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Bat Boy Review: Foul Ball (PC)

Bat Boy is sports-themed action platformer with a fantastic 8-bit aesthetic and a wonderful soundtrack. While featuring some interesting mechanics and characters, Bat Boy fails at a technical level due to a slew of game breaking bugs and frustrating level design.

Bat Boy Review: Foul Ball

Bat Boy is a sports themed 2D action platformer inspired by the many classic 8-bit NES titles from yesteryear. Playing as boy with a baseball bat, Bat Boy easily takes the cake for most creative platformer concept in recent memory. There is a lot to like here — there are many bright and eccentric characters, themed stages, and secrets to uncover in each and every level. Unfortunately, Bat Boy is not who you want on your team. Between the extreme difficulty spikes, frustrating level design, and game-breaking bugs, Bat Boy is more of a foul ball than a home run. 

Bat Boy is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S for $14.99.

Bat Boy Gameplay Trailer

Story: Bat Boy and His Sporty Friends

As soon as you start up Bat Boy, it’s like a Saturday morning cartoon. You play as Ryosuke, a high schooler in Japan who loves to play sports with his pals. By day, Ryosuke & company are simply student athletes. But by nightfall, each students becomes a crime-fighting superhero that utilizes the power of their favorite sport. It’s reminiscent of Super Senkai shows like Power Rangers; a seemingly innocent group of students that don costumes to save the world. 

Chaos ensues when Lord Vicious rolls into town and easily subdues all of Bat Boy’s friends. Now Bat Boy, the only one left that hasn’t been subjugated by the evil Lord Vicious, is teleported to a strange land and has to save his friends. It’s not complex, but the setting for this adventure doesn’t need to be. For the most part, it’s a jovial, curious tone that acts as a means to an end. Have Bat Boy face off against his friends to break their mind control, and combine your efforts to defeat Lord Vicious at the end! There’s plenty of jokes along the way, thanks to a talking parrot that tags along for the ride. Again, it’s a light hearted adventure and an admittedly unique concept.

Bat Boy and his pals meeting the evil Lord Vicious.

Bat Boy and his pals meeting the evil Lord Vicious.

One nice feature is that Bat Boy has a speed run mode. This mode has a built in timer and automatically skips all of the cutscenes and dialogue in the game. There’s a surprising amount of chatting, so this is definitely a great feature for replaying the game or those that want to speedrun Bat Boy.

Gameplay: Throwback to Classic Action Platformers

Bat Boy plays, as you may expect, like Mega Man on the NES. The big difference between something like Mega Man and Bat Boy is the weapon. Bat Boy relies on his trusty bat to not only defeat enemies, but also to traverse each stage. The most interesting mechanic, in my opinion, is the ability to whack incoming projectiles back at their sender with your bat. This opens up a host of new stage layouts and light puzzles that you don’t typically see in action platformers. The bat also allows Bat Boy to bounce off of enemies and stage props, similar to the spade in Shovel Knight. It plays a pivotal role in the gameplay, but also requires precise timing and skill to pull off. There are some levels where you’ll need to repeatedly bounce on slow-moving cannonballs to cross chasms, or time your jumps to avoid deadly traps. 

Bat Boy has a unique twist on the action platformer genre, but ultimately fails due to bugs and a frustrating difficulty curve.

Bat Boy uses his bat to send projectiles back into the enemy!

Long Levels With Secrets

After a short introduction, Bat Boy is immediately thrown onto a stage selection map. At first, you’ll only have a couple of stages to pick from but more will unlock as you progress. One thing to keep in mind is that the levels in Bat Boy are long. Some of the stages in the first half of the game often took me upwards of 15 minutes just to get to the boss. By the end of Bat Boy’s adventure, every level seemed like an impenetrable gauntlet of skill and luck. Fortunately, Bat Boy has unlimited attempts once he enters a stage, and there are checkpoints that will refill his health and stamina along the way. At first, Bat Boy only has 3 blocks of health and 3 blocks of stamina. Thankfully the health and stamina bars are expandable by finding hidden seeds in each level. 

There are hidden pets on some levels... Yes, you can pet the dog!

There are hidden pets on some levels… Yes, you can pet the dog!

Every level has a number of secrets scattered throughout, such as the seeds I just mentioned. Even from the beginning, I was finding false walls or subtle indications of hidden treasure chests or items. By utilizing your bat and abilities as movement tools, Bat Boy has a surprising amount of mobility to reach every corner of the screen. 

Bat Boy is at its best when it brings new ideas. Sometimes I would be going through a level and stop to reflect on how I was going to make it to the other side of the room with the resources I had. The most interesting level, and the one that took me the longest, was the Haunted Mansion. I was immediately reminded of the haunted houses in Super Mario World. It’s a maze of different rooms with unique enemies like mimics, and even some puzzles to solve! 

The Haunted Mansion level has a number of tricks that you'll need to deal with.

The Haunted Mansion level has a number of tricks that you’ll need to deal with.

