2D, multi-directional scrolling system of rooms and platforms. The place is absolutely crawling with Napier's henchmen. They patrol the platforms attacking the Bat with guns and grenades. There are also acid and gas leaks which can deplete energy if run into. The trusty Batarang can protect you fro the henchpersons, while the Batrope is used to climb up to platforms above.
The first section is tough, but a bit of perseverance reveals the route to jack and the exit to the next section. The real art becomes getting through it without losing one of the three lives.
Section Two is on the streets of Gotham City in the Batmobile. It is a race back to the Batcave before time runs out or the car conks out. As you thunder through the streets the traffic blocks the way and damages the car when it hits them. Roadside objects should also be avoided. A direction arrow points the way home, indicating when the Batmobile needs to take a turn. The only way to turn is to shoot a grapnel round a lamppost and slingshot round it. However, if you miss three turns-offs, you run straight into a roadblock: and that is the end of your life I am affair, Batperson.
Back in the Batcave, the Joker's Smilex poison has to be isolated by mixing three objects. There are eight objects to choose from and a limited time to mix them. It is solved just like the old game Mastermind: select three objects and you are told how many are correct, but not which ones.
Section Four is back to the streets of Gotham, this time in the Batwing. It is carnival time now and the Joker has lined the streets with deadly gas balloons. They are floating from cakes and all Batty boy has to do is fly through the ropes to release the balloons into the air. Hitting the balloons, cakes or roadside obstacles damages the Batwing and going too slowly introduces the risk of running out of time to reach home. If you can survive all that, the final section is set in Gotham cathedral. It is similar to the first section in the factory, with henchmen attacking. There are additional hazards like crumbling floors to complicate the task even more.
At the top of the cathedral the Joker awaits. Defeat him here or he will escape in a helicopter and you will have to do the game over again, won't you?
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The 2D sections are competent in terms of graphics - functional rather than stunning. The street scenes are another matter. Whizzing along Gotham's darkened streets is much better to look at and extremely batmospheric. The rolling road and all the objects are fast and well drawn: a definite touch of class. Watch out for those 90-degree turns. Smashing.
The five sections hang together well as a game. Each one is tricky and takes some mastering. It is unfortunate that if all lives are lost you have to restart from the chemical factory, but that certainly proves a challenge. It is edge of the seat excitement that grips you solidly. It is addictive, certainly, and though it is also frustrating at times and you could tire of it after a while, Batfans will not be disappointed.