A game which has been debated a lot whether it was even in development for our beloved C64. Batman 3D was unreleated to the movie, and was an isometric Ultimate style game by Jon Ritman and Bertie Drummond. It got rave reviews on the Spectrum and Amstrad, and was only really bettered at Ocean by Head Over Heels by the same guys.
Although the C64 version of Head Over Heals did surface, very strangely Batman 3D did not. Head Over Heels was done much later by Colin Porch, so around the time of Batman 3D, Colin may have been at Software Projects. This rules him out for this conversion.
But what about any confirmation of actually anything planned?…. Well, Issue 13 (pg 92) of Zzap 64 had a column called “The Shadow”, with the following….
“ANOTHER MASKED CRUSADER TAKES TO THE BINARY BY-WAYS. Bat Man, the crime fighting entrepeneur of Gotham City whos truthseeking talents are akin to those of The Shadow, will shortly be appearing along with his raucous young chappie sidekick Robin, on the 64 courtesy of Ocean. Sadly Ocean’s binary interpretation is not based on the early seventies Neil Adams Bat Man – it is more of an ‘Adam West’ portrayal and takes place in a 3D Ultimate type world. The Caped Crusader cassette hits your screens in May (1986) at a price of £8.95”
This all but confirms that at least interest was made in a C64
conversion. But who was doing it? We are guessing that whoever was, could not get the conversion to run at good speed (As Head Over Heels also ran into speed issues which Colin did best to solve), and so it was cancelled and seen as an unviable conversion. Not all of the Ultimate games were converted to the C64, even though they did C64 titles. Were Isometric games
really that hard to do?… Well, on the evidence of Spindizzy…. not impossible.
Later in Zzap, quotes were made saying… “The only bad news is that Imagine/Ocean have announced there are no plans to release [the C64 version of] Batman or MOVIE [the isometric 3D games on the Spectrum] in the near future – due to programming problems.” . Ah ha… so again, another confirmation that the game was indeed in production, but also sadly confirming that it was a struggle with code that lead to its demise.
So, with this particular GTW entry, we are not looking for a complete game by any means… but possibly only a tech demo of sorts with maybe some ported graphics. Screenshots could likely be taken from the Spectrum, and be said C64 graphics. Chances of a coloured version like the Amstrad are unlikely… but you never know…. Maybe Ocean did attempt a full colour version before the days of porting Z80 to 6502 line by line.
Paul Hughes who worked at Ocean had this to add about the game, a coder’s perspective and about the viability of a conversion…
“64 Isometric Batman – doesn’t ring any bells with me – Gary B will no doubt have the inside dope on that (I think it was just before either Colin or Myself joined Ocean).
Isometric – in the style of HOH, Knight Lore and Batman was a pain in the ass for a 64 – as everything is bitmapped and masked and drawn by the processor (of which the 64’s 6502 was s-l-o-w) – the z80 on the spectrum was clocked faster and had the advantage of using the stack to “pop draw” the masked sprites.
Spindizzy, I believe used a clever combination of hardware sprites, character sets, and masking sprites of a lower priority than the charset to enabled the isometric blocks to occlude and clip against each other – I used a similar technique in my scrolling 64 spindizzy demo many moons ago. Worked perfectly for Spindizzy but it would be a huge stretch to get it to work precisely for something like Batman or HOH – too much sprite priority hell with not enough sprites!
Colin did it just like the speccy – fully bitmapped, masking everything which is why some screens on the 64 needed redesigning to speed things up.
All that said, Mike Webb pulled it off with hardware sprites on Solstice on the NES (bloody nice that was!)”
Well, after asking Gary Bracey about the game, he couldn’t remember much of the C64 version and was sure Colin did the game (Of course, Colin denied ever doing anything on the game)… So it seems possible to suggest that Jon Ritman had a go at converting the game to 6502 himself, but couldn’t get on with it. Jon did seem to say in an interview that they found it tough converting to the C64… so that could be a bigger indication if ever I saw one. We’d need to ask him directly though.
I feel that this game has a particular story to tell, and could be one to look out for. Is it likely we could find this more than Batman Returns?… Who knows… but the journey begins.
Can you help us find this game?…
Contributions: Gary Bracey, Paul Hughes, Colin Porch, Ross Sillifant