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Bat Boy – Review

Sonzai Games have made two excellent but quite different platform adventure games in Smelter and Super Sami Roll. Having enjoyed their 16-bit and 32-bit styled games, I was very curious to see their take on an 8-bit game. Bat Boy is that take and it feels fresh, invigorating and a challenge to complete whilst being fun. It did take me a good 15-20 minutes to click with the game though and that’s because it does some interesting things with its gameplay mechanics.

A lot of the trickier platforming sections involve constantly moving screens or transport. Expect to combo things!

Bat Boy is a teenager baseball player and when his friends are kidnapped in the opening cutscene, you dive through a portal to another world to get them back. Armed with a baseball bat, you can hit many enemies but you’ll be more likely to bat back their projectiles they throw at you. This requires timing and patience as if you try to bat and run, you’ll aim the projectile in the wrong place. The early levels place a lot of focus on this and I’m glad it did because it teaches you to not just run in bat blazing. The mechanic s of this work largely very well, although sometimes you don’t know what you can and can’t bat back until you’ve lost some HP. Instead of combat being tricky, it took me longer to get used to the precise platforming Bat Boy expects of you. You jump further the longer you hold the jump button and I struggled to get the balance right. After 15 minutes though, I was off and away enjoying myself so my advice to anyone who has a bit of a rough start is stick with it, it clicks! That said, I did run into more than a few deaths where a bounce that I felt should have worked didn’t, so be prepared for some fiddly platforming at times.

Every move underwater has a huge rebound so watch your oxygen meter carefully!

Each of your kidnapped friends is part of a teenage street superhero team, with their own powers and they become end level bosses to defeat. Doing so unlocks new moves to make Bat Boy a more rounded character and it opens up not just future levels, but previous levels too to be replayed and discover new areas. This Mega Man styled upgrade system works well once it gets going but it meant my first run through levels 1 and 2 felt a little like my character wasn’t equipped to deal with what I could see. It was a problem that sorted itself out very quickly though when I realised that replaying levels is recommended.

The new attacks or powers you earn really allows Bat Boy to shine. Throwing the bat allows it spin, opening traps, flicking switches, defeating enemies but you can also use it as a temporary platform to jump off of. You can use it as a stick bat to swing from walls and ceilings but you can also use it to pick off flying enemies. Then there is the air bubble that extends your breath underwater but also allows you to traverse unhurt on spikes for a few seconds. It is imaginative and rewards you using the right move at the right time as a lot of your special moves are tied to a quite stingy stamina bar. One of my few gripes about Bat Boy is that sometimes special moves are required and if you have been enjoying yourself too much, you’ll have used all your stamina before you really needed it and can find yourself in a dead end. This happened to me not just in a level but in the game as a whole too. You can buy health and stamina upgrades in the overworld shop and I’d invested in health over stamina. This meant when I hit areas of level 5’s lava and spikes for example, I was really disadvantaged and couldn’t really clear certain areas without having to walk on spikes, which now hurt me earlier as I had low stamina to start with. This meant I had to replay levels to grind a bit and come back later.

Pigs will run or fire all kinds of baseball things at you. They are like dirty jocks!

That niggle aside, Bat Boy is really enjoyable to play. It packs a challenge in the level design and it starts to love a platform move combo so it does become tricky towards the end. By constantly adding moves the game stays fresh as it rarely retreads any old ground. The 8-bit inspired graphics work a treat, with some lovely movement frames and the humour goes for the Saturday morning cartoon show vibe which hits the spot nicely. I also enjoyed the chiptune soundtrack from Evader Music who does another stellar job here. Fans of retro platformer, Mega Man games and indie adventures that aren’t hardcore but offer a challenge will find a lot to smile about here. Bat Boy is a homerun for retro platform adventures.

Review copy provided by publisher. PC version played.

Bat Boy
Final Thoughts
A fantastic aesthetic meets with fun and fresh baseball gameplay inside a retro platformer. Enjoyable.
Baseball mechanics are well implemented and constantly evolving, keeping gameplay fresh.
Great chiptune soundtrack.
8-bit visuals work really well.
Levels feel unique and offer different challenges depending on the new skills you unlock along the way.
Sometimes the platforming can be a bit fiddly.
If you prioritise upgrading health over stamina, you will have to grind to complete later levels unless you are highly skilled (and better than me).

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