If you didn’t know the Purple Heart is a medal given to US service members who are wounded or killed in action, the title of today’s game would probably seem kinda weird. You’d have to assume it describes the huge stress-induced coronary event that you might well suffer thanks to the game pulse-pounding, non-stop action. Actually, it’s still weird if you do know it’s a medal, because it implies things aren’t going to end well for the game’s heroes. Hmm. Anyway, here’s CRL’s 1988 Commodore 64 military-muscle-men-em-up Purple Heart!

Sirens blare, confetti flutters through the air and party poppers are popped. A banner slowly descends. “CONGRATULATIONS,” it reads, “1,000,000th Piece of Computer Game Artwork Based on an Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Poster!!!”
So, like I said: military muscle men, although they’re nothing to do with the toy line of the same name whose advert I’ve had stuck in my head for well over twenty years now. Someone appears to have shot the game’s logo. How rude.

There’s more Schwarzenegger on the screen that introduces out heroes: Striker, over on the left, has clearly has his portrait copied from the Terminator poster, the shoelace-thin headband hastily added in order to throw off the lawyers. As for Cobra, there’s a decent chance he’s Conan. Not based on Conan, he’s actually Conan, who has awakened in the modern age with his lust for battle completely intact. He’s so keen on military conflict that he somehow managed to fight in both Vietnam and the Falklands.

You’re also shown the weapons that you’ll get to use during your mission. They’re all fairly standard stuff for a military-themed videogame from the eighties. You can tell it’s from the eighties because one of the weapons is an Uzi. Had videogames been the pre-eminent form of popular culture at the time, we’d all consider the Uzi to be as much a symbol of the eighties as we do with shoulder pads, big hair and cocaine.
There’s actually a little scene here where the weapons are introduced one-by-one, and each time one appears a brief sound effect of it firing plays. It’s kinda neat, and it shows a certain amount of, if not ambition, then at least flair.

Here’s your mission briefing, not that you need one. “Shoot everything that isn’t you” would have done the trick much more concisely. It might have been nice to know who I’m fighting against and where all this takes place, but I’m hardly surprised that information isn’t included. Ours is not to reason why, and all that. It’s particularly amusing that you’re advised to “use strategy.” Unless “strategy” is the code-name for a new super-gun that fires a million bullets per second and can only be fired by a man without a shirt on, strategy is unlikely to enter into this game.

And we’re off, charging around and shooting our gun at the many brown-shirted soldiers that are intent on protecting this small hut. So, Purple Heart is a top-down shooter in the manner of Capcom’s Commando (not to be mistaken for Capcom’s Captain Commando) or SNK's Ikari Warriors. There’s nothing so fancy as a rotary joystick in this one, though: you use the stick to move, and you fire in whatever direction you’re facing. You can’t even hold the fire button down to fix your aim in one direction while you move about, which can make some sections rather awkward.

Unusually for the genre, Purple Heart’s first stage takes place in the enemy base. That’s just good tactics, really. If you can take out the enemy’s base right away, you could be home by tea time! Maybe I was too quick to scoff at the uselessness of strategy in this situation.
I’m only a couple of screens in, but I’ve already managed to pick up most of the game’s weapons. They’re just laying around on the floor, you don’t even need to shoot them out of enemies or find them in crates, and that’s good because they all have limited ammo (represented by the green bar in the HUD) and they run out quite quickly. This is not the kind of game where conserving your ammunition is really an option, either.
Of the weapons I’ve used so far, this flamethrower definitely feels like the most useful. Its projectiles can pass through multiple enemies, which is handy, plus they leave a small patch of fire wherever they land that the villains can walk into. The shotgun’s not bad, either, although unlike the wide spread of projectiles you might have been expecting from a videogame shotgun, it actually fires two “rows” of projectiles in a straight line. Some on the design team took the phrase “double-barrelled” a little too literally, I suspect.

And so it goes, the action unfolding in a manner typical of the genre and with little to set it apart from the crowd. You die in one hit, which is to be expected. The opposing troops run around like kids from a nursery that swapped the fruit juice for espresso, firing their guns and throwing grenades with wild abandon, which is also to be expected. Computer game soldiers of the time rarely exhibited much in the way of military tactics. At least they’ve all got guns in this one, half the time in games like this there are a bunch of soldiers attacking you with nothing more technologically advanced than knives. The collision detection has the capricious nature of a romantic poet, often flitting about and offering vague notions when all you want it to do is settle down and give you a solid answer about whether an incoming explosion is going to kill you or not. It’s not good, but in fairness the hit detection in Purple Heart isn’t much worse than in many, many other home computer action games.


It didn’t take long to make it to the first boss: a trio of chaps with shoulder-mounted rocket launchers who are jealously guarding these oil drums, determined that no side-scrolling beat-em-ups will be able to steal them away and hide roast dinners under them. At least, I think there are supposed to be people holding those rocket launchers. Looking at the rest of the game’s bosses suggests this might not be the case, but I can’t help but see the things holding up the rocket launchers as little dudes with teddy boy-style quiffs.
Whatever they are, they shoot rockets at you. Well, cannonballs, really. I think I might have accidentally attacked a Civil War re-enactment society. They fire a lot of cannonballs, too, and the guy in the middle having dual cannons means he can put out so many projectiles that you can’t get past the relentless barrage without losing a life. “Okay,” you think to yourself, “I’ll just take out the two cannoneers I can reach and then deal with the last bloke,” but that’s easier said than done because the cannonballs move so fast that it’s very difficult (and dull, and time-consuming) to dodge between the shots and fire back when you get the chance. Instead, you have to fire diagonally towards the boss. You might think you’re not damaging the boss by doing this, especially because your bullets aren’t actually hitting them but exploding into little firework shapes when they hit the barrel, but you are hitting the boss. Well, you might be. See, the problem is the game doesn’t tell you whether you’re damaging the boss. There’s no health bar, they don’t flash or make a sound effect, nothing, so you end up firing bullets near them until they either “die” or you move to an ever-so-slightly different firing position and repeat the process. As if that tactic wasn’t thrilling enough, it didn’t seem to work at all with the central cannon. To blow that one up, all I could do was stand right in front of it and hammer the fire button, hoping that I’d only lose one or two lives before it exploded. It worked, just about, and that’s how I cleared Purple Heart’s first stage. Spoilers: every boss in the game is like this.

