From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random games back into the light. This week, Gotham City calls out for a hero, a champion. But since Christopher Nolan is busy…
BATMAN: Urgh. Head… spinning. What… happened?
RIDDLER: Riddle me this, Caped Crusader. How do you get to a green question mark when it has been placed somewhere slightly inconvenient? Heeheee! Oh, what fun we shall have tonight.
BATMAN: Not this again. It’s been multiple Arkham games, Edward. Don’t tell me you still need to be told the difference between ‘riddles’ and ‘wasting everyone’s time’. Wait. This isn’t Arkham. It’s all bright and colourful, not dark and gritty. It doesn’t smell like a sewer, even. Where… are we?
RIDDLER: Where? Oh, World’s Greatest Detective, wrong question! When! “When?” is the question, and the answer… I would hate to waste my talent devising a convoluted way of leading you to it, so I shall merely state it outright! You thought you were returning to the scene of one of your triumphs in Arkham Origins. Instead, my associate and I have brought you here, to the eve of your greatest humiliation.
BATMAN: You can’t mean…
RIDDLER: Yes! Welcome back to Joel Schumacher hell!
BATMAN: This does explain the Bat Nipples.
TWO FACE: Nothing can explain the Bat Nipples.
RIDDLER: Yes, it is a sidescrolling beat-em-up! Would you care for a keyboard, or a gamepad?
TWO FACE: Fate, and my coin will decide. Scratched side. Keyboard.
BATMAN: I am not entirely shocked.
RIDDLER: Oh, but you shall be, Batman! Let the torture commence.
BATMAN: Just tell me it’s not by LJN.
TWO FACE: What? No! God no, of course not. We’re not complete monsters.
RIDDLER: It’s from Acclaim.
BATMAN: Ugh. And my parents dying just became the third worst thing to happen to me.
TWO FACE: Including that time Bane snapped your back like a twig?
BATMAN: Good point. Fourth.
TWO FACE: I will take it as a personal insult if the Batman is defeated by some guy named Phil.
RIDDLER: Tell me, Batman. Why did you not play as Robin?
BATMAN: I’m Batman.
RIDDLER: I know, but why did you not play as Robin?
BATMAN: I’m Batman.
RIDDLER: I know, but why did you not play as Robin?
BATMAN: I’m Batman.
RIDDLER: I know, but why did you—
TWO FACE: The next person to speak gets the other’s testicles shoved down their throat.
RIDDLER: Feeling a little uncreative today, are we, Crappy Crusader? Batman! Batman! Does whatever a Spider-Man can! Only not as well, obviously. And Utility Belt or not, don’t think I didn’t notice your grappling hook coming out of your Bat Crotch.
BATMAN: It’s harder than it looks.
RIDDLER: That’s what she— No. No, too easy. Too easy by half!
BATMAN: The controls of this game are beyond terrible, and not Batman Beyond, because that was quite a good show even after being renamed Batman of the Future by idiots somewhere. I can shoot my grapple to the top left and upper right, but not straight up through the… wait a minute, since when did Arkham Asylum have giant holes in its floors instead of stairs?
TWO FACE: Please. If Arkham wasn’t full of holes, it wouldn’t be Arkham.
RIDDLER: Assholes, mostly. And a point goes to Riddler.
BATMAN: I don’t understand. I press the grappling hook button, but it doesn’t stick to anything. Or if it does, it’s the side of a hole, and I just keep swinging from it. Fine. You win, Riddler. You’ve wanted to prove you were smarter than me all these years, here’s your chance. How does the grappling hook work?
RIDDLER: Hahaha! Oh, Defective, I would never make things so easy. In fact, I shall taunt you with your own pitiful ignorance! Behold, my most soul-destroying riddle of ALL TIME!
BATMAN: You don’t know, do you?
RIDDLER: Uh-huh, no clues! Sugar? Have you seen the manual? Just for Bats, of course.
