LEGO Batman: The Videogame Review
Although we’ve seen a few surprisingly solid games based on movies in the past year, it’s still a rarity to find one worth purchasing at full pop. However, Traveller’s Tales have always appealed to the child in all of us with their LEGO-based titles; not only are they genuinely amusing, they’re also well done and mostly entertaining from top to bottom. Furthermore, if you have a friend who loves the subject matter in question (whether it’s LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga or LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures), there’s that the fun-filled co-op campaign for rainy afternoons. We’re always relatively satisfied with each installment, and once again, LEGO Batman: The Videogame has come through in fine shape. However, we may be past the praise of, “hey, good job again, Traveller’s!” At this point, too many of the games feel very similar to one another, although we don’t imagine the fans will agree. “Fun is fun,” they’ll say. And we can’t really argue with that.
The graphics are about what we’ve come to expect, although we think they could’ve stepped things up this time around. The dark, intense environment in Gotham City got a little repetitive, and there wasn’t as much detail in the backgrounds as we would’ve liked. However, the cut-scenes are extremely well choreographed, the LEGO characters have never looked better, and remember, there are a great many characters in the Batman universe. Everyone from the Joker to Catwoman to the Penguin look great, and there’s always the smooth and lively battle effects to keep our attention. We’re never tired of seeing our brainless foes bust apart into several pieces, and watching your heroes assemble intricate and integral parts of the environment will continually put a smile on your face. We just wish they did a little more with the backdrop visuals, especially because the camera doesn’t always cooperate. In the end, though, we can say the graphics are both passable and mostly effective.
The sound is a mixed bag, but much like the graphics, it’s nothing new to the LEGO games. The characters have never actually spoken in any of the games – and yes, that includes the cut-scenes – but they’re livelier in LEGO Batman than ever before. They’ll grunt, laugh, exclaim, and even mumble inaudible things here and there, and this enhancement adds an appreciated amount of flair to a relatively run-of-the-mill sound presentation. The effects are good as usual, and for once, we can always count on Traveller’s Tales to present a nice balance between the sound and music, a trait that’s curiously lacking in next-gen titles. As far as the music is concerned, we initially enjoyed the classic Batman tracks but after the fiftieth time hearing them, we began to wonder why they haven’t bothered to expand the musical diversity. Sure, everyone will recognize those familiar tracks from the first couple of movies, but they did add more to later films, and they should’ve been included in this game. But hey, the overall quality is fine, so we won’t complain further.
If you’ve played any of the recent LEGO games, you pretty much know what to expect. The gameplay is straightforward and simple; you run around with your sidekick (in this case, that’s Robin, if you’ve never read a comic book in your life), and beat the hell out of baddies. You just unleash attacks with the Square button, and there’s usually a special attack of some kind; in LEGO Batman, you can grab an enemy and then either punch or toss them. The two main characters will also have to work together to solve many of the puzzles they encounter, and another goal is to discover and nab as many secrets as possible: there are Studs to gather, Secret pieces (we won’t tell you what they make), and plenty of unlockable goodies. There are lots of destructible items in the environment, and we also get a few appreciated additions that add some depth and flavor to the experience. Here, we get a bunch of vehicles to try – it’s not Batman without sweet vehicles! – and both Batman and Robin get an assortment of nifty superhero suits that grant them different special abilities.
For instance, you’ll come across a suit that lets Batman glide for short distances, and a suit for Robin that gives him magnetic shoes. Why? To walk straight up metal surfaces, of course! There are many different suits to find, and there are cool vehicles as well; some you can assemble in the midst of a level and drive them around, while others are automatically used to finish off a particular section. Batman and Robin will have to take to their boats during the Penguin encounter, and you’ll even find a helicopter when chasing after Catwoman along the rooftops of Gotham. Now, the suits are great. They’re fun to use and they work just fine, even though it can be a colossal pain to run back and forth switching costumes all the time. But Traveller’s runs into a roadblock with the vehicles, many of which can be difficult and frustrating, and it can be extremely irritating at all the wrong times. For example, you have to drag mines with Batman’s boat and have them slam into obstacles to clear a path, and this should’ve been fun. But really, all it did was test our patience.
The control is always reliable and responsive in these games, with only a few prevailing issues. In LEGO Indiana Jones, Indy had this silly habit of jumping towards an enemy when he goes to use his whip. In LEGO Batman, given the dark atmosphere, it can be difficult to see exactly where you need to be, and jumping about with your characters can get iffy. But while very simplistic, there’s really not much wrong with the fighting…provided you take care of business yourself. Sadly, and this has typically been the case in the LEGO titles, as your partner is utterly useless far too often, especially during combat. It only takes a few hits to dismantle an enemy when you handle the attacking, but you’ll watch in confusion while your partner keeps beating on the very same enemy with little effect. The good news is you can easily switch between Batman and Robin with a quick press of the Triangle button, which is absolutely necessary throughout the course of your adventure. Many times, this buddy-buddy adventure requires you to use the abilities of both characters, and those different suits mean there are even more distinct differences between the two crime fighters.
The fixed camera is usually fine, just because it automatically sits at what we would consider to be a perfect distance. Sometimes it gets a little too far away, but besides that, we’re just going to blame the darkness of the game for temporarily halting our progress every now and then. Some of the puzzles are just too weird, though; they defy common sense, and they can very easily get under your skin. Still, there aren’t any real brain busters here, although it can be extremely challenging to grab all the extra goodies you see lying around; very often, you can see them but you have no idea how to actually get them. But doesn’t that add to the longevity? Upon beating a level once, you can always go back to it and play again (Free Play is unlocked) and try to score any extras you may have missed. The ability to jump around and play different chapters on a whim is something that has always been a plus in the LEGO games. And given all the other unlockables – great for the fans – there’s always plenty to do, and there’s even more in the way of a storyline for each set of missions.
In conclusion, LEGO Batman: The Videogame isn’t anything new, which means two things: 1. fans of previous LEGO games will certainly enjoy it, and 2. those who have never found an excuse to pick up an entry in this franchise still don’t have one. Basically, we’ve played this before. It’s good and all, and the addition of the suits, vehicles, and the liveliest and most diverse cast of characters yet are distinctive enhancements, but the foundation is still very, very familiar. We’d like to say something like, “you might think you know what LEGO games are all about…” Instead, we have to finish that sentence thusly- “you might think you know what LEGO games are all about…and you’d be right.” It’s not fresh enough, but the quality is still good and the gameplay is still fun. Guess there’s nothing wrong with that.
10/6/2008 Ben Dutka