Now Cobra’s in the jungle. He’s just destroyed the enemy base, so I have to assume that he’s actually suffering a Vietnam flashback.
The jungle’s a lot like the first stage, only with more green and brown. Other new inclusions are spikes that rhythmically poke in and out of the ground and small bridges that perform the twin functions of letting you traverse small puddle and giving your character something to get stuck to when the screen scrolling is feeling uncooperative.

Whoever this evil army is, they’ve embraced drone warfare. I’m not sure they had to make the drone look that much like a real helicopter, though. That seems like a wasted effort, unless they’re hoping their foes will think they’re being attack by many distant helicopters instead of teeny-tiny, nearby helicopters.
The problem with these helicopters is the bombs that they drop. If any part of the bomb touches you, you lose a life, even when the bombs are clearly passing over Cobra’s head. This is particularly galling when the grenades the regular troops throw can be walked underneath. No, the only way to avoid this helicopter is to outrun it. Good old Cobra, what a hero. He can destroy whole armies on his tod, he’s faster than an attack helicopter, he rescues puppies from unscrupulous dog breeders and so on and so forth.

He also fights walls. These walls also have large guns attached to them, despite clearly not being big enough to hold artillery, thousands of rounds of ammunition and the crew required to operate them. Yes, the bosses in Purple Heart aren’t exactly thrilling duels of wits or swelling crescendos of martial combat. They’re walls that shoot at you. This one, at least, is far easier than the first boss. Its projectiles are slow enough that you can dodge them and fire back. It’s still boring, but it’s doable without losing all your lives. Don’t lose all your lives, because there’s no continue option and you’ll have to start the game all over again. The game does give you an extra life every time you finish a stage, though, so that’s something.

August, 1944, and the liberation of Paris is almost complete. Cobra has given the Free French the day off. He’ll mop up the remaining Nazis, so don’t worry. I think that’s what’s happening here, anyway. Or rather, I think Cobra thinks that’s what’s happening. I’ve become completely convinced that every stage is this game is actually a delusional fantasy that Cobra is having, imaging himself as the hero of every war of the modern age. That explains why all the enemy soldiers have the well-drilled efficiency of the Chuckle Brothers, and why none of the bosses look like quite like a genuine weapon of war.

Mostly, though, I’d say Purple Heart looks rather good. The graphics are detailed without being overly fussy and the animations are decent. There are a few issues with perspective, but on the whole I like the way it looks. That’s as well-drawn a motorcycle-riding SS officer as I’ve ever seen on the Commodore 64 – it’s just a shame I can’t shoot him. There are some vehicles that drive across the screen at various points, but unfortunately you can’t destroy them. No, vehicles must be avoided at all costs, even when you’re carrying around a rocket launcher. Even if Purple Heart was otherwise a game at the very pinnacle of its genre, it could never be considered a true great because it teases the player with the opportunity to blow up a motorbiking Nazi and then denies them that pleasure.

The boss is a wall with guns on it. Okay, technically being a house it’s four walls with guns on it, but you know what I mean. The goal, as always is to shoot the guns, but apparently the end of this stage is where the game’s creators decided the cut-off point for having fun should be. Cobra’s trapped in that clearing in the trees, right? And there are four guns in front of him. They all fire at once, filling that whole clearing with projectiles, and I am convinced that there is no way to finish this boss fight without losing at least one life and probably more. Once you’ve knocked out a gun or two there’s a safe zone you can stand in, but until then you will be losing a life and that is just incredibly infuriating. I’m totally fine with losing a life if I’m just shit at the game – and it’s bloody good job I am, too – but when there’s no avoiding it it feels like a proper slap in the face. I even tried to look it up afterwards, and as far as I can see no-one else has ever managed to beat this boss without getting hit either, and I suppose it is nice to know it’s not just down to me being rubbish.

Next is the swamp stage, which consists mostly of narrow, rickety wooden bridges and the creeping sense that Purple Heart doesn’t want you to be playing it. A C64 action game being difficult is hardly a huge surprise, but Purple Heart is so obnoxiously difficult – crowded walkways with no room to manoeuvre, unavoidable deaths in boss fights, ropey collision detection – that it becomes impossible to recommend even despite its good points. It does have good points, too: nice graphics, smooth controls and better-than-average screen-scrolling effects amongst them. Like an accidental Viagra overdose, it simply reaches a point where it’s so hard it stops being fun, and if you’re after an arcade style-shooter whose difficulty level forces you into a gameplay style of cautious tiptoeing and rote memorisation, there are better examples to spend your time with.

When I briefly discussed the collectable weapons Cobra can use, I neglected to mention the rocket launcher. That’s because it works differently than the other weapons: rather than firing a series of projectiles, it fires one big rocket that explodes. The explosion creates a spinning bar of fire, like a top-down version of the ones in Bowser’s castle, wherever it lands, and it spins around immolating any enemy soldiers it touches. It sounds neat, and it does have its uses… but you can only have one explosion on screen at a time and you can’t fire another rocket until it’s dissipated, so if you miss, you’re screwed. The other interesting thing about the rocket launcher’s explosions is that their position is relative to Cobra’s position. If your rocket lands, for example, thirty pixels to Cobra’s left, it will always be thirty pixels to Cobra’s left even if Cobra moves. This means that you can fire a rocket and then run away, “dragging” the explosion along with you, which is a much more interesting concept for a weapon than the same tired old rocket launcher.

There’s also a section in this stage based on the queuing system at Primark, except less grim. I kid, I kid. Primark is a perfectly fine store, and especially useful for us slovenly types who are looking for a shopping experience where the clothes are cheap enough that we don’t have to bother trying them on.

This stage’s boss is a tank, as drawn by someone who’s never seen a tank and had only heard them described by an excited child. “That’s not a wall with guns,” you might say, but you’d be wrong. That’s exactly what it is. It certainly doesn’t move around or anything, and despite being a tank it can still be destroyed by shotgun fire. It’s mechanically identical to the second boss, in fact. Man, what a dumb-looking tank.

This stage is called the Icelands. That’s pretty accurate, I suppose. It’s got ice, it’s got land. Against, I’d sticking to my statement that Purple Heart looks pretty darn nice, and this simple yet effective scene of Arctic tundra is probably my favourite-looking bit of the game.

The Icelands, however, do not make it easy. There are too many extremely well-guarded cottages for that to be the case. That said, I think it’s a bit easier than the last stage even if having the enemies fire their white bullets over a pale grey background is the kind of decision that should have had someone shouting “what? No, don’t be stupid” during the planning stages. There’s also no word on whether mums go to the Icelands. Thank you, thank you, this has been the paragraph where I make references to the advertising slogans of a budget frozen food store. I apologise if you came here looking for actual jokes.