TWO FACE: This article’s budget isn’t high enough for a Drew Barrymore cameo.
RIDDLER: But… but she was in Beverly Hills Chihuahua!
BATMAN: Found it. You have to press the grappling hook and then immediately press up, despite that being only slightly less inconvenient than having to slam yourself in the balls with a hammer.
RIDDLER: Seriously? That’s really dumb… as I knew all along, of course!
BATMAN: Of course you did.
TWO FACE: Don’t look at me. I wanted to do a villain team-up with King Tut.
RIDDLER: I heard he’s rolling in it these days. What’s he been running?
TWO FACE: Pyramid scheme.
TWO FACE: Batman, I have two personalities, and both of them are bored with you. WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG FOR YOU TO BEAT PEOPLE UP? THIS IS WHAT YOU DO! IT’S YOUR THING!
RIDDLER: And what’s with the jiggling around and rapid-punches like you’re in Mortal Kombat?
BATMAN: This is Mortal Kombat, only without fatalities! Punches, uppercuts, everything. They’ve given me six buttons worth of moves, and normally, I would approve. But they’ve also given regular mooks big health bars, so Bat-fighting still takes forever even when Bat-delivering Bat-punches.
TWO FACE: Has anyone ever told you not everything you do, say, or make needs to be Bat-branded? We know who you are. And this is the guy who gets tailored suits to match his scar telling you this.
RIDDLER: How does a developer spend so much time on controls, and yet suck so hard at the basics of getting from one level to another with a grappling hook?
RIDDLER: That wasn’t a riddle. I was just agreeing it was stupid.
TWO FACE: My second thoughts are having second thoughts about our plan, Riddler. How long is this terrible game? I can’t be here all night, I have two crimes to pull off before dawn. Appearances, you know.
RIDDLER: Eight levels, it says here. From Arkham Asylum to the Batcave to the Gotham sewers.
BATMAN: Sewer levels. My god.
RIDDLER: All the way to a final boss fight with me, in which I’m a steroid-pumped monster for a while. That sounds good. I don’t usually get to be a badass, or even remembered as anything other than “And Riddler was there too.” I’ll play a tape of it so Brucie here can see the horrors he has to look forward to.
TWO FACE: Wait, what did you just say?
RIDDLER: Batman. I said Batman, obviously.
TWO FACE: How far did we get?
RIDDLER: …seven minutes. Wow, that was boring.
BATMAN: I expect the ending is good. The part where both of you are defeated. By me.
RIDDLER: Bet you it’s just a text scroll.
TWO FACE: Enough! Riddler, remove the game! Eat the game!
TWO FACE: This was your imbecilic plan! EAT THE GAME!
BATMAN: Well, thank you gentlemen. I particularly enjoyed the part where Nigma here gave himself an accidental tonsillectomy with a broken CD. However, if you have had your fun, I do believe it is time for me to escape, beat you up, and—
TWO FACE: Not so fast, Batman! You forget who you are talking… two.
BATMAN: No, it’s pretty easy to remember. The clue is the two faces.
TWO FACE: No, see, I pronounced it with a ‘w’ in it. It was a pun. You’d have picked up on that, if I wrote it down rather than simply saying it.
BATMAN: But you didn’t.
TWO FACE: I thought you’d get the idea. Should I have made little quote marks in the air for you? It’s not like my schtick is complicated. Do you have to ask the Mad Hatter, “Hey, man, what’s with the hat?”
RIDDLER: I got it first time!
TWO FACE: Shut up! Honestly, that guy.
BATMAN: Tell me about it.
TWO FACE: Anyway, as I was saying—SURPRISE! Batman Forever: The Arcade Game!
BATMAN: Another side-scrolling beat-em-up. Of course.
RIDDLER: I’m sorry, what was that? I was distracted by the GIANT LOGO. And I’m the guy who put a big question mark in the clouds! Feeling unrecognised, Batman? Or should I say Fatman? Dinner-dinner-dinner-dinner…
BATMAN: Never heard that one before. It’s important that criminal scum like you know who to fear.
