Let’s make one thing clear straight away. Bat Boy does not tell the tale of a pre-pubescent flying rodent. Instead, it follows a baseball bat-wielding leader of a young sports-themed sentai hero group. Which is arguably a crazier idea for a game than the one I previously mentioned. Accompanied by the loudmouth crow Garou, Bat Boy must rescue his entire team from the brainwashing clutches of the evil Lord Vicious.
When I saw that Sonzai Games were involved, I got extremely excited. They previously produced Super Sami Roll, which is an incredibly cute little 3D platformer. It has challenging platform designs and some great fluid movement. Whilst this new offering is a retro 8-bit 2D platformer, the best attributes of their previous work have been transferred over quite nicely.
Comes out swinging
Movement in this game is superbly executed. It isn’t as twitchy as something like Super Meat Boy, but the character onscreen is very responsive. As expected, the baseball bat has a multitude of uses, as any good weapon should. Initially, it can be used to knock enemies out and hit any projectiles back to whoever fires them off. You know. The usual actions one would expect from carrying around a baseball bat.
As the game progresses, a surprising amount of traversal moves can be coaxed out of it though. Charging up a throw and launching it in front of you, and then using it as a springboard to get higher for example. Even hitting an enemy from above results in a bounce upwards. This offers some secret bonuses if done right at certain points. Likewise with hitting projectiles back. They can be subtly redirected, so keep a look out for half-hidden switches and other things to interact with from afar. This makes backtracking through previous levels looking for collectables a fun and valid pursuit.
I think this is one of the strongest parts of Bat Boy. Combining the platforming and fighting aspects of the game into a smooth experience. The player is going to be using the bat to zip all over the levels, so why not incorporate that movement and skill set into combat too? Many platformers get dragged down to a stop with their clunky and ill-thought-out combat mechanics.
No-one left behind
As Bat Boy journeys through the land of Stratoss, the player must go up against the minions of Lord Vicious. Many of which seem to be sentient pigs in a variety of costumes. A slightly odd choice in my opinion, unless I’m missing the link between them and baseball. Each level is usually capped off with a boss battle, either a direct lackey of Lord Vicious or a brainwashed member of the hero group.
After being defeated, the then-cured team members hang out in the local tavern. A few other things can be done here, but it’s mainly a chill-out spot. Alongside the tavern, there are also merchants that are used to upgrade the players’ health. This is done by either finding or buying seeds across the levels and then trading those in for additional health fragments. This really comes in handy during the extended boss fights.
The seeds I mentioned are one of the few collectables scattered around. Each level has three of them to find, alongside a tape that can be found too. The collected tapes are then playable in the jukebox back at the tavern. As much as I enjoy collectables, I prefer those that actually have some use outside of just something the player can hoard.
Style and substance
The 8-bit aesthetic is, of course, a stylistic choice rather than one made out of necessity. That being said, I always have a deep respect for pixel artists who use defined limitations effectively in their art. Creating good-looking games with such a limited colour palette can be difficult. Luckily, Bat Boy is a visual treat. All of the heroes have their own distinctive designs, all of which are informed by their respective sports. Levels range from lush jungles to haunted mansions, each with its own colour scheme. The overworld map, in particular, is great to look at and is even similar to the one in Super Sami Roll. It’s clear that this was the inspiration for the look of Bat Boy.
In summary, Bat Boy is a tidy little 8-bit platformer. It has tight controls and inventive battles and plenty of replayability value thanks to the speed-running capabilities built in. I’m personally not great at speed-running, so this doesn’t really interest me. For those who enjoy it though? I think it’ll keep them busy for a while. At the time of writing it is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4/PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S. It also plays well on Steam Deck, which is where I played it for the purpose of this review. To watch a video version of this review click below!
Disclaimer: A code was provided for this game to aid in writing this review.