For this month’s Band of Bloggers prompt, I had a really great idea for what I wanted to do but this idea was something I couldn’t quite carry out in full. This actually works out though because it inspired me to put this together. This month’s theme was ‘to the movies’ so what I’ve decided to do was watch a couple of longplays of games based off of films. I picked games based off of incredibly popular movies and my main inspiration was to see how well these games adhere to their source material. I only watched 2 longplays and the games in question were developed multiple console generations ago by very different development teams.
The first longplay I watched was for a game that I didn’t know existed until a few years ago. If I were to ask you which was the best Batman game of the fourth console generation, I feel like the most popular answer would be The Adventures of Batman & Robin on the Super Nintendo. The thing is, I watched a longplay based off of the best Batman movie tie-in on the Super NIntendo so no, it wasn't the adaptation of the cartoon. You may be familiar with the slow, clunky, Acclaim-developed Batman Forever on the Super Nintendo but what I watched was something different. In 1992 (or 1993 if you’re a European), Batman Returns was launched on the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom. It was developed by Konami and is a side-scrolling beat-em-up with some light platforming elements, which are made easier because you can use the Bat-Grapple-Bat-Gun. You can only play as Batman and the game is strictly a single-player affair so if you wanted to play multiplayer, you’re going to have to take turns rather than play at the same time as a friend or sibling. In addition to punching people, Batman can grab and throw enemies into the background or, if you grab two of them, Batman can smash them together. Batman is also able to use batarangs as a fairly effective ranged weapon though these seem to be more useful against bosses. The majority of the game is made up of levels wherein Batman walks from the left side of the screen to the right, beating up members of The Clown Gang (who featured in Batman Returns). Breaking up these levels are a couple of boss fight only stages and, a stage wherein you drive the Batmobile. It’s constantly propelled forward but you have the power to turn and fire projectiles at motorcycle-riding clowns.
(Things could be worse. My nose could be gushing blood.)
The first level of Batman Returns has Batman walking through Gotham Plaza, beating up clowns and ending with Batman saving a nondescript blonde woman from a stun gun-wielding clown. If you use the Bat-Grapple-Bat-Gun at the start of the fight, you can actually reenact a specific action beat from the film. The second stage is very much like the first: Batman walking through Gotham’s streets, beating up clowns with a clown strong-man acting as the end-stage boss. In the film, Batman encounters a similar clown strongman though instead of fighting him fairly, Batman simply blows the clown up, murdering him. This isn’t replicated in the Super Nintendo game. The third stage ends on a rooftop where Batman fights Catwoman for the first time. Since Catwoman is unplayable, we don’t get to play through her assault on a Shreck-owned department store or, her attack against a mugger and the woman he was mugging. When I first played this game, I had trouble with this fight since Catwoman was, at the time, the fastest enemy I had then encountered.
The next level ends with another boss fight against Catwoman, who is keeping Batman from saving the Ice Princess. Immediately after this fight is a fight against The Penguin, which I don’t recall happening in the film. He flies on a modified umbrella, throwing projectiles at the player, sometimes dipping low enough to be hit by batarangs. After the fight and like in the film, the Ice Princess falls off of the top of the building to her death in a scene that makes Batman look like a murderer while also making Cobblepot (The Penguin) look like a more reputable public servant (since a large part of his platform, during his mayoral campaign, happens to be his anti-Batman policies). The fifth stage is a Batmobile stage and since it’s completely on rails, it’s somewhat surprising that it includes a boss fight. The boss here is Penguin’s mayoral campaign van, which attacks by throwing explosives at and in the path of the Batmobile, all the while motorcycle-clowns get in the way and can cause damage if you hit them. In the film, there was a scene where Batman had a Batmobile-related conflict but it was the Batmobile itself that he was in conflict with. The Penguin and his clown-goons had added a remote control setup to the Batmobile, thus giving them control of it. This doesn’t figure into the game but I don’t see how it could have possibly been implemented into the game anyway.
