REVIEWS -- LEGO Batman -- Xbox360
Lego Batman reuses the same old formula to give us an original story
by Eric Silva
Fun factor: Average
Worth to: Buy
Lego Batman feels a bit like the second movie, where it was just as fun as the first one but didnít excite the masses as much
Travelerís Tales is at it again with another Lego adventure. With the success of Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones it was only a matter of time until a new movie icon would have the pleasure of being immortalized in kiddy blocks. This time Batman has the honors, and like its predecessors Lego Batman is just as fun to play, even if gameplay is starting to get a little old and repetitive. Similar to Pixar movies, Lego games have something for everybody. If you havenít tried one of Travelerís Talesí little jewels yet you are clearly missing on some memorable gaming. So put on your batsuit, load up on batarangs and jump into your batmobile, Lego Batman is sure to deliver memorable rock íem sock íem puzzle-action, and a few laughs along the way.
Holly bat-crackers, Batman, thatís a lot of characters!
Lego Batman is slightly more action-oriented than pervious games but itís still the same old puzzler, and thatís a good thing. Travelerís Tales has found a tried and tested formula and sticks to it with each new Lego release while adding enough variety to disassociate each game from its predecessorsÖ well, sort of. We still get to unlock goodies and extras along the way through countless hours of gameplay, but the slapstick puzzle-solving is different because of new character abilities. We still have comical cutscenes and still have to use various characters to move forward, except we have a lot more to choose from... Ok, fine, itís the same old thing. But more of a good thing doesnít make it bad!
Travelerís Tales truly knows how to give their games replayability. With 48 playable characters we are more pampered than ever. Lego Batman lets players take on the role of virtually all DC Batman figures, both villains and super-heroes alike. The game is split up into three stories: The Riddler, The Penguin and The Joker. Each story has five missions that pit our latex-wearing protagonists against various minions and one of the aforementioned maniacal end-bosses. Once all five missions are finished the game ends wrapping things up with a cutscene and a credits roll. Giving each story a separate ending adds a fresh element to a rather long game. Once a crime boss is behind bars itís on to the next one.
Players can select which story to play from the Batcave. Missions can be played sequentially or intermittently while jumping from one story to another Ė itís all up to the player. The cave serves as a base of operation where our heroes can run around, purchase various extras, upgrade their gear and view all the goodies amassed during missions, from clips to trophies.
Lego Batmanís most appealing feature has to be the ability to play as the villains. Once a baddy and their cronies are behind bars we can take on the role of the criminals. Travelerís Tales spared no expenses and gave them their own plots and an Insane Asylum with many of the same perks of the Batcave. Playing as a villain gives Lego Batman an alternate view of the story, as seen through the eyes of the whacky felons. Players can move from villain to super-hero missions at will. One doesnít need to complete the entire game to access the malicious screwballs; simply finishing a story is enough.
The plot is once again told through silent caricatures of movie icons. Characters grunt and gesture the plot forward, tumbling and tripping over each other for good measure. Comedy abounds, as usual, but unlike previous titles there are no clever winks and hints aimed at previous games or famous movie scenes. Lego Batman is a standalone title with a unique story that mixes the ď70ís librarianĒ Batman with the contemporary ďtroubled-childhood grumpĒ Batman.
So many bad guys; so little time
As was the case with Lego Indiana Jones, stages are designed around puzzles that are unravel using two characters. To reach new parts both have to be used in tandem. We can quickly alternate between the Dynamic Duo or between villains at the press of a button. Batman and Robin are virtually identical from the outset but they have special costumes spread out in levels that give them distinct abilities. Finding the suits usually requires a bit of exploring and a fair deal of Lego mashing but the uniforms give our heroes the ability to glide, walk on metal surfaces, set bombs, use remote controlled devices, etc. The trick is to figure out how to use each suitís skill within a mission. Stages are rather linear in that players canít really use alternate means of advancing through them, however, uncovering each levelís design with the help of the suits is what makes the game fun.
A single playthrough will not be enough to uncover all the extras Ė levels are simply designed that way. Once a level is finished, good old ďFreeplayĒ mode opens up allowing players to replay the mission at any time to finish up lose ends and find whatever extras might have been overlooked. Freeplay lets you return as any character and with any suit unlocked up to that point.
A first playthrough will usually complete around 40 percent of the game. The rest is achieved while finishing the villain stories and replaying Batman missions with the help of the bad guys, which can be used in Freeplay mode. Kudos to Travelerís Tales for not making the super-villain part a throwaway addition. The villains got as much attention in content and details as our crime-fighting duo.