If nothing else, I can give Purple Heart credit for being the only game ever in which I’ve been killed by a hostile skiing chalet.

This is the sixth and final stage: Pierworld. Okay, so the game simply calls it “The Final Conflict” but it is definitely pier-heavy. Lots of piers, in various stages of disrepair. Some are wide and spacious, others have rotted away and crumbled despite still being able to withstand multiple grenades being throw at them. This means there are some parts of the pier where Cobra can come into contact with the water. Naturally, doing so immediately costs him a life, which makes negotiating the twisty-turny ruins of the piers even slower and more plodding than the rest of the game.

On the plus side, all the bad guys seem to have shoulderpads, sunglasses, quiffs and mohawks, so Cobra’s military fantasies must have evolved beyond the real world and now he’s imagining himself as a fighter for justice in a lawless post-apocalyptic future where evil men will do whatever it takes to control the world’s jetties and wharfs.

The final boss, ladies and gentlemen. The hat of some gargantuan underwater priest, rising up through the waves to shoot at Cobra with the four cannons attached to its brim. What else can I say about a boss I’ve already fought five times? Apart from that this is shittiest-looking one of them all, I mean? Obviously by this point Purple Heart’s difficulty level has forced me to cheat my way to infinite lives, so it’s not like I spent a lot of time figuring out a valid battle plan here. I suspect there isn’t one. You’ll just have to hope you’ve got enough lives left to outlive the boss.

Purple Heart draws to a close with this image of Cobra being awarded some medals. It’s not much of an ending, but it’s more of an ending than most C64 games have, so I’ll take it. The best thing about it is that Cobra’s clearly pissed off at being forced to wear a shirt. The only reason he put it one is so they’d have somewhere to pin his medals. He wouldn’t have minded having them thrust directly into his flesh, but no-one was strong enough to force the pin into the steel boulders that are Cobra’s pectoral muscles.
Purple Heart is a game that tries to be good, and for that it should be applauded. Many of its technical aspects are impressive, it has a co-operative two-player mode and sometimes-dodgy hit detection aside it plays as well or better than most other C64 games in the genre. It is a shame, then, that the bosses are about as interesting as a boiled rice sandwich and the game’s difficulty level is frustrating enough to make you want to stop playing. It’s a case of close but no cigar, then, but at least I managed to get into a fight with a chalet. That was a new one.



There have been too many articles about famous super heroes and icons of the gaming world here at VGJunk this month. It’s time to get obscure, with a game you’ve probably never heard of, a game that might only be interesting because you’ve never heard of it. Oh, and because you can sometimes throw carrots at people. That’s pretty interesting. It’s Mebio Software’s 1993 Super Famicom sports game Go! Go! Dodge League!

I know those two adjacent balls are acting as part of the game’s title, but I’m immature enough that seeing two adjacent balls is making me chuckle, although not as much as writing down the phrase “two adjacent balls” is.
This is a very Japanese-looking title screen, isn’t it? What with the manga style, and all. It’s specifically that kind of manga style you get in lower-end videogames, a style that never looks quite right. I think it’s the hairstyles that do it: the artist knows that anime characters have crazy hairstyles, but they draw hair that looks dumb but not in the usual anime “this is dumb” fashion. I mean, check out that guy on the right. Yeah, the one that looks like a giraffe who’s managed to trick its way into a boy band and is praying no-one notices. His hair is the same shape as the steam cleaner I use on my kitchen floor. The girl in the middle is the only one who comes out of this title screen well, honestly.

As you might have guessed from the title, Go! Go! Dodge League is a dodgeball game. Remember than brief period in the mid-2000s when dodgeball became a thing? That was weird. We’re a weird species. My abiding feeling for the concept of dodgeball is that it’s what PE teachers used to set up when they couldn’t be bothered to plan a real lesson or the football pitch was flooded.
Anyway, it’s dodgeball, Japanese-style. It’s like non-Japanese dodgeball, except all the participants have big heads and huge eyes. You can have a one-off match or take part in a tournament, either alone, against a friend or co-operatively with a friend. Obviously, I’ll be playing alone. I’m not saying that to elicit sympathy, it’s just that I only have one game pad. Rest in peace, my old Saitek P380 joypad. You were a dependable workhorse, even if your D-Pad was designed by someone with a grudge against thumbs.

I decided to play through the tournament. Despite being called Go! Go! Dodge League, this game doesn’t have a “league” mode. You play each team once, and are knocked out if you lose, which is really more of a cup than a league.
You get to pick your team, of course, all of them named after animals from the Chinese zodiac. Okay, so it’s usually a goat rather than a sheep in the Chinese zodiac, but they’re close enough. You might be drawn to teams like the Tigers or the Dragons over the Sheep and Rats, but that’s forgetting two important facts: one is that the rat was supposedly the animal that won the mythical race to decide what order the animals would appear in the zodiac, and the other is that clearly the monkey is the best-suited of all these animals to actually playing dodgeball. They’re agile, they’re used to being in groups and they’re the only animals on the list that can grasp and throw a ball with any degree of accuracy. That said, I’ll be playing as the Rabbits, because that’s where my cursor happened to end up.

Well, I guess that clears up the whole cup/league situation.

Oh hey, the Rabbits have turned out to be an all-female team. This might be interesting if there were any differences between the types of player other than their sprites, but as far as I could tell there are not. The fat players might be able to take more hits before being knocked out, but I’m not certain about that. They might also be slightly easier to hit on account of their size, so swings and roundabouts.

So, it’s dodgeball, then… except it isn’t, really. It’s a very videogame-y approximation of dodgeball. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Dodgeball, if you like. The idea is still to knock out the opposing team by throwing balls at them and to avoid getting hit when they throw balls at you, but it doesn’t follow dodgeball rules. If you catch a ball someone throws at you, that person isn’t out of the game, for instance. You have to hit your opponents multiple times to knock them out, too.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, and making a sport less complicated is probably a good idea when you’re working with 16-bit hardware. It’s just that this game isn’t all that similar to real dodgeball, much like Super Soccer doesn’t play much like real football.