(This scene doesn't feature in the game)
The next stage takes place on top of a train and ends with Batman fighting an organ grinder clown while his monkey dances gaily in the background. I don’t recall any train-top fights in any Batman film but I do recall a similar clown in the film. The seventh stage is the run-up to the Gotham Zoo: It’s a snow level but as you walk through it, you see more and more penguins in the foreground and background, each one strapped with a backpack missile launcher. It’s fairly imposing to see all of these heavily armed penguins, especially when they start firing at you. Though, they only really do that during screen transitions. The boss here is The Penguin and his penguins though they’re all riding in a giant, hydraulic duck. The all-terrain duck does features in the film and I’m fairly certain that it’s destroyed by the Bat-Boat (or is it a Bat-Hydrofoil?) late in the film. After this fight, you have one more fight with The Penguin. He walks around in addition to flying on a modified umbrella, throwing umbrellas, charging at you and, attacking with a gun-like umbrella. Like basic enemies though, he can be grabbed and tossed to the ground for massive damage. After this fight, there’s a short cutscene that hints at Cobblepot’s death, Catwoman not being dead and, ending with a credits crawl. For the most part, Shreck doesn’t feature too heavily in the game despite him having a more important role in the film. Catwoman’s many ‘deaths’ also don’t feature in the game though there is one that makes it into a cutscene after the stage-3 fight against her (saved by kitty litter). Overall though, I feel like Batman Returns represents the film fairly well in terms of plot but the tone isn’t as dark and it’s not nearly as graphic.
The other longplay I watched this month was for the Data-East developed, Ocean published, ZX Spectrum version of the 1987 masterpiece Robocop. I’ve never played this game and I’ve only watched this film for the first time a few years ago. If you’re not sure what a ZX Spectrum is, it was a micro-computer developed by Sir Clive Sinclair and released to the public in Spring of 1982. It was popular in the UK but it had a hard time selling almost everywhere else. As a games machine, it was capable of displaying about 6 colors at the same time and, if you had the add-on, playing very simple chip-tunes. Depending on what model you had and what add-ons you used with it, the Spectrum could have up to 128k of memory so it was very limited as a games machine. Despite that, games development was fairly simple on that platform and it was very capable of replicating arcade-like games.
(Your move, Creep)
Robocop on the ZX Spectrum, like Batman Returns on the SNES, is very much an arcade-like game: you move from the left side of the screen to the right, shooting at seemingly infinitely respawning enemies. Your guns have finite ammo but you’re able to punch and enemies can drop more ammo for you. There are arguably 5 levels but two of them are very similar-looking city streets levels, broken up by a first-person section. There’s a warehouse level that has the same color palette as a later stage that I think takes place on top of a skyscraper, thus making the game feel even more limited. The longplay I watched of Robocop on the Spectrum lasted for fewer than 20 minutes, going through a new game playthrough and ending early on during the first new game+ playthrough. As I mentioned before, the first two levels are city street levels, broken up by a first-person section which was inspired by a very specific action set-piece in the film. After the second level, there’s a short cutscene (or possibly a puzzle sequence) where you must construct a face on the right side of the screen using a reference on the left side of the screen. This screen matching sequence is in reference to Robocop searching through files and finding the identity of the man who murdered him before he was made into the titular robotic policeman. The third level of the game takes place in a warehouse, the fourth level takes place in the OCP corporate office and reveals an important plot point from the film, (it also introduces a new enemy), the fifth level...well honestly I’m not sure if it’s a construction site of the exterior of the OCP building but the game ends with one more first-person shooting sequence. Since the fight against crime is never over, beating the final section of the fifth level just restarts the game.
(This scene DOES feature in the Robocop game)
If I hadn’t watched Robocop and had only ever watched this longplay, I would assume Robocop is just a film about a murderous robot man going on a rampage. Considering how limited the hardware is and being familiar with some of the worst games on the platform, I’m kind of surprised by how feature-heavy Robocop on the Spectrum actually is. For one thing, this is a scrolling game which, from what I understand, was really difficult to program. Most action games on that platform would transition screens once a player passes the border of a screen. First-person shooting is also something that’s difficult to associate with the micro-computer, even though the first-person shooting in Robocop is essentially just lining up a crosshair on an X and Y axis. What really impresses me about those sections though is how misfiring can damage background objects like windows. As for how well the game follows the plot of the movie, I wouldn’t say it does that very effectively at all. Obviously, it would have been nearly impossible to replicate pre-robot Murphy’s life but aside from that, the plot of the game moves quickly from having you murder all of the criminals in Detroit to, hunting down a specific criminal to, trying to arrest a high ranking corporate executive. In terms of narrative, I have no idea what’s going on with the Robocop game but it still looks like a fun arcade-like experience and I’d be happy to buy it for a dollar at this point.