Friday 3 June 2011

Super Bat Puncher (Demo) (NES)

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are sitting comfortably because this is a game that demands your attention.  It may only be a demo of a work-in-progress project, but even so, Morphcat's Super Bat Puncher is still one of the best retro titles I've played for a long, long time.
Being a weapon-based platformer that starts with the player being dropped into an alien world with little known about the protagonist (Roast) or his/her surroundings, it's easy to see similarities to Pixel's classic Cave Story from the outset.  This, however, should be considered a good thing - especially as Super Bat Puncher is one of the few games to not only ape the Cave Story formula with flair, but also to match the classic's charm, character and presentation as well as having the confidence to throw in some off-the-wall originality into the mix.  And of course, remember that this is a NES release we are talking about.
Actually, I had to keep on reminding me of this fact whilst playing - SBP is honestly so good that it beats most indie games on more modern platforms that I've played recently.  Everything about it surpasses commercial-era NES quality, with gorgeous pixel art, an amazing and varied soundtrack by tracker hero Dave Harris and gameplay and intelligent level design that showcases Julius Riecke's amazing attention to detail and sheer determination to force the humble 8-Bit console to perform to the standard that you'd expect from a machine with with considerably more power.
Without spoiling too much, the basic plot of SBP involves our hero landing on an alien planet following an attack on Earth and attempting to re-instate the guardian spirits that keep the titular Bats in check on their homeworld. A few screens in, you'll be introduced to Sir Loin, a chirpy little yellow-feathered fellow who also doubles up as an optional second player. This is in fact one of the best (and I'd imagine relatively underused) features of the game - Sir Loin is basically a jump-in character for a casual player to join in on your quest, similar to the second joypad controlling Tails in Sonic 2. However, with his unique ability to drop deadly guano on foes it is tempting to occasionally use him even when playing alone to dispose of bats and other critters out of Roast's normal attack range.
As you may have guessed from the name, Super Bat Puncher involves a lot of punching. You punch bats, cute bunnies, exploding little spiked monsters and treasure chests. After collecting a special ability about one-third into the demo you can even punch walls to make your character glide horizontally in the opposite direction. Wan't to remove a piece of destructible terrain? Punch a bat into it. Simply put, if in doubt punch it first and ask questions later.
The only downside of the game is that it's all over too soon and you are left hungry for more (the youtube video below shows that the main game demo can easily be completed in just over 10 minutes). Games of this quality don't turn up very often (especially not on the NES), so I really hope that Julius maintains the motivation to push development of Super Bat Puncher through to completion.  It would be a crime to leave such a promising release unfinished - it's just too much fun to be forgotten or left by the wayside! So, please download the game, and if you enjoy it (which you will) drop him an encouraging email via the address listed on his website contact page! :)
Download Super Bat Puncher Demo here (from the Morphcat website).
Run it using Nestopia (freeware).
5 out of 5

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