How does it all work, then? The mighty Rabbits occupy the bottom half of the court – wait, is it called a court in dodgeball? Let’s just assume it is, “dodgeball pitch” doesn’t sound right. Their opponents are in the top half of the court, so let’s sling some balls! You throw balls with the B button and pass to your team-mates, including those standing around the edge of the opposition’s half, with A. Y makes you jump, while X is used for a kind of diving slide which I guess is meant to help you, you know, dodge balls. I never got much use out of it, myself. It’s not a very fast action, which hampers its usefulness, but the bigger issue is that dodging balls isn’t the best strategy. You should be endeavouring to catch the balls instead. If you dodge the balls thrown at you then sure, you don’t get hit, but the ball flies past you and is usually picked up by one of the opposing team that’s lurking around the edges of the court. Catching the ball is a much better idea, because then you can throw the ball. Specifically, I’d recommend double-tapping the d-pad to start running before you throw, because then you’ll throw the ball harder. You don’t have much control over your aim – the eight cardinal directions are about the extent of it – but the ball will “home in” on the other team a little so long as you throw it in their general direction.

When you manage to throw the ball badly enough that it flies right off the court, and you will do that, you’ll get to see that the extremities of the playing area are rather more visually appealing than the court itself. This beach court, for instance, has a small crowd of rapt sunbathers enjoying the action. Then you look again and realise that the crowd’s proportions are completely different to those of the dodgeball players. The only reasonable explanation is that one of the two groups are not actually human. I’m going with the dodgeball players, because their heads make up eighty percent of their body mass. Not humans, then, but Grey aliens who have come to Earth in disguise so that they may experience this pastime the hu-mans call “dodge-the-ball.” There is further evidence for this scenario later in the game.

The Rabbits managed a nail-biting victory in their first game, triumphing with only one player remaining and that sole player being one hit away from elimination! That’s why she’s white in the screenshot. Players flash when they’re one hit away from elimination, she hasn’t turned into Casper the Friendly Dodgeball Player or anything.

With little fanfare the next match begins, this time against the Dogs. The thing is, one match in Go! Go! Dodge League is almost identical to any other match in Go! Go! Dodge League. You see one team named after but in no way based on an animal from the Chinese zodiac besides maybe their colour scheme, you’ve seen ‘em all. The teams have different sprites in their line-ups – boys, girls, skinny boy, fat boys – but like I say, I never noticed any difference between them. That’s not to say there isn’t a difference between them, but if I played over thirty matches of GGDL and didn’t spot them they must be very minor indeed.

The fourth or so match takes place in outer space, thus confirming my theory about the extraterrestrial origins of the players. The match’s tip-off is facilitated by a traditional Japanese-style alien, too, which is nice. Where we in the West tend to imagine aliens as big-eyed “Grey” type, in Japan they’re often represented by creatures that are basically walking jellyfish with a bit of octopus throw in. If I remember correctly, they’re based on the description of the Martians in War of the Worlds. In videogames, the best example I can think of are the Mars People from the Metal Slug games.

There he is, look, umpiring the match from the sidelines and monitoring the artificial gravity field that allows these two teams to enjoy a dodgeball match that plays exactly as it would under Earth’s gravitational effects. How charming! I wonder if there are any more aliens nearby?

Yes. Yes there are. I think this is what a Space Invader would look like if you got up close. I’m sure our new pixellated overlords will rule our planet with a tentacle that’s firm but fair.

This court has chubby penguins all around it, which measures pretty highly on the ol’ Adorable-O-Meter. I especially like the one that’s peering in from the left. Yeah, the one that looks as though it’s just realised it’s being watched. There’s something about these penguins that looks very Konami-esque, as though they’re related to Penta from the Antarctic Adventure and Parodius games. I mean, I know there’s only so many ways you can draw a cutesy penguin, but they’re definitely got that same look about them.

Less endearing is this sword that the opposition are throwing at my team. That can’t be an accepted part of the rules, can it? It certainly wasn’t mentioned that I’d have deadly blades thrown at me while playing GGDL. I doubt many players would have turned up for this tournament if it had been mentioned. “Dodgeswords” is a very different proposition than “dodgeball.” Admittedly, it’d make the matches more exciting, but it makes it difficult to keep a tournament going if all the players look like a half-finished game of Pop-Up Pirate by the second match.
What’s happening with the sword is that the other team are using their special attack. Every team has one, and they’re all basically the same aside from the object they transform the ball into. In this case it’s a sword. The Rabbits’ special move turns the ball into a floating ring of carrots, which I think we can all agree is distinctly less special than a magic sword. You can perform a special move whenever you like (assuming you’ve got at least two team-mates still active) with no power bar to fill or anything like that. What you do is grab the ball and jump onto the head of a team-mate. Their curiously squishy body will propel you into the air, where you can throw the ball and gasp in wonderment as it turns into a weapon, an animal or a selection of root vegetables. One problem with this system is that there’s no way to tell your team-mates that you’re about to try a special move, and being sensible people they’ll often move out of the way when you try to plant your feet on their skulls. You’ve got no mid-air control of your character once they’ve jumped, either.

Then there’s the special attack itself, which is a strange thing (and not just because, as seen above, the ball is now a presumably very confused sheep). There seem to be different types of special attacks, in two main varieties: one where the ball flies forwards very quickly, and one where the ball floats and hovers around the court in a seemingly random fashion before either trying to land on a player or simply falling to the ground. As with so many aspects of GGDL, I never really managed to determine the mechanics behind this. Some team's attacks do seem to belong to one camp or the other – the sword, for instance, is a more direct attack. Beyond that, however, I could never tell whether my attack was going to confuse the opponent by whirling around them or fly off to a random part of the court. It might be something to do with the timing of when you hit the throw button. I didn’t have much chance to look into that possibility, partly because even lining up the opening head-bounce was a pain but mostly because it didn’t seem worth it. Simply chucking the ball at the other team as hard as possible had a much higher hit rate and took a lot less time to set up.

As I move into the latter stages of the tournament, I have to ask myself the question: am I having fun playing GGDL? The answer is yes, sort of. However, my misgivings aren’t down to the game being bad, per se, but rather that it feels as though it could have been a lot better. The basic ball-dodging and ball-throwing action is solidly decent, but there’s a lot that could have been improved. Take your team-mates that surround the opponent’s half of the court, for instance. You can pass the ball to them, they can collect wayward shots and they can even throw balls at the other team, which is useful in theory… but the fact you only control one character at a time makes it a bit of a pain. If you’re controlling one of the non-active players and, say, you throw the ball at the opposition and they catch it, you have little chance of avoiding the counter-attack because you have to scroll through all six selectable players using the L or R buttons, and it’s slow enough that you probably won’t have time to select an “active” player and move them out of the way. The obvious solution would be to only let you switch between your “active” players and have the ones around the edge move automatically to retrieve any balls that come near them, only giving you control when they’ve actually picked the ball up.