TWO FACE: Quite. We’d never know who the guy dressed as a bat was if not for the GIANT LOGO. That doesn’t actually look much like a bat, now I come to look at it properly.
RIDDLER: Not very aerodynamic. Looks more like a splat on a windscreen.
TWO FACE: Splat-Man!
BATMAN: Also not original.
RIDDLER: I think you’ve messed up, Harvey. This one looks much better than the last one. At least he’s able to kick and punch people… and by people, I mean ‘my goons’, so thanks for that. Thanks so much.
TWO FACE: Yes, this does look a lot like… oh, what was that arcade game?
RIDDLER: Every single arcade machine in the ’90s that wasn’t a rail shooter or Street Fighter 2?
TWO FACE: That’s it. Teenage Mutant Whatever Turtles, X-Men, The Simpsons…
BATMAN: If it helps, it’s worse than all of them.
RIDDLER: It does, a little. Thank you.
TWO FACE: What’s wrong with it? It looks fine from here.
BATMAN: Enemies stun lock and beat me up constantly, but fighting back is a mess of arms and legs and bouncing pick-up icons and everything jumping around that means never getting a proper rhythm going. At least some of my attacks are pretty cool. Like this one:
RIDDLER: Holy shit! Whatever happened to no killing?!
BATMAN: It’s a stun grenade.
RIDDLER: IT’S A THERMAL DETONATOR!
BATMAN: Set to stun.
TWO FACE: Joker was right to wonder. Where DO you get these wonderful toys?
BATMAN: I just pick them up from the ground. Batarang, stun grenade, grappling hook—
RIDDLER: Still not working for you, Bats. You just look like you’re about to go “WheeEEEEEEEEE!”
TWO FACE: There’s something deeply cathartic about watching Batman be repeatedly killed, come back to life, and killed again. Especially by one of those ladies in green mini-skirts who look a bit like a guy crossplaying Rogue from the X-Men. Even if he does get up again afterwards, the spoilsport.
BATMAN: The war against crime is never-ending.
RIDDLER: See how that goes after three Continues. Boom!
TWO FACE: Also, is it my imagination, or are those goons you’re kicking about half your height? Not very sporting, Batman. I approve.
BATMAN: It’s a random power-up. Sometimes I look down and it’s me who’s mysteriously shrunk.
RIDDLER: Yes, Catwoman mentioned you liked to use that excuse.
BATMAN: That was a really cold night. Shut up.
TWO FACE: So, Batman! You have finished the game! Do you feel your soul broken? Does your pitiful life scream for release in the knowledge that never again will you know true joy?
BATMAN: Not really. It just wasn’t very good. At all.
RIDDLER: Is that it? There was this guy on YouTube who sounded like it killed his parents.
BATMAN: Hardly. That, a moment of pure despair that can only be temporarily assuaged by dressing up as the ultimate S&M club patron and punching the mentally ill. This, a pair of crappy ’90s brawlers. I think I know the difference, and not just because my parents are dead. By the way, my parents are dead.
TWO FACE: I told you we should have just shot him.
RIDDLER: But how will anyone take us seriously if we don’t do it with a gimmick?
TWO FACE: Oh, get a clue yourself for once. We’re villains. We can lie.
BATMAN: Uh-huh. In semi-related news, I just broke free of my bonds and am now going to punch both of you until you start wishing I didn’t have a no killing rule.
BATMAN: It’s okay. You’ll be in traction for a few months, but my good friend Bruce Wayne will make sure you have a TV in your private room at Gotham General. Oh, and while we’re at it, boys, how about you riddle me this: how will you be enjoying your autographed copies of Batman and Robin during your stay?
TWO FACE: On… DVD?
RIDDLER: On VHS?
BATMAN: On a loop. It may not be Batman Forever… but I guarantee it’ll feel like it.
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