|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Travellers Tales||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Warner Bros.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
The entire concept of a LEGO video game is a little weird: the game portrays LEGOs depicting popular action characters, unnecessarily removing the audience an extra degree from the plot. Yet the series has proven a remarkable success, entertaining children and, for whatever reason, captivating adults.
The latest title is LEGO Batman, which we explored on the DS. Like its predecessors, its a 3-D platformer/beat-em-up loaded with LEGO puzzles. Its not challenging in the least, and at times it feels like youre just going through the motions, but more often than not, itll trick you into spending more time with it than youd planned. It also manages to keep its childish nature while infusing a touch of the dark, brooding atmosphere that makes the Batman story so powerful. In short, its no Game of the Year nominee, but itll do the trick.
The basic gameplay is about what youd expect. For most of the levels, the action is confined to the top-screen, with a jump button, an attack button, and a button to switch between Batman and Robin. The A button fires projectiles and also takes on various tasks like flipping switches. The D-pad moves the character, of course (and as in most 3-D games, its occasionally hard to maneuver through the more maze-like puzzles). Other actions are (unnecessarily) confined to the touch screen, meaning you have to use your thumb on the screen, smudging it, or keep the stylus handy between your index and middle fingers.
LEGO Batman strongly emphasizes puzzle-solving over fighting. The fighting scenes come up only sporadically, and though once in awhile an enemy (usually a boss) will demand you employ some strategy, by and large getting close and mashing the attack button will work out fine.
Batman and Robin have different abilities, and power suits can give them even more ways to work around the games various obstacles. Typically, youll explore the area, smashing everything you can, picking up the little LEGO studs that go flying, and looking for a way to proceed. Standing atop a twitching pile of LEGOs and holding A will direct your character to build a predetermined item. Usually, only one of your characters will be able to move on; for example, therell be a tightrope to walk, which only the delicate-stepping Robin is capable of. At the new location, therell be a way to make a path for the stranded Batman, be it a grapple point, a simple ladder, etc.
The exceptions are the 2-D shooter levels, in which you drive vehicles like the Batmobile or Batwing, swerving to avoid collisions and shooting everything you can. These levels display one big picture across both the DSs screens, which takes some getting used to, especially given the gap between them. Also, we found a glitch in the Batwing level; we managed to get the plane stuck on an obstacle, and we nearly reset the console before it became unglued. Still, theyre a great break from the relentless platforming gameplay.
Rinse and repeat! Thats about all youll be doing, at least in Story Mode (it takes about five hours to beat Batman and Robins 15 levels). It is impressive how many abilities they came up with for the two main characters (the aforementioned grappling and tightrope walking, plus resisting cold, walking through toxic gas, walking up magnetic ladders, climbing through vents, gliding, detonating explosive barrels, and probably some more we forgot), but the puzzles arent always that clever. Simple intuition will get you through most of the game, and when you do get stuck, its not because the game is challenging you intellectually; its because its not clear where the heck youre supposed to go next.