Also, you can catch the ball when someone throws it at you, right? Yes, you can. I’m not sure what determines whether you do catch it, though, adding further mysteries to GGDL’s mechanics. You can press a button to go into a “catching stance” of sorts, but sometimes your characters will simply catch the ball without it. Sometimes they’ll even catch the ball if it’s coming at them from behind, which would give you a distinct advantage if the computer teams couldn’t do it too. Overall, I think it might be a little too easy to catch the ball. This is especially true when you stand right on the half-way line as the CPU runs up to throw, catching the ball and immediately throwing it back before your opponent can react. Often they will do this repeatedly, unable to break through your masterful tactics of getting up in their business. You can also steal the ball from the opposition’s non-active players while they’re passing it around by standing right in front of them. The CPU team never does this. Matches would be a lot more difficult it they did.

And yet, for all these niggles, I’m still enjoying GGDL so the basics must be pretty good. It’s fast, simple action with enough quirks to prevent it becoming too dull too quickly, and while the single player modes are unlikely to keep you interested for long, multiplayer is where GGDL is going to shine. It’s even multitap compatible so up to four players can join in, either as a team or against each other.

The final match of the tournament is against the Elephants, who you might notice were not a team I could select. That’s because the tournament has fifteen matches and there were only nine teams to pick from, so there are a few extra ones that show up. It’s a shame I couldn’t select any of them. I would have definitely picked the Pegasus team.
I’ll be honest, the final match is something of a disappointment. Having matches in space and turning dodgeballs into swords shows that GGDL is hardly aiming for a tone of absolute realism, so for the final encounter to take place on a clay court in a kid’s playground is rather underwhelming. Doing battle on a disintegrating rock floating on the lava of an erupting volcano: that was the kind of thing I was hoping for, not being surrounded by children playing tag.
The Elephants themselves aren’t up to much, either. They seem to be able to knock your players out easier than the other teams, but aside from that they’re the same dodgeball players as ever. It does make you wonder, though: was the team already called the Elephants and their players all being on the chunky side is merely a coincidence, or did they name the team after they’d all gotten together and decided to to just lean into it?

“You Made It!” exclaim the cheerleaders, as they present you with a trophy that is surely far too grand for the winner of a dodgeball tournament. As the confetti falls and the crowd roars their approval, our plucky dodgeball heroes prepare to return to the cosmos that spawned them, content that another planet has been introduced to the majesty of the sport.

So yeah, that’s Go! Go! Dodge League. I had fun with it, but then I tend to enjoy super videogame-ified version of sports. Others will possibly not wrangle as much enjoyment from it as I did. It’s definitely got its flaws, and it’s nowhere as good as titles like Neo Turf Masters or Heavy Smash, but for a simple little dodgeball game with nice presentation, a decent soundtrack and plenty of multiplayer potential, it’ll do for me.



The great thing about writing about a Batman game is that I don’t have to explain who Batman is. He is, for want of a less overused expression, iconic. If you see the silhouette of a bat, you know that somewhere on the dark and lawless streets of Gotham City, a clown is getting his teeth knocked out. Today that never-ending ballet of violence is cast in the appropriately monochromatic tones of the Game Boy, with Konami’s 1993 I-am-the-Night-em-up Batman: The Animated Series!

In an effort to promote his brand, Batman has stitched the name of the game onto his cape. No, of course not, this is the logo for Batman: The Animated Series, the cartoon on which this adventure is specifically based. BTAS, as the cool kids most certainly do not refer to it, is the good Batman cartoon; the slightly darker, Art-Deco-ish, Mark Hamill as the Joker iteration of the Batman mythos.   It’s still probably my favourite version of Batman, so I’m looking forward to playing a video-game version of it.

Here’s Batman now, lurking in the shadows and scowling. As this makes up about eighty percent of being Batman, I feel it’s important that they included it in the game’s intro.
Actually, the intro is a rough recreation of the cartoon’s intro, a minute-long mini-adventure where Batman foils a bank robbery and then poses on top of a building, which is the other twenty percent of being Batman. The Game Boy version does a good job of recreating the show’s opening within the graphical limitations of the Game Boy, and there’s an excellent version of the cartoon’s theme music. Honestly, even if the game itself turns out to be terrible I’ll be glad I played it just to have heard a bleepier yet still atmospheric version of Danny Elfman’s classic Batman theme.

I’m not sure where these kung-fu fighters fit into the proceedings, mind you. This is a picture of two martial artists trying to flying-kick each other while a crowd of gangsters gathers around and flips them the bird, right?

Oh, I see, it’s the bit in the intro where Batman leaves the two tied-up bank robbers in the street. “They’re the police’s problem now,” thinks Batman as he scowls in the shadows on a rooftop. “I should get back to thinking up ways to kill Superman for some reason.”

Upon hitting start, you’re treated to a scene that sets up the first stage. Someone is making explosive teddy bears, presumably in an attempt to undermine Batman’s image as the Dark Knight when the public sees him running through the streets with a load of cuddly toys under his arm. Also, try not to look at that clown’s face for too long, because it’ll give you nightmares.
So, we’ve got clowns, laughter and exploding teddy bears. I wonder which villain could possibly be behind this nefarious scheme?

Calendar Man! I mean, The Joker! Obviously it had to be the Joker’s doing. While there are several DC Comics villains for whom “teddy bear bombs” would be a perfectly acceptable method of attack, I doubt that Toyman or The Dollmaker will be making an appearance in this particular Batman game.

The action begins, and within seconds you’re commanding the Caped Crusader to punch a clown. It’s little wonder I like Batman so much.
So, Batman: The Animated Series is an action-adventure platforming affair, as I’m sure you all expected it to be. In these early moments, it feels like a rather generic example of the genre. Batman walks and jumps and punches, and he does so in a very middle-of-the-road manner: not particularly agile, but also not plodding around the place like he’s just woken up after a Sunday-morning lie-in.

The aim of this first area is to find all the bear-bombs scattered throughout the stage. This isn’t difficult, because the level’s not very big and the bears aren’t that well hidden. They’re placed inside large, gift-wrapped boxes, for starters. How does Batman reveal the bear-bomb within? By punching the box, naturally This isn’t one of those Batman products where the World’s Greatest Detective does any actual detective work. For instance, the Joker gets in touch with Batman and explains his plan at the start of this stage. Batman will not need his Holmesian intellect to crack this case.

