If you ask me, the best depiction of the Dark Knight is that of Warner Bros' animated TV show of the 90s. The Adventures of Batman & Robin is well acted, well written and, well, excellent all round. It was such a popular show that many games were based on it, including the inevitable Activity Centre. Batman always fared better in videogame form than the alien refugee flying about in Metropolis, but what happens when this dark superhero enters the realm of edutainment?
Released in 1996, The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Activity Centre copies the formula already set by Disney. Like most games of its type, there's a thin story with a number of activities scattered around. Here, the aim is to catch some escaped supervillains by way of puzzles and mini-games for anyone between the ages of 6 and 10. There are eight in total and each with varying degrees of originality and entertainment values.
The Arkham Asylum surveillance room shows how many villains you've captured (left)
Go get 'em by putting items won in the mini-games into the Batcomputer (right)
We begin in the Batcave where you can keep an eye on the security footage at Arkham Asylum. This logs your progression by showing how many bad guys you've caught. After every successful puzzle, you get an item which will lead to their capture. Use it in the Batcomputer to find out where they are and nab 'em.
Two of the Batcave's mini-games. Uses your maths and deduction skills to solve them.
There are also two games to be found here. Robin tinkers with his chemistry set to conjure an antidote to the Joker's laughing gas while Batman sits at his computer doing maths. The former has you deducing which colours and in which order make the correct potion through trial and error (as luck would have it, I got it right first time!). Those equations lead you to decode clues to the whereabouts of bad guys. Putting into practice your Key Stage 1 skills of multiplication and division to get a number which corresponds to a letter. Once you have one or two letters locked, you can pretty much guess the whole word without remembering your nine-times-tables.
Find matching trinkets in Gotham City's jewellery shop (left).
Guide the Batmobile to Mr Freeze by altering the arrows (right)
Moving on to Wayne Manor, there's a selection of more relaxing mini-games. There's a standard jigsaw puzzle which is well programmed (it's surprising how many of them aren't - see Black Dahlia). You also have a paint studio where you can join some dots, paint by numbers or scribble randomly. Had enough of this, try solving the Tower of Hanoi casually placed in front of the TV.
The casual activities of a jigsaw (left) and painting (right) are found in Wayne Manor.
Once you venture into the streets of Gotham, there are more substantial activities. Four to be exact. The casino hosts a game of pairs (I guest Texas Holdem is out for primary schoolers), while the jewellery shop has another matching game. Here you select two items that are the same, gradually removing options from the board. It's two-player too which is nice, though the AI-controlled Two-Face may make it easier for you.
Mr Freeze has his own maze-like mini-game found by clicking on the sign next to the back-alley (I missed it on my first playthrough!). You have to guide the Batmobile through the streets of Gotham by twisting the arrows at each junction. It's a little too easy for ageing superheroes like myself but I can see younger children struggling on harder difficulties.
You'll be treated with a nice arrest animation once you've captured each villain.
The show's voice actors return, including Mark Hamil as Joker.
What you will struggle with - and not in a good way - is the subterranean maze. This had you control Batman directly through a labyrinth of tunnels of which unexplored sections are hidden from. The concept is a simple one and east enough to figure out. The issue is that it is entirely controlled using the mouse! As you can imagine, this is insanely frustrating to the point that it almost makes it unplayable. The worst activity of the entire package.
With their excellent animation and enjoyable little touches, Disney is the gold standard for these mini-game collections. Nevertheless, the developers at Gryphon Software give them a run for their money. The goal is an engrossing one with a variety to the mini-games that surpass many of the Mouse-house's attempts. There's very little here for those older than their teens or those who aren't fans of DC, but if you are, it's a fun little diversion.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 101 Mb. Install Size: 227 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Activity Centre is © Gryphon Software
The Adventures of Batman & Robin (the series) is © Warner Bros
Batman & Robin (the characters) is © DC Comics
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me