Holy Danish building blocks, Batman!
Arkham Asylum, home for the criminally insane, has some serious security issues. I understand that it’s supposed to be a “hospital”, but when your patients can control plant life or happen to be an 8-foot tall crocodile-man, hiring a few extra guards just might be a budgetary priority. Of course, when you have a guy who dresses like a bat, works for free, and always captures the bad guys when they escape, you can luckily focus on other things. The latest blunder, however, has allowed a veritable rogues gallery of evil escape, and it’s once again up to the caped crusader to come to the rescue.
[image1]So begins Lego Batman, the latest in the highly successful series. Unlike the previous Lego games from Traveller’s Tales, Lego Batman is not based on its movie counterpart… at least not exactly. It seems to be a mix of the movies, the comics, and the animated series, with a touch of the goofiness of the '60s TV show. Because it is not restricted by a plot that already exists, it is also the first Lego game to truly integrate the use of the enemies by giving them their own levels.
The game is broken into three major cases that pit Batman against the like of the Riddler, the Joker, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Catwoman, and the most adorable Clayface to exist ever. The best part is that after you’ve beaten a case as Batman, you get to revisit it from the perspective of the villains. However, you’re not just playing the same levels. While you obviously cross paths with some of the levels that you played as Batman, the villains take a different route to the crime, and you don’t understand the full story until you’ve seen their side of it.
The game plays identically to the previous games in the series. You control two characters at the same time (or one, if you’re playing the co-op two-player mode), exploring every level as you build Legos and collect “studs” that help unlock a ton of extra features. Once finished with a level, you open up free play, which allows you to switch to any characters whom you’ve unlocked in order to find the hidden areas and secrets in the game that only they can reach with their unique powers.
[image2]For those who have played Lego Star Wars or Lego Indiana Jones, you might ask yourself why you want Lego Batman if it plays the same. Well, first off, though it’s based on the same formula, that formula still works. The level design is great and takes you all over Gotham City Lego-style. The story has a lot of the brand's trademark humor, like not allowing the minifigures to speak and having them communicate entirely by mumbling (or meowing in the case of one villainess).
The key to any of these Lego games are the characters involved. Many fans were disappointed with Lego Indiana Jones because the mythos just doesn’t have the breadth of characters that Star Wars or Batman has. Would you rather play as the Scarecrow or Melting Nazi #2? Covering most of the well-known characters, Lego Batman has the differentiation of characters to make you really yearn to unlock them all. The game also varies up the play for Batman and Robin by giving them multiple costumes with special abilities like gliding or magnetism. [What about makeup wax removal? ~Ed.]
However, there are still drawbacks. When I say Lego Batman is identical to the previous Lego games, I’m not exaggerating. Bugs that have plagued the series from the start, including getting your main character stuck on the background, are still there. The music does get repetitive but thankfully fades to the background to the point that you barely notice it. Though not as hard as Lego Indiana Jones was, Lego Batman is a bit more difficult than Lego Star Wars. That’s something to keep in mind when playing with particularly young gamers.
[image3]Also, I’m sad to see that the basic functions of the characters haven’t been modified that much. Batman does have batarangs, where Indy had his whip, but his grapple works just like the grapple of the main character in other Lego games. That means that he’s only able to grapple vertically with no swinging mechanic. In addition, the vehicle levels play just like the levels in Lego Star Wars. Firing indiscriminately, trying to destroy everything, is the only way to pass those levels. I’m not sure when Batman started shooting people, but the vehicle levels are more Twisted Metal than Dark Knight.
My three favorite things as a child were Legos, Batman, and Video Games. Taking that bias into account and especially when compared to other Batman games, Lego Batman is far and away one of the best Batman titles and yet another perfect family game for the series. Though the gameplay is familiar, this is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I’m sure at some point, gamers will get tired of the formula, but that hasn’t happened yet. With a unique plot, great characters, and gameplay that’s fun for both kids and adults, Lego Batman continues the sheer fun of the series and is a great game on all available platforms.