This isn’t just any action game hero, though. It’s Batman, and as such he should have some abilities that set him apart from the ordinary run of man otherwise he’s just a bloke in a Halloween costume. Well, he does have some special skills, the first of which is the ability to wall jump in a manner reminiscent of the NES Batman game. It’s the skill you’ll need to use the most in this game, so taking the time to master its complexities is vital. Those complexities mostly boil down to there being two different off-the-wall jumping distances, corresponding to how long you hold the button. Sometimes you will only need the short hop, so don’t forget it’s there.

As we move into the combination Build-A-Bear Workshop / bomb-making facility that makes up the later parts of the first stage, Batman gets the chance to show off his other most useful trick: the handy bat-grapple. Batman’s a close second to Spider-Man when it comes to superheroes known for swinging from a thread, so naturally he comes equipped with a grappling gun. There’s no swinging, though. Yes, as strange as it might sound the grapple gun only works vertically, and even then it’s only to grab onto certain ceilings. You can haul yourself up and down on the cable, but you can’t live out your Tarzan fantasies. The most common applications for the bat-grapple are leaping up through specific platforms to reach a higher level, or to pull Batman up, let go of the rope and use the aerial control you have over Batman’s horizontal movement to nudge him towards platforms below. That’s what I’m trying to do in the screenshot above: when I let go of the rope, I’ll be able to make Batman fall onto the right-hand platform. This lack of swinging might seem disappointingly limiting, but the vertical-only Bat-rope is integrated into the stages well and the lack of swinging eliminates any potential problems with awkward swinging physics and difficult-to-judge dismounts.

The bomb factory is attached to a Gothic mansion, because of course it is. This is Gotham City, after all. The only places in Gotham City that aren’t Gothic mansions are Wayne Tower and the sewers where Killer Croc lives. Inside the mansion are wall-mounted candles, so this being a Konami game I naturally tried punching the candles to see if power-ups would fall out. They did not, sadly.

You can’t blame me for trying, though. Just look at it! If you swapped Batman’s sprite for a bloke with a whip and a leather skirt you’d have no trouble convincing people that this was a Castlevania game.

You and I know both knew that the boss of this stage was going to be the Joker, even if the last few screens did make me think, if only for a very brief moment, that it might be Dracula. No, it’s definitely the Joker, he’s laughing at Batman and everything. He looks pretty good, too: recognisable as the character even when rendered in so few pixels, especially in motion when you can more clearly see that his mouth is opening and closing and he does not, in fact, have a yawning black void where his face ought to be.

The Joker’s battle plan is simple: he ducks into one of the hidden doors in the background while spawning a wave of exploding, ambulatory teddy bears. Your first task is to avoid the bears, something I found was most easily accomplished by grappling up to the ceiling and hiding up there until all the bears have blown up. Once they’re gone, the Joker will reappear for a moment, so you can swoop down and give him a smack. He’ll vanish again, summoning more bears, and so on and so forth. After the seventh or eight punch in the head, Joker will come to realise that his plan was, on the whole, a bit crap. Congratulations, Batman! You’ve saved Gotham City once again, and her citizens will rest easy for, oh, seven seconds or so.

The next stage introduces Mr. Freeze – you’d think he’d call himself Doctor Freeze, wouldn’t you? - and he takes his chance to mornge on about his emotional pain, blah blah blah. Listen, Freeze, we’ve all had tragedies in our lives but we don’t go around building ice guns, now do we? Maybe you should channel your negative emotions into something more worthwhile, like artistic expression or charity work or fighting crime while dressed as a flying mammal.

For his part, Batman responds with a very un-Batman-like pun. What is this, Batman and Robin? C’mon, Bruce, stick to the glowering. Also you appear to be talking to the Batmobile.

Oh, and the Scarecrow is there, too. Hello, Scarecrow! I’m sorry, but Batman doesn’t have a pun for you. If he did, I’m sure he’d say something like “as a creator of fear toxins, you’re outstanding in your field!”

The main point of stage two’s first area is to introduce and acclimatise Batman to a new type of threat: people with guns. The clowns in the first stage could sometime throw exploding bears, but on the whole they weren’t into projectile weaponry. These mobster love guns, though. They enjoy nothing more than standing still and firing bullets at head height, watching Batman slowly advance on them by ducking under their shots each time they fire. Whether they enjoy the following events – when Batman punches them so hard they disappear from this reality – is up for debate. Certainly, no-one’s ever returned from the Batman Punch Dimension, so it must be great.

Robin shows up, late. The time he missed will be docked from his wages, or at least it would if Batman paid him anything. Robin’s inclusion in the game is hardly surprising: he featured quite prominently in the original cartoon, to the point that he was pushed to the forefront and the show was renamed The Adventures of Batman and Robin. Whether this was intended to get people interested in Robin before Batman and Robin (the movie) was released, or because network execs decided what kids really wanted from their Batman cartoon was less Batman, I’m not sure, but here he is. Batman goes after Mr. Freeze while Robin tracks down Scarecrow, in what must be quite a blow to Scarecrow’s self-esteem.

And yes, you do get to play as Robin. There are three main differences between Batman and Robin. Robin has a smaller health bar, and when he grapples up to the ceiling he can move horizontally by swinging along like a kid on some monkey bars. Robin is also the only member of the Dynamic Duo to be harassed by floating pumpkins. But where are these pumpkins coming from?

Why, they’re coming from under the Scarecrow’s hat, of course. No, really, Scarecrow lifts his hat up and pumpkins fly out. I have to assume these are not literal pumpkins but are instead manifestations of Robin’s exposure to the fear toxin, although that implies the thing that Robin fears the most is jack o’lanterns. You’d think it would be faulty trapeze equipment.
This Scarecrow battle is a good example of how many of the boss fights in this game play out. The boss is briefly vulnerable, before deploying a set of projectiles or other hindrances and then disappearing for a short spell. Batman or Robin must avoid the projectiles until the boss reappears, during which time you can hit them. It’s simple, pattern-based gameplay of the most videogame-y sort, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the rogue’s gallery are as well-drawn and possess enough individual charm to make each battle feel less similar than they really are.

