In the 80s and 90s, the Point & Click graphic adventure genre enjoyed a great deal of success. I played them to no end, in fact, the first game I ever made was a point and click using Adventure Game Studio. It seemed studios of all shapes and sizes would be producing them forever more. As it turned out, they were very much a product of that era and as technology developed, adventure games evolved and the player base shifted with that evolution. Titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill would set new standards of excellence and push adventure games to new heights. But while the AAA studios might have decided the classic point & click graphic adventure wasn’t lucrative enough for their deep pockets, an underground movement made up of independent studios and solo devs would continue to provide engaging titles for players willing to seek them out.
In recent years, thanks to a heavy dose of nostalgia, the Point & Click genre has (almost?) risen to the surface of mainstream with titles such as Chinatown Detective Agency and Return to Monkey Island releasing recently. So it should come as no surprise that a few GBS devs have been hard at work creating their own homage to this much loved genre.
Batty Zabella by Ice.Cold.Blood (aka Kyle Sharpe) is a horror comedy adventure for the Game Boy. Akin to titles such ShadowGate Classic and Deja Vu for the GBC, and partly inspired by the apartment sequences experienced in Silent Hill 4: The Room, you play as Batty Zabella, a vampire as sultry and she is sassy. Wife to ‘Husbano’, her missing husband, and mother to ‘Bat-son’, her brooding emo son, you are tasked with saving your family and ridding the Zabella home of nefarious ghouls and ghosts.
Complete with fan service, a dash of crude humor and an abundance of clever and engaging dialogue, Batty Zabella hooks you right from the outset. Not taking itself too seriously at all, it manages to ride the line between comedy and horror well, shifting between the two tones fluidly using a combination of charming dialogue and sometimes unnerving background artwork. The characters throughout shine with vitality and personality, especially our heroine Batty, who’s avatar can be seen at all times to the left of the view screen. Inspired by the likes of Elvira, The Addams Family and The Munsters, it’s Battys constant feedback, quips and sass throughout the experience that ties the player so effectively to its premise.
The story has some fun twists and turns and a mystery that grows over time to great effect, but what of the game play itself? The puzzles themselves are varied and often satisfying to solve. Clues and solutions are well telegraphed, so I never felt like my detective skills were falling short. While the inventory system is perhaps a little simplistic, it actually works in the games favor, as solving puzzles doesn’t get too bogged down in trial and error – a trap too many Point & Clicks fall victim to – keeping the story’s pace skipping along. The map screen is a god-send, as it helps in making sense of the house and surrounding geography, preventing any serious issues when it comes to exploration.
Kyle Sharpe, the sole creator, spent one year developing what is his first title for the Game Boy (with more to come, he says!). With approximately 1.5 hours of playtime, Batty Zabella is a good sized adventure game that doesn’t out stay its welcome, and is free if you’re happy to play in browser. Certainly for anyone that is a fan of the Game Boy and is feeling nostalgic for the Point & Click games of old, Batty is not one to miss out on, even getting the honor of the #1 slot in Itch.io’s Top 20 Games of the Month for November 2022!
Congratulations to Kyle for the release and success of Batty Zabella! If you want to support the game or developer, head to the itch page and play, rate or purchase the game if you’re able!