Batman: Arkham City has to be, in most people’s minds, the greatest comic book video game ever — not to mention the greatest Batman video game ever — but there’s a little Batman rule I like to follow: for every Christian Bale, there should be an Adam West. If Batman: Arkham City is Christian Bale, then LEGO Batman is its Adam West. We’ve known for a while now that LEGO would be releasing more DC themed toys featuring Superman, Green Lantern, and of course more Batman, and that the video game, LEGO Batman 2, was in the works