Some developers still make extremely short arcade-style 2D sidescrollers. One new example of this is BATS, which stands for Bloodsucker Anti-Terror Squad. Yes, that’s a bacronym. Yes, I know that’s probably not technically a real word, but it should be. The BATS is up against a GI Joe Cobra parody called STING, which has probably been done before. The game takes about an hour and is simplistic and not entirely interesting, truth be told. It’s mostly well put together, though, and it contains some laughs, so it’s not all bad.
BATS starts with you playing as one of the game’s five characters: Count Bloodvayne. I never thought I’d see a Mudvayne reference in a video game, but here we are. The rest of the count’s team has been kidnapped by Scorpion, the leader of STING, and it’s up to Roxanne to put on the red light. The game has five stages. Once you beat the boss of the first four, you’ll unlock the other four characters for that playthrough, and future ones, in whichever order you feel like.
Bloodvayne and two other characters have an extremely short-range basic attack, while the remaining two are quite different. There’s the comedically named Rick Ghastley, who is no stranger to love. He has a shotgun that can fire twice and needs to be reloaded. He’s the worst character in the game by a wide margin, and playing as him can make levels much much harder than they would be otherwise. Do not play as Rick Ghastley. The best character in BATS is a Blade parody named Sgt. Sabre, who has the best melee range in the game and the most broken special attack. It’s so broken it can be used to completely trivialize the fifth level.
Bury me now and say it’s the end
Each character in BATS has a special move. One character, for instance, has a divebomb attack that uses up a chunk of the blood gauge. Blood is found in crates and is dropped by killing enemies. Y’know, cuz it’s blood, goddammit. Sgt. Sabre’s special requires you to fill up your blood meter to max, at which point he starts spinning with his machete and doesn’t stop till you run out. You can extend this by picking up more blood. There are multiple sections in the game that you can just go straight through with this. It’s laughably unbalanced.
You can even start the final boss level while spinning and end up getting through at least a good chunk of the “fight” with it active. Speaking of levels, they’re a pretty basic affair. They’re broken up into sections, and you move to the right until you get to the next one. There are no lives because it’s 2021 and this game wasn’t made by Nintendo, so you start over from the last section when you die.
The level design in BATS mostly reminds me of ’80s arcade games. Each one has you navigating floors of a building, and you’re mostly just going through and looking for the exit. Enemies show up along the way and all die in a single hit. On top of your special move, the blood gauge can also be used for a dodge and an attack that rips your opponent’s head off and allows you to throw it afterward. Blood basically works like the rings in Sonic; if you get hit, you lose all your blood save for a tiny bit, which you can pick back up.
Gallons of the stuff
Levels aren’t just about running straight through, mind you. There are yellow and black barriers separating floors that you need to make your way past. If you jump into them, you get extra air. If there are multiples in a row, you can basically fling yourself all the way to the top, which is ideal. Similarly, you can perform a stomp to break one under you. Occasionally, there are computers you have to break to open doors in mazes. The level design isn’t creative or particularly enjoyable; it’s workmanlike. You also have to run from hazards on a couple of occasions, which can take some memorization due to the aforementioned mazes.
Once you get to the end of each level in BATS, you fight a boss. Well, save for the last level, but I’ll get to that. The boss battles are probably the worst part of the game. The first four only have one blood pickup in them, so that means you can only take a couple of hits before dying. As such, they’re not hard, but you’re not allowed to mess up. They all see you fighting Scorpion in a machine that’s, again, kind of like Sonic.
The third level’s boss drove me up the wall and infuriated me till I thought my veins would burst. But that might have been because I was playing as Rick Ghastley who, again, is terrible. On the other hand, based on Scorpion’s moveset, ol’ Ghastley might actually make that boss battle easier than the other characters. I refused to fight it more than once, though, as I don’t hate myself quite enough to go through it again. Boss four stops moving shortly after his attacks long enough for you to beat him. I did this one twice and he didn’t even move the entire time I wailed on him. The final boss, like I said, isn’t actually a boss fight. You run to the right while fighting normal enemies, and then Scorpion jumps out of his machine and you hit him one time to kill him. That’s it.
BATS is fine for what it is, I suppose. It’s a mostly competent arcade throwback with some fun puns. The insults the characters trade with Scorpion before boss fights are humorously campy. The controls are okay, but I did notice that they weren’t always as responsive as I would have liked. The level design is perfunctory and there isn’t much in the way of extra content either, save for a speedrun and boss rush. The speedrun mode doesn’t even cut out the tutorial stuff in the first level, which is odd. There are moments of enjoyment to be found here and there, but the game should have gone further to amp up the craziness. If you’re looking for an hour-long arcade experience, you could do worse, but you’re probably not looking for that in this day and age.