Batman: The Video Game – Review

In the sphere of TV and films, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film was a stark contrast to the colourful and campy 1960s TV show. The choice of Michael Keaton for the role of the Caped Crusader was controversial to say the least, but he acquitted himself admirably and, in my opinion, rivals Christian Bale as the definitive Batman.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Batman: The Video Game is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Sunsoft. It was released on the NES in Japan in 1989, and North America and Europe, as well as for the Game Boy, in 1990 (oddly both games are actually different). I chose to review the NES version.

Fight your way through the City of Gotham (screenshot taken by the author)

The bicentenary of Gotham City is fast approaching, and the city’s officials are hard at work planning festivities for the event. However, the city is engulfed by a crime wave orchestrated and encouraged by the Joker. It is up to the Caped Crusader to stop the Joker’s evil plans and save the city.

Although based on the 1989 Tim Burton movie Batman, there are a few differences. Yes, you are pursuing the Joker and trying to save the City of Gotham, but the game contains enemies with rocket packs or that are mutants. These definitely do not appear in movie. However, these differences take nothing away from the game.

The in-between level animations look fantastic (screenshot taken by the author)

The game contains five levels (each level has four or five sub-levels):

Gotham City

AXIS Chemical Factory

Underground Conduit

Ruins of Laboratory

The Cathedral

Whilst battling his way through the levels, Batman utilises hand-to-hand combat as well as weapons such as a spear gun, Batarang and dirk (which is more like a shuriken) to defeat his enemies. The levels contain no time limit allowing your to take your time through the levels.

Beautifully detailed with an understated, dark colour scheme suits this game well (screenshot taken by the author)

Let’s begin with the graphics. The game looks great! It begins with an awesome and intimidating looking title screen containing the figure of Batman looking menacing, and the game title in the same font used for the movie. Between each level, there is a short animated cutscene which again looks very cool.

For the in-game graphics, yes, Batman is coloured purple but that is purely so that you can see him clearly as the levels have a dark colour scheme. The levels themselves are very detailed. They help create a dark atmosphere for the game which fits well with Tim Burton’s vision. The sprites are beautifully illustrated, detailed and colourful. Throughout the game, I noticed that there was practically no flicker in the graphics at all.

The music, although not from the movie, fits the game well and certainly has an arcade feel to it. It’s great for getting the adrenaline pumping.

The controls are simple but they don’t need to be complicated. You can punch whilst standing and crouching, and select one of three weapons to use. You can jump to different heights, depending on how long you hold the ‘jump’ button for, and you can even use the walls to help you jump even higher and to avoid some nasty floor spikes.

Although this is an incredibly tough game, I had a lot of fun playing through it. The difficulty level is my only real gripe with this game. You are unable to change the difficulty level which is a pity as this would have given the game a bit more replay value.

Did I complete the game?

No, I was unable to get past level 3-1

What the critics said:

Mean Machines: “A classy license through and through. If you own a NES you’d be bats to miss this – so there! Overall 87%[1]

Awards:

Best Movie to Game – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s ‘Best and Worst of 1989’[2]

My Verdict:

“It looks great, sounds great, has tight controls and a challenge to test even the most hardened of gamers. The game proves that not all superhero games suck.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Batman: The Video Game? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Nintendo Review – Batman’. (December 1990). Issue 3:78-9. https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-03/page/n77/mode/2up Accessed on 13th February 2020).

[2] ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990 Video Game Buyer’s guide. Issue 5:22. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d5/EGM_US_005.pdf Accessed 1st July 2020).