Back to Batman, who’s making his way through Mr. Freeze’s cryogenic lab. It’s trying to trick me into thinking it’s less linear than the other stages by sending me through various doors to reach the next part of the stage, but there’s still only one path. Let’s put it down to Batman being Batman and thus always knowing exactly where to go, shall we?
The big shake-up here is that the bad guys aren’t just shooting regular bullets at you: they’ve got ice weapons that will freeze Batman solid for a few seconds if he’s hit by them. This forces the player into a more cautious style of play. Getting shot with a regular bullet is an unfortunate but fairly commonplace consequence of being Batman, but being hit by a freeze ray is enough of a pain in the arse that you’ll go out of your way to avoid having to deal with it.

The fight against Mr. Freeze is a little different in that he doesn’t disappear, as such, but he does run away while his massive frosty laser beams bounce around the room, an attack I had an embarrassing amount of trouble avoiding given that they travel along a very predictable path. I was just too eager to punch Mr. Freeze, that was my problem. There’s really not much else to say about this one other than it reminded me of a Mega Man boss fight, but that might just be because of the way the segmented door closes behind you once you enter the room.

Moving on, and Poison Ivy has kidnapped Harvey Dent, who I guess hasn’t become Two-Face yet. Are we looking at a retcon situation, where Two-Face is created when a mutated venus flytrap eats half his face? Sadly not, and Harvey Dent isn’t even the point: Poison Ivy is merely using him as bait to lure Batman into a deadly game of whatever the botanical equivalent of cat-and-mouse is. I’m not especially worried. Any villain whose fiendish schemes can be thwarted by a big bucket of Weedol does not exactly inspire fear.

Then Catwoman shows up and drops a sick burn on Harvey Dent. I know that everyone is boring when compared to Batman, but you could have been a bit gentler on poor old Harv.

The next few areas see Batman making his way through Catwoman’s mansion. I say it’s Catwoman’s because its full of cats and oversized novelty cat-collar bells. She probably stole it from someone else, sure, but she’s put enough of her own stamp on it that I feel justified in calling it Catwoman’s mansion. A lot of it is also on fire, which isn’t very thematically appropriate but does mean that the focus of the action switches from fighting goons to navigating dangerous terrain. It’s a welcome change of pace that feels no less Batman-y than the stages that have come before it.

Here’s Batman with some teeny-tiny cats. They don’t do anything important, I just thought you might like to see Batman surrounded by kittens.

At several points during the stage, you have to fight Catwoman. It differs from most other boss battles because it’s a straight-up one-on-one fight – no gimmicks, no projectiles, just punching and kicking. Specifically, Batman tries to punch Catwoman and then get far enough away that her kicks can’t reach him, which is easier said than done because she’s got surprisingly long legs. Many was the time I thought I’d retreated to a safe distance, only for the tip of Catwoman’s boot to poke me in the eye. She’ll also jump off the back wall and over your head if you try to pin her in the corner, which is the only part of this fight that makes reference to Catwoman’s famed agility. She’s decided to go toe-to-toe with Batman, but as you fight her and she runs away, only to be waiting to do it again in a later part of the stage, it quickly becomes clear that she has no real intention of beating Batman and is doing this for fun. It’s an extension of Catwoman and Batman’s already BDSM-tinged relationship, a superhero 50 Shades of Grey. Well, 4 Shades of Grey, in this case.

“Nothing can stop me from saving Harvey, Selina. Not even our erotically-charged ballet of violence and sweet, sweet pain, two bodies honed to the peak of physical perfection wrapped in leather and latex passionately clashing again and again. No, I’m going to take a very cold Bat-Shower and then save Harvey. I’m definitely going. I’m leaving right now, Yup.”

Now Batman’s heading into Poison Ivy’s botanically-themed lair, a terrifying place of deadly mutated thorns, creeping grass that acts like a conveyor belt and, erm, walking palm trees. I’m sure those are supposed to be coconuts, but they don’t half look like an arse. Fortunately, you can put these waddling freaks of nature out of their misery with a well-placed punch or two. You wouldn’t think punching a tree would be all that effective, but then again you are playing as Batman.

This stage is where the design philosophy behind Batman: The Animated Series’s levels clicked for me. There are a lot of very deliberately-placed traps and enemies that require specific actions, or sequences of actions, to negotiate without taking damage, and as a result the gameplay is less action-oriented than you might expect. There are times when haste is the proper course of action, mostly when you spot an enemy that can be rushed down and eliminated before they have a chance to react, but on the whole this is a game that rewards a slower, more methodical style of play. Paying attention – usually something I struggle with – is key, and although it rarely gets more complicated than figuring out enemy movement patterns and safe landing spots, it all comes together well for two main reasons. One is that it feels like the way Batman would handle things. Superman may be said to have the morals of a Boy Scout, but Batman definitely has the “always be prepared” angle covered and a slower, more thoughtful approach is very much his thing. Then there’s the technical aspect – the Game Boy was not as well-suited to fast, rapidly-scrolling action as the home consoles of the time, so slowing things down prevents the system’s limitations from becoming too apparent.

As for the boss, you don’t fight Poison Ivy directly but rather (surprise surprise) a giant mutated plant. It’s one of those fights that feels difficult at first, but eventually the pattern clicks and it stops being a challenge. Vines appear from the ground, and you avoid them while closing the distance to the big plant. Once you've punched the big plant, a wave of vines will pop up, and the only way to avoid them is to run back to the left of the screen, where you go straight back into dodging vines and closing the distance to the big plant. Ivy will fire the occasional crossbow bolt at Batman, but on the whole it doesn’t really feel like her heart’s in the fight.

A succinct opening for the next stage: the Riddler and the Penguin have escaped from Arkham Asylum! Hang on, why was the Penguin in Arkham anyway? He’s just a mob boss. A mob boss with a pointy nose and a fixation on umbrellas, granted, but that hardly qualifies him for incarceration in a psychiatric institute rather than a regular prison. Of course, the real question is why anyone is sent to Arkham Asylum, a place that’s easier to escape from than a slightly awkward dinner with your new partner’s family.

When it’s a grown man leaping over rooftops and clobbering criminals while dressed as a bat?

