Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bat Castle (PC) (im9today)


The first area in Bat Castle presents an incoherent situation that's designed to kill you.

Every subsequent area in Bat Castle presents an incoherent situation that's designed to kill you.

I presently have no idea how to progress from where I am or if it's even possible. Maybe I just can't figure it out. Maybe I've wandered into an elaborate dead end that leads only to other elaborate dead ends. Bat Castle is a game about elaborate dead ends. It prods you to talk to all the dudes and push against the walls looking for secret passages, nearly all of which drop you into trap rooms which either don't have exits, contain comically fast-moving insta-kill enemies, or trigger huge, horrible graphics from the web that obscure most, if not all of your screen.
It knows it's hilarious, too. An early flashback explaining BEEFMASTER BOSSER's troubled past is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in a game. Every custom failure state is a labor of love. It's a mountain of funny garbage you plow through just to see the rest of the funny garbage, reloading your last save every 60 seconds.

A chunky, appealing pixel style is used for some of the tiles; others are just solid-colored squares or pure black. It's a bit like walking around in a scrambled, corrupted NES title, and it feels like a bit of a piss take of what playing those games was like--beating your head against impenetrable systems and labyrinths, getting stuck in a pit with no way out but the reset button. It's a mess. It's a mystery with no apparent answer. It recalls games that were allowed to exist as mysterious messes experienced only in fragments. It may help you recall how many of those baffling fragments were fascinating in ways that contemporary "polished" games aren't.

The first fight is going to kill you a lot. Figure it out. There seems to be barely any combat after that. It's like opening with some kind of hazing ritual. Just pretend it's a Final Fantasy boss fight and you'll make it through.

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