Batman goes bat-mobile on Game Boy

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The original Game Boy was a formidable beast in both stature (industry) and stature (physical size), but it did have a little problem. It seems to me like a lot of developers missed the point of this thing, making a ton of fast-moving stuff with big, complicated graphics that may seem fine when played on a modern emulator (or, better yet, the 3DS), but on the actual hardware everything gets blurrier than the band Blur performing an in-store at Specsavers (I bet you're really proud of that one, aren't you? - Ed).

It's my personal experience that much of the Game Boy's library barely accounts for the limitations of the system, with the aforementioned smearing and chronic slowdown, not to mention sprite flicker. It's one of the reasons that Sunsoft's terrific handheld take on Batman - which turned thirty just yesterday - remains one of my favourite portable games. I suppose it could be a little jarring if you're familiar with Batman through his many comics, cartoons and movies. In Game Boy Batman, you see, the chiroptera-themed vigilante has no qualms with using a gun to blast The Joker's minions into an early grave. Joe Chill? This version of Batman has no chill.

It's all quite simple, with you taking the Caped Crusader through a very poor facsimile of the hit 1989 Tim Burton movie, shooting and platforming your way through familiar locations that in way resemble their cinematic counterparts. Everywhere you go you'll find bricks you can either break or stand on - much like Super Mario Land, in fact - some of which contain power-ups to enhance Batman's gat or give him bonuses like a shield of deadly batarangs. I mean, I assume they're batarangs. They could just be live bats, which is fairly nightmarish.

It's all very enjoyable, well-designed and challenging stuff, and crucially it's a perfect fit for the Game Boy. The graphics are extremely simplistic, yes, but this means there's more than enough clarity, they barely blur and you won't lose lives to anything besides your own ham-fisted incompetence. It's a cartridge that utterly suits its host hardware. Yes, it's basic stuff, but that's what Nintendo's handheld did best. Super Mario Land had the smallest Mario you ever did see. Tetris didn't do anything more than it needed to. The early days of the Game Boy were salad days, my friends. Back before they were cramming the likes of Battletoads, Mortal Kombat or even the later Batman games such as Batman: The Animated Series onto a system that simply wasn't suited for them.

With the Game Boy, the more minimalist or abstract a game looked, the better. Of course that rule doesn't apply universally, but nobody wanted a Game Boy to play crappy, cut-down attempts to replicate the home console experience. We wanted damn good games designed to play on the go, and Batman: The Video Game delivered just that. It's better even than the NES version, and in my view one of the very best licensed games on Nintendo's celebrated handheld. I'd go to bat for it any day! Guffaw!