The Riddler-themed part of this stage takes place in a series or rooms that would make Super Mario weep with envy for all the power-ups hidden in those question-mark blocks. There are also tiny Riddler dolls with knives for arms who want nothing more than to stab Batman in the shins. Batman’s appeared in so many crossovers that I’m sure Batman vs Puppet Master can’t be too far away, but for now we can mostly ignore the dolls and the roaming enemies that I think are supposed to be chess pieces and focus on the task at hand. That task is finding the correct route though the Riddler’s maze. Every room has at least one switch – and not a very well hidden switch, I should add – that Batman must punch in order to open the room’s exit. However, some rooms have multiple switches and exits, and only one path will lead you to the end of the stage. So, it’s a matter of trial, error and memorisation, or at least it is if you want to finish the stage quickly. Me? I didn’t have anything better to do, so I spent a while randomly hitting switches and travelling in loops until I eventually stumbled upon the correct order. Let’s pretend I did it just to annoy the Riddler, shall we? Ignoring his meticulously laid-out mental challenge and simply brute-forcing my way to the end seems like the kind of thing that would really piss the Riddler off. Consider it my revenge for having to do the Riddler’s Batmobile challenges in Arkham Knight.

The Riddler fight very much sticks to the usual pattern of “disappear and fire projectiles” school of combat, probably more so than any other boss fight because he actually disappears between attacks. When he’s visible, you’ve got the chance to land a single attack before he splits into four Riddler clones. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, because four Riddlers aren’t any more handy in a fistfight than one Riddler, but the clones will then turn into balls of energy and fly towards Batman. You can eliminate the clones by hitting them, but as you can see they’re well spaced out, so the key is getting rid of as many clones as you can. One or two clone-balls are easy enough to dodge, avoiding three is tricky but doable but having all four of them flying at you almost guarantees you’re going to take some damage.

Once the Riddler’s been dealt with, you’re back to playing as Robin in the game’s toughest and probably least fun challenge: a vertical chase against the Penguin as he flees to his waiting airship. There’s nothing hugely complicated about this section. You just have to get Robin to the top of the tower before the timer runs out by grappling to the ceiling above and swinging “through” the appropriate, traversable pieces of the scenery. It’s not even especially terrible to play. It’s just that after the slower approach of the rest of the game it’s a bit jarring for speed to suddenly be of the essence, especially when combined with a tight time limit and dismounting controls that are just sticky enough to be frustrating.

It doesn’t help that Robin’s daring chase is immediately rendered moot by Batman turning up and declaring he’s going to do all the work anyway. Thank, Batman. Robin can go and sit in the Batwing, reading the Gotham City A-Z and drinking Panda Pops like when your dad used to go to the pub and leave you in the car outside.

As Batman makes his way through Penguin's airship, beset on all sides by mechanical swans and the dread power that is hummingbirds – yes, you have to punch some hummingbirds, for pity’s sake – here’s something I really like about this game. Batman wears black, yeah? And thanks to the Game Boy’s four-colour display, a lot of the backgrounds are black. Thus, Batman tends to blend into the background. Normally this might be a cause for complaint, because being able to see your character is quite important, but in a Batman game it totally makes sense. Lurking in the shadows is Batman’s whole deal, and he’s easy enough to see when he’s moving that it’s not as much of an issue as some screenshots might suggest. I don’t know whether this effect is something Konami purposefully exploited to give the game a real Batman vibe or just a serendipitous accident, but it adds a lot of character to the visuals.

It’s time to fight the Penguin, who’s riding around on a flying duck, throwing umbrella bombs and generally trying to stay out of Batman’s way, which seems like a good strategy to me. The Batarangs came in handy during this fight, I must say. What’s that? I didn’t mention you can throw Batarangs? Well, you can. You can switch between Batarangs and punches with the select button. Robin even uses a slingshot instead, which is a nice touch. The problem is, the game seems to be deeply opposed to you using the Batarangs. You have to collect them before you can throw them, and Batarang power-ups are few and far between. On top of that, you can only carry nine of them at a time, they don’t do any more damage than a regular punch and the small dimensions of the Game Boy’s screen means that you’re never really that far away from the thing you want to damage. As a result, it’s entirely possible to forget that the Batarangs are even an option. Still, they were helpful here, with the Penguin floating just out of punching range.

A bad day for Batman and Robin gets even worse as the Batwing is shot out of the sky on the way back to stately Wayne Manor. Which fiendish villain could be responsible for this attack? I mean, I’ve punched most of the big names into unconsciousness already. Is it Maxie Zeus? The Clock King? Egghead?

Oh, it’s the Joker. Again. Arkham Asylum really isn’t fit for purpose, is it?

Check out the crashed Batwing, it’s a nice visual flourish in a game that has plenty of them: the falling snow in Catwoman’s stage is also good, as are the defeated poses most of the villains slip into when you beat them.

Rather than ending the game with one last full stage, Batman: The Animated Series draws to a close with a single boss fight against the Joker and his remote-controlled clownbot, a device that was rejected by Dr. Robotnik for being too impractical. It tries to fall on Batman’s head with its spiked underside, and it’s very easy to avoid and subsequently punch. It can also throw playing cards. These are also easy to avoid. It’s a bit of an anticlimax, honestly, but I’ll let the Joker off because his last criminal caper was only a few hours ago, so he’s hardly had the time to put together a truly fiendish master-plan. “I’ve got a clown-themed robot, so I’ll drop it on Batman’s head” probably seemed like a good idea on short notice.
So, you dodge the robot, punch it a few times and eventually it’ll fly up into the air and land on the Joker, teaching him a valuable lesson about never trusting clowns and bringing the game to a close.

For a game that had mini-cutscenes at every opportunity with accompanying (and rather good) art, it’s strange that the game’s ending is nothing but a few lines of text about how Batman and Robin are hungry and they’re going to get Alfred to make them some dinner. It’s not the content that’s the problem – two hard-working buddies talking about grabbing a bite to eat is a much more enjoyable conclusion than Batman standing on top of a building and monologuing about how he’ll never rid the city of crime – but I’m disappointed that there’s no artwork to go with it. Batman and Robin sitting down at the table in full costume while Alfred serves them from a silver platter, that's the kind of thing I wanted to see.
Batman: The Animated Series is a good game. Even though VGJunk was never intended to be a “review” site, I generally try to come to some kind of conclusion, and while those conclusions are usually a little bit more nuanced than this there’s little else I can say about BTAS. It’s just a good game. Solid, dependable, rarely frustrating, true to the source material and respectful of the limitations of the hardware on which it appears. It’s very similar to Ninja Gaiden Shadow in that regard, and both these games are two of the best action-platformers the Game Boy has to offer. Oh, and the soundtrack is great, too. What more could you ask for? Apart from useful Batarangs, I mean?

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