The Dark Knight returns to a more campy and colourful time in Batman: The Brave and the Bold for the Nintendo Wii, and he's brought friends.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is the video game adaptation of the latest Batman animated series. In the cartoon, Batman teams up every week with a different DC Comics hero to take down a different DC Comics villain, usually learning something in the process. Wayforward Technologies takes that formula and applies it to a side-scrolling beat-em-up for Nintendo's Wii, giving fans a chance to battle through four episodes of the series with four different sidekicks and a handful of supporting characters lending a hand.
The Brave and the Bold cartoon is a delightful journey through the pages of DC Comics history. Can the video game keep up?
Batman and his Amazing Friends: Just like the animated series the game is based on, Batman: The Brave and the Bold features a cornucopia of DC Comics heroes and villains, from heavy hitters like Green Lantern and Aquaman to more obscure second and third stringers. I battled the likes of the Clock King, Gentleman Ghost and Cat-Man, calling upon the powers of Plastic Man, the Red Tornado and Captain Marvel to lend a hand along the way. It's nice to see some of DC's more obscure characters getting a chance to strut their stuff.
Wii Remote Controls: Pretty standard side-scrolling beat-em up gameplay is freshened up a little with the inclusion of Wii remote gesture controls for some of the game's more powerful attacks. Swiping the Wii remote side-to-side results in a more powerful attack. Swiping downwards while jumping brings Batman and his friends dropping down for a ground pound manoeuvre. Summoning helper characters during battles will see you shaking your Wii remote like a madman, adding more damage to the colourfully animated effects. The gesture-based controls aren't overused, instead providing a nice diversion from the standard punching, kicking, jumping gameplay here and there.
Episodic Format: Fans of the cartoon will be pleased to find the game follows the same episode formula followed in the show. Each of the four episodes start off with a brief marginally related opening scene, giving villains like Flash's Rogues and the Clock King a brief moment in the spotlight, followed by the opening credits from the show and several levels' worth of beat-em up combat, glued together with a central storyline. Each episode features a controllable guest star: Robin, the Blue Beetle, Hawkman or Guy Gardener - each with their own upgradeable weapons and gadgets. Each episode even teaches a message, from the dangers of making assumptions to learning to think before you act.
Upgrades: The monotony of bashing endless waves of enemies into submission over four lengthy episodes is broken up by the game's upgrade system. As you defeat enemies you collect coins, which can be used to upgrade the various gadgets Batman and his partners use throughout the game, making them more powerful, and in some cases much more useful. Enemies giving Batman coins makes no sense of course, as his alter-ego Bruce Wayne is ridiculously wealthy, but it's something to do. Plus, the game charges you 100 coins when you die, so the upgrade system gives you a little more incentive not to buy the farm.
The Blue Beetle: Of the four guest characters that join Batman on his travels through The Brave and the Bold, none are quite as entertaining as the Blue Beetle, voiced by Will Friedle. Friedle stands out among a stellar voice cast, bringing an air of naivety and charm to the fledgling third incarnation of the Beetle. Like Spider-Man at his finest, the Beetle tosses quips as readily as he does punches and easily scores the best lines of the game. Bordering on breaking the fourth wall, he casually mentions how it feels like he and Batman are in a video game, and during a level involving flying a hover board continuously points out how the scenery seems to be scrolling past over and over again. I'd take a full Blue Beetle game any day.
DS Connectivity: Owners of the Nintendo DS version of Batman: The Brave and the Bold can connect the two games together in order to add a second or third player to the mix as Bat-Mite, a chibi Batman with the power to manifest items on the game screen. I played through several levels of the game with a friend controlling Bat-Mite using the DS touch screen, doling out health and combo power-ups, tossing bombs and materialising anvils that more often than not hit me instead of my enemies. It's chaotic, a bit silly and completely unnecessary, but it's nice to see someone making use of the DS as a Wii input device.
Repetitive Dialogue: This is a relatively common problem with games of this ilk. I understand that when two characters need to banter across game levels that could take differently skilled players varying amounts of time to complete, there's going to be some repetition. I can handle that. When I am going through a training session in which the character Wildcat walks me through a set number of moves, however, it strikes me that a set number of congratulatory statements would have been easy enough to come up with. Instead he repeats the same three phrases of encouragement over and over again. This makes me wonder if the game wouldn't have been that much better if a bit more time was spent in the voice recording studio.
Guy Gardener: Green Lantern Guy Gardener is as annoying as the Blue Beetle is entertaining. It's not the fault of the characters voice actor, who does a fine job handling the dialogue, but rather the dialogue itself. Gardner spends the first half of his episode being an outrageously self-centred jerk, only to have a sudden realisation that transformers him into whiny emo-Green Lantern. Both are equally insufferable, and since his is the last episode (technically), it ends the game on a down note.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is based off of a cartoon meant to be enjoyed by both adults and children for different reasons. Children enjoy the colourful characters and action, while adult fans of DC Comics enjoy the intelligent dialogue while seeing classic heroes and villains come to life on the screen. The video game is much the same, catering to the younger set with colourful and simplistic gameplay, while keeping the grown-ups hanging on to see who shows up next to lend Batman a hand.
While it might not win any awards for innovation, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is more than enough to keep children young and old glued to their seats for several hours of old-fashioned crime-fighting fun.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold was developed by Wayforward Technologies and published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment for the Wii on September 7. Retails for $US39.99. A DS version of the game that connects to the Wii version retails for $US29.99. A copy of both games was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the main storyline via a combination of single player, two player and singleplayer with DS accompaniment.
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