Use Sporting Goods to Take Out Your Enemies

As you make your way through the levels and rescue your friends from Lord Vicious, they’ll teach you new abilities. These abilities use a block of your stamina bar, so you’ll need to be careful when you want to use them. Unfortunately, most of the weapon skills are nearly useless except for niche situations. For example, Basketeer teaches you Trick Shot. I don’t think I used this ability once after I learned it. On the other hand, the Bubble Shield from Aquaria comes is beyond useful because it grants a few seconds of invincibility. In fact, I don’t think I would have beat the game without it! I used it on numerous boss fights, as well as to skip some of the more annoying stage obstacles. It will be very useful in the speedrun mode, I’m sure!

Many of the enemies you’ll encounter are called Pigzies, which are funny little pigs in various sports gear. There are tennis Pigzies that will serve tennis balls at you, hockey Pigzies that will skate towards you and attempt to check you, and American football Pigzies that can break certain blocks. None of these enemies are hard to handle in a vacuum, but each room typically has other hazards that you’ll need to contend with.

At one point, Lord Vicious sends Goo Clones after you that mimic your movements.

At one point, Lord Vicious sends Goo Clones after you that mimic your movements.

Frustrating and Uneven Difficulty Curve

While I consider myself fairly proficient at 2D platformers, Bat Boy was a test of my willpower at points. This is partially because Bat Boy has an uneven difficulty curve with wildly difficult rooms, stages, or bosses scattered throughout the overall experience. I don’t mind the game being difficult. Shovel Knight, for example, is a difficult game but it eases the player along with slightly tougher challenges over time. That is not the case with Bat Boy. For example, the Nuts & Bolts stage took me over 50 attempts to complete and I only ended up beating it because the boss, Blazing Star, got stuck in the wall. Compare that to the 10th stage, Ivory Palace, and it was relatively easy to cruise through and took less than 10 attempts with the boss included. 

One particularly difficult section was in the lava themed level and had Bat Boy riding a boat across a lake of lava. Of course, there was an immortal shark leaping at you from the bottom, football Pigzies charging from the side, bats flying in once you get close to them, and lava droplets raining down on your boat. Enemies and environmental traps come at you from all sides! Additionally, some aspects simply require trial and error. You may not be able to hit some projectiles with your bat, or enemies may come bolting out from the side of the screen without any indication. Practice makes perfect in these cases, but it sure feels like a way to cheapen the difficulty. 

The boat in question. This part took awhile!

The boat in question. This part took awhile!

Bugs and Glitches Hamper the Experience

Unfortunately, Bat Boy is plagued by game breaking bugs and odd behaviors from enemies, bosses, stages, and even the player character. With the levels being long and filled with, quite frankly, frustratingly difficult sections, it is so disheartening to have to close out of the game and restart the level due to Bat Boy getting stuck. This happened to me at least 10 times, and each time I had to take a break from the game. I lost all of my motivation and will to play, and that is not an exaggeration! 

The bugs got worse the further along I got. There is one level with electrical beams that can only be avoided by precisely timing your jumps. There were multiple instances where I had to restart the level due to Bat Boy falling through the floor and the pause button not responding. I was forced to close out of the game entirely, and then restart the level. I’ve been informed that the latest patch fix a number of bugs, but I’m still encountering problems that are halting progress or wasting time. I know bugs can be patched, and I have all the faith in the teams at X PLUS and Sonzai Games. However, I just can’t shake the feeling that Bat Boy could have used more time in the oven to clean up these mishaps.

He's stuck in the wall. Quick, kill him!

He’s stuck in the wall. Quick, kill him!

Graphics/Audio: Imaginative Visuals and Fantastic Music

The visuals in Bat Boy are some of the best NES inspired sprite work I’ve seen. According to the game’s Kickstarter page, Bat Boy uses a modified color palette known as Smooth FBX. This gives Bat Boy a super retro look, but it really comes together in action. The backgrounds, enemies, and animations are all top-notch.

Likewise, the music is fantastic. It’s a mix of 8-bit chiptune melodies, so it really meshes with the retro-style graphics. My favorite track is from the Molten Mines, which has an absolutely epic metal track with a hard and fast bassline. Other stages aren’t as memorable, but there were no stages with bad music. The sound effects are similar, they’re functional and not offensive to the ears like other retro-style games.

The Basketeer has a particularly ominous environment.

The Basketeer has a particularly ominous environment.

Does It Run on Steam Deck?

As of writing this, Bat Boy is not verified for the Steam Deck. In terms of framerate, controls, and performance, Bat Boy ran flawlessly for me on Valve’s handheld PC. In fact, it’s how I played through the entire game. However, as of right now there is no support for Steam Cloud saves. It’s best to check Valve’s list of verified games for new updates regarding this functionality. 

Bat Boy was reviewed on Steam and a review key was provided by X PLUS

Batboy attempts to mimic the success of other retro-styled action platformers like Shovel Knight, The Messenger, and Shantae. Unfortunately, it is a flawed game that is marred by numerous game breaking technical bugs, wildly sporadic difficulty, and uneven mechanics. There are elements of a good game here, and some may be able to look past its problems. However, if you are looking for a polished and satisfying adventure, it is look elsewhere.
  • Beautiful art direction and really creative stage themes.
  • Music is fantastic!
  • Secrets strewn throughout the levels provided a reason to explore and experiment.
  • Speedrun mode is a fun addition.
  • Game breaking bugs hampered the entire experience.
  • Some of the skills felt useless, or not worth the stamina cost.
  • The difficulty curve was all over the place. Some levels/bosses were easy, others took over 50 attempts.

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