Villains also work in pairs but they donít need to find costumes; they have innate abilities. The Riddler can control peopleís minds with the help of his cane, Clayface has super-human strength, Poison Ivy can make plants grow, Mr. Freeze can freeze people (hard to imagine) and so on Ė no suits required. The best part is that villains have completely different levels. Travelerís Tales could have easily reused all the levels from Batman and Robinís stories but they didnít. They took the time to create missions showing a different part of the stages. For instance, Batman and Robinís first mission against Clayface is set on the streets, but the super-villain mission has Clayface and The Riddler go through underground parking lots, not seen while playing as Batman.
From Batplanes to Dinosaurs, the game almost has it all
Lego Batman has its fair share of button mashing. The game follows a simple formula of action followed by puzzle solving. Sometimes this formula is interrupted forcing players to solve puzzles while fending off scores of enemies, which can be a bit annoying, especially since many parts have them constantly respawning. Puzzles are challenging enough to give players a sense of accomplishment without getting permanently stuck, though some are a bit too simple.
Much of the gameplay is spent destroying props and decorations, which are always fun to watch come apart. The gameís motto is clearly ďwhen in doubt, destroy somethingĒ. Ransacking lamps, trashcans and whatever else is freestanding will often reveal suits or tools needed to move forward. Coin gathering is just as prominent as ever. Players will amass truckloads of money which can be used to buy various items in the Batcave. One downside is that extras are usually cosmetic and gimmicky, like moustache disguises that serve no purpose. The only practical upgrades are more batarang targets and faster grappling hooks. Additional items useful during gameplay would have been nice.
A few vehicle missions make things more interesting, though they usually involve destroying swarms of enemies and grappling something, or someone, to a specific location. Fortunately the physics are good. Riding around in the batmobile is just as smooth as running around on foot beating the crap out of bad guys. This makes the repetitive nature of vehicle levels bearable. Regular missions also have various rides, from lawnmowers to T-Rexes. Thereís nothing better than saddling up a T-Rex, except maybe a T-Rex flying the batmobile, which alas isnít in the game (but you can always hope for a Lego Calvin & Hobbs).
The game is not without flaws, though. Angles are hard to perceive in 3D in some sections when jumping from one platform to another, often causing the player to miss a ledge and die. The camera doesnít help in the matter as it slightly changes angles when moving forward. Itís a shame this issue managed to creep its ugly head in yet another Lego game. Itís also not obvious which parts of a level can kill you. What looks like a nice garden or bay can sometimes leave you in pieces. As mentioned above, physics are very good, but climbing ladders can be a pain in the ďblockĒ.
Previous games had issues with stupid friendly AI. Here those issues are virtually resolved. Your teammate will usually find his or her way back to you and figure out where to stand, although sometimes they will get stuck on a ladder or tightrope. Switching back to them quickly fixes the problem. Co-op mode is as good as ever with friends able to jump in at any time. Thereís no online co-op mode and that bat-sucks. A few clipping problems here and there will pop up. The bugs in question will have you fall through a floor (and die) or walk through a building on occasion. Itís nothing to worry about as it occurs very rarely but it nonetheless puts a blemish on an otherwise well-designed game.
Sound effects are downright perfect. Blocks sound just as we remember them in our youth and music is typically Batman-ish. The Riddler and Joker levels have similar orchestral scores so it can become repetitive, but the Penguin story added a choir into the mix like the one used in Tim Robinís second Batman movie - a subtle touch.
In all, Travelerís Tales delivers another successful Lego game. The smooth gameplay and mountains of extras make Lego Batman a worthwhile title to own. The laidback action and puzzle-solving, as well as the comedy, will appeal to a wide range of players. Designers took the time to polish the game and added refinement in places one might not expect. A few perception issues and bugs will leave you mumbling but very rarely. Too bad most extras are esthetic, though itís still fun acquiring them because the game is a pleasant experience, even if it doesnít break new ground. Lego Batman doesnít convey the sense of urgency many games have nowadays, where surviving is the goal. Itís a relaxing and humorous title few will feel guilty spending countless hours with.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Release Date: September 23, 2008
Review Date: 22-10-2008
Numbers of Players: 1-2
Players Online: No
Notes: 1080i Support, Dolby 5.1 Surround
Same Lego graphics but destructible details are varied. A few perception issues. No camera options
Fun in general, especially breaking stuff, but repetitive action. Puzzles are sometimes too simplistic. Many of the villains have the same powers
Loads of extras and refinement. Funny cutscenes. A somewhat nonsensical story but it definitely feels like Batmanís world
Nice sound effects and music, though both tend to get a bit repetitive after a while
With so many extras the game will keep you playing for many hours. No online co-op mode