October 18, 2008
Let me ask you a question. Has it always been a dream of yours to play a game where you run around as a block-built version of the Caped Crusader? No? The thought hadn’t even crossed your mind? Well, mine neither, but Traveller’s Tales have gone and given you the opportunity anyway by creating a new game in the LEGO series - delivered in the shape of LEGO Batman: The Videogame.
LEGO Batman uses the same formula as the previous LEGO games with three episodes, each divided up into a number of missions. However, whereas with the other games each episode corresponded to a specific movie, in this game that’s not the case and the whole game is a sort of re-imagining of the Batman world. All your favourite characters are here, but none of them appear in the same plot-lines as they do in any of the films. Simply put, this game takes all your favourite elements of Batman, and throws them all together to create a whole new experience rather than retelling the story of the films.
The structure of the game is simple. Playing in story-mode, you enter each level and battle your way through countless thugs and goons, resulting in you coming face to face with a known villain. While each episode focuses on one particular enemy, every mission within these episodes focus on a specific ‘lesser’ bad-guy. There is a story to explain why this is happening, but it must be said that it is fairly weak - it's basically Traveller’s Tales’ way of being able to throw every Batman villain in existence at you. In a nutshell, all of the criminals have escaped from Arkham Asylum, and have divided into three groups – those helping the Riddler, those helping the Penguin and those helping the Joker. That’s pretty much it. It might seem like rather a strange concept, but it works surprisingly well.
From a graphical standpoint, the game is a peculiar one. The graphics are good, but you’d be excused for believing they’re sub-par upon first impressions. All of the characters and objects are created using LEGO blocks, so everything has a shiny glaze to it – while this makes everything look similar and therefore very simplistic, if you look closely you will notice there is more depth to the visuals. Look beyond the LEGO blocks and you’ll notice rich textures – the ground, the sky – in fact, everything that isn’t made of LEGO looks rather rich, and while these may not be the greatest graphical achievements, they are certainly surprisingly striking for a LEGO game.
The basic gameplay of Lego Batman couldn’t be more straightforward – at its core, the game is essentially a button-bashing beat-em up. This simple gameplay is met with simple controls – ‘A’ to jump, ‘B’ is your action button, ‘Y’ allows you to switch character, and ‘X’ is your attack button - which you will be hammering a lot of the time. While it works well most of the time, the basic control system does have a flaw in that perhaps too much was assigned to the same buttons. You can sometimes find yourself pressing a button and not getting the desired effect, like placing a bomb instead of building a LEGO structure for instance. This is quite frustrating, and could have easily been avoided by using a bumper or trigger instead of doubling up assigned actions.
So the burning question now - if the game is so ridiculously simple, is it actually any good? What stops it from being a monotonous game; a game consisting merely of lather, rinse, repeat? Well, it may seem a bit too one-dimensional to start with, but as you play through you will earn more abilities, and these come in the form of suits. These suits allow you to do new things, such as plant bombs or walk up walls. As you progress further through the game, you earn more suits and so are constantly switching between characters to use different skills to advance. In this way, an element of simple puzzle solving is thrown into the mix, which greatly enhances the feel of the game. To break up the action and provide a bit of variation, there are some vehicle-specific levels where you get to drive around in the Batmobile, or pilot the Batwing. Frankly, the controls feel a bit clunky for these missions, but it is still extremely pleasurable to cause carnage in the city - especially when dragging the villain's vehicle along the ground using your grapple.
Complimenting the high-quality gameplay is the score – as mentioned before, it contains the music from the films, and thankfully they’ve picked the rather memorable music composed by Danny Elfman from the Batman and Batman Returns films. This fits the mood of the game extremely well, and unquestionably helps to immerse you into the world of Batman. The sound effects used throughout are adequate, although nothing really too memorable and as with all Lego games, there is no voice-work or subtitles, the characters merely make expressive sounds to emphasise what they are doing.
On first impressions, the game may appear to be aimed at children – heck, it’s a LEGO game after all! But it becomes apparent that it really is aimed at everyone. The slapstick style of the cut-scenes, while definitely child-friendly, will make adults chuckle too, even if it is incredibly predictable. The controls are intuitive enough for children to be able to play it, yet the game has enough depth to hold the interest of a mature audience too. If any game had to be defined as a family game, I’d put money on LEGO Batman to fit that bill. In fact, the family-friendly factor is enhanced by the fact that you can play co-op with a friend. Playing together is definitely a lot of fun, but it does involve a small amount of co-operation as it reveals the only minor quibble to this mode. Essentially, you really do have to talk to each other to say where you want to go – try to go in opposite directions and you will hit the edge of the screen and be able to go no further.
The great thing about this game is its huge replayability. Once you’ve completed the first episode, you can replay each mission from the villain side; seeing the level from their perspective. It’s a great idea, and it really adds plenty of replay value, especially as villains have different abilities which allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas. If that wasn’t enough for you, once you’ve got 100% game completion, it’s such a pick-up-and-play sort of game, that you may still find yourself coming back to have a quick trawl through the levels in co-op mode with a friend!
In all honesty, there really isn’t a great deal to fault this game on - it is clearly a tried and tested formula. The main flaw is that it really doesn’t bring much to the series in terms of new ideas. You’d think that after LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, they would have implemented an online co-op mode to all of their titles, but this is once again not present. Like LEGO Indiana Jones, this game has no online features whatsoever. And that is a shame, as that extra mode could’ve given this the extra push to receive a drastically better score.
For those that want all the achievements, this game is more of a collect-em-up than a punch-up, as it includes ones for getting all types of items, and also one for collecting everything. The achievements are relatively well rounded, although some are copied from previous LEGO games, like the 100% completion. Others are nice ideas and involve some level of humour, such as ‘Start of something wonderful’ (description - ‘Shock The Joker with The Joker’). The game gives out a small portion of the GS for level completions, while the rest seem to be for performing specific actions or moves on specific characters. They do require some planning, but if you do that and put a little time into it, this is a relatively easy 1000GS.
Great musical score, especially if you’re a Batman fan – it sets the scene fantastically. This would’ve scored higher if the sound effects were more memorable.
How nice can LEGO look? But seriously, there are some impressive visuals for a LEGO game here, and it does a good job of immersing you into LEGO Gotham City!
An easy game to play with simple and intuitive controls. You’re drawn into the game within five minutes and you may find yourself playing three hours later without knowing where the time has gone.
Nicely presented, and Gotham City itself looks great. Can’t help but feel like it hasn’t really added anything new to the LEGO series though. The game is also hurting for an online co-op mode.
A mixture – some carbon-copied from the other LEGO games, and some being specific task achievements. You’ll get a good hunk from normal playthrough, but you’ll be forced into doing certain tasks for the full 1K. Seems like a bit of a lack of thought went into these overall, but relatively easy anyway.
Any Batman fan, or any fan of the LEGO series of games should definitely buy this now. It has great pick-up-and-play value too, so it is a great place to start if you’ve never played a LEGO game before. Be warned though, it’s possible to complete in only a few days, so it can be easily finished up on a weeks rental. Despite this, it’s still great to come back to for a bit of local co-op, and it’s fun for all ages! So get your granny round and give her a game!