Traveller's Tales, it seems, have discovered a licence to print money. Find a popular franchise, turn even the most insane, homicidal characters within the story into teensy digital mini-figs and let them get to popping each other apart. But with LEGO Batman the developer took it a step further. Instead of riding on the popularity of an existing franchise and epic plots, they created their own story, a story that is doled out from a multitude of perspectives, first Batman and Robin and then the variety of villains.
Does Traveller's Tales have what it takes to mine Batman for both mini-fig fun and a decent story? Do they even need to, or does the mechanic alone keep the LEGO franchise afloat? Hit the jump to read up on the game's good, bad and ugly.
A Motley Cast: Because you essentially play through the same plot twice, from the perspective of the good and the bad, the developers had plenty of opportunity to introduce a lot of playable characters. While the good sticks you with Batman and Robin's, albeit in a wide variety of tech suits, the bad gives you a chance to play a wide spectrum of villains, each with diabolically funny weapons. From the Joker's shocking handshake to Mr. Freeze's ice maker, I've never had so much fun being bad.
Intricate Backdrops: While LEGO fanatics might bemoan the lack of realism, Batman fans certainly won't. The developers have done a lot to open up the setting for this latest title, including plenty of rooftop battles, looming high rises and large architecture.
Oodles of Lego Gadgets: The game is already packed with tons of weapons for the bad guys, but you also get a number of tech suits for the dynamic duo, a garage of bat and bad guy vehicles and even a robot and plant you can ride around on.
Original Story: Unlike Traveller's Tales' previous LEGO games, this one comes with an original plot. Sure, the idea of all the bad guys breaking out of Arkham Asylum isn't exactly fresh, but not knowing what's coming next is a bit refreshing for the LEGO franchise.
Still Lots of Fun: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, they all have their selling points, but really it's the overarching LEGO franchise that makes these games so much fun to play. While Traveller's Tales has tweaked the formula a bit with each iteration, they know better than to mess with a good thing.
An Issue of Perspective: I love the LEGO games, absolutely love playing through them all with my son. But I'm really getting tired of that camera angle. You know, the one that makes running across a platform, jumping, climbing at times, a frustrating exercise in guess work?
Bit of a Cake Walk: More than previous games, beating this latest LEGO game seems more like an inevitability than the product of gameplay. The bosses in particular are quite easy.
Convoluted Progression: I like the idea behind essentially playing through the game's story twice, once as Batman and Robin and again as an assortment of villains. I also like that they way it's presented you get a completely different take on the experiences, almost a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead take. What I don't like is being confused about how far along I am and whether I've actually wrapped everything up. This time around I think gamers need a bit more hand holding.
Bugs, Still, Really?: I put up with falling through scenery, getting trapped in areas and glitchy cut scenes for all of the LEGO Star Wars games. I got slightly more annoyed when they showed up in Indiana Jones, but Batman? It's starting to feel like Traveller's Tales is content with their fun, though flawed engine. To be clear, gamers aren't. At least throw in a way to suicide out of a bad situation and reappear somewhere other than the same exact spot.
I'm a self-confessed LEGO The Video Game fanboy. I've loved all of the titles (at least on console) that have come out with those three words framing the IP of the day on the box cover. I'd probably buy LEGO Finnegan's Wake The Video Game if it came out. Strike that, I'd definitely buy LEGO Finnegan's Wake The Video Game if it came out. And while I think that the formula works on most levels, I don't think it gives a developer licence to not take a step back and look at what does need to be improved. I'm willing to put up with the problems inherent in the current games, but that's not going to last.
Despite it's few flaws, LEGO Batman The Video Game is a blast to play, a return to the sense of fun and discovery that first ignited the success of the LEGO games in Star Wars. The character models are lovingly detailed, their mini-fig ass-kickings adorable to watch. If you liked any of the previous iterations of LEGO games than this is probably worth picking up.
LEGO Batman The Video Game, developed by Traveller's Tales and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, was released on Sept. 23 for the DS, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360. Retails for $30 to $50. Played through all three episodes as hero and all but the last half of the least level of the third episode as a villain. Explored the Batcave and Arkham Asylum on Xbox 360.
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