In my Retro Roundup article for 3/3/23, I discussed companies that create, produce, and distribute video games for retro consoles on legacy hardware. Though I’ve long been aware of these products, I have surprisingly never purchased any . One of the reasons for this lapse comes down to cost. I won’t say the games are particularly expensive for most consumers (usually running anywhere from $59.99 + S&H to over $100 for collector’s editions), but I’ll admit to allowing costs to dampen my enthusiasm enough so that I never buy the games.
Enter The Retro Room. After seeing their prices, offerings, and preservation-centric ethics, I decided I had to take a deeper dive and actually buy a game to review . As luck would have it, two weeks ago Retro Room announced a secret game going up for sale to be shipped immediately. The newsletter hit my inbox and staring back at me was Batty Zabella for the Gameboy.
Batty Zabella is a comedy horror point and click adventure game for Game boy! If you are looking for some quirky horror fun, Batty Zabella will quench your taste for nostalgia. Roam around the house grounds solving puzzles and uncover mysteries. It also marks the debut of a new horror icon, Batty Zabella! Help save her family and rid her home of phantoms. She may give you sass while doing it, but you'll love it.
The CIB version is $44.99, but you can also purchase the cart by itself, which will only cost $24.99. S&H is also cheaper than most companies at $4.90 (for me), which brought the total cost of the CIB version to just under $50. About a week after purchase, the game was at my doorstep, and I tore the package open like a ravenous werewolf.
After shooting my unboxing video, I immediately plugged the cart into a few different consoles to test. First, I tried it in a classic Gameboy, and the game fired up on the first shot. Next was my Gameboy Color, and again, Batty donned the screen in all her glory. Finally, I tried the cart in my Retron 5. This was the console I worried about most, because as anyone who owns one knows, they don’t always play new carts/reproduction carts.
I’m happy to announce the game does work in a Retron 5 (Hyperbeach edition). Be warned though, when you plug the game in, it will say “Unknown Cartridge,” and when you try to hit play, you will get a warning. Just select “yes” and it will take you to the game, which plays perfectly.
Speaking of the game, I had a blast with it. Gameplay, first time through, will take roughly three hours (give or take), depending on how adept you are at solving the puzzles. So yes, it is on the shorter side, but there’s an additional challenge for added re-playability. The challenge is to find six hidden spiders. This is a lot harder than it sounds because every one of these spiders is “missable,” as they will only appear after particular events occur .
If you find all six spiders, I’m told there’s some kind of mini game as an award (though I haven’t achieved this yet). I’m further told that there might just be another secret award if you beat the mini game.
The main game follows the story of Batty Zabella, whose husband has recently disappeared. Eventually she’s tasked with finding him, but first, we get something of a walkthrough of her house as we fetch lunch for Bat-son. The manual suggests taking notes and keeping a close eye on the map. Though I didn’t bother with the notes, I will say if you don’t have a good memory, it’s probably a good idea. There is quite a bit of “back and forth” movement through the areas though, so once you’re halfway through the game, you’ll have the entire map memorized.
The high points of the game for me were the script and the art style. The game is beautiful, especially cut scenes where the images are fully rendered. You can tell a lot of work went into making the game look good. Of course, the packaging, manual, and cart all match this same mindfulness.
The writing was funny and had a solid Elvira/comedy horror aesthetic, which is what I expected from the summary. Not every joke lands, but overall, the humor and writing were excellent.
The puzzles landed somewhere in the middle ground for me. I’ll say, they were at times hard enough that I died twice while playing the game, but a couple were quite easy. Two of the harder puzzles had me stumped for a while until I realized the trick to them. In a way I wish there were perhaps a couple more puzzles with higher difficulty, but that's only because I enjoyed the game so much that I craved more.
The music was good enough to set the scene and make it feel like a horror game, but it was also at times droning. Don't get the wrong idea though, I quite enjoyed the music throughout, and it never became tiresome.
There aren't any low points. If I had any suggestions at all, it might be to include the ability to change the cursor speed in a settings menu. I’m not a professional game reviewer, so I won’t pretend to be able to give this a rating, but I will say this: I loved the game. It spoke directly to my particular interests in horror and retro games, and I absolutely adore the point and click adventure genre. Though it’s on the short side, I preferred the length in this style game, and the added spider challenge gives me something to look forward to attempting in the future. Even more exciting is the rumor of a sequel!
I highly recommend this game for fans of the genre. If you’re on the fence, there’s always the cheaper “cart only” option, as well as the digital version for even steeper savings.
What's your favorite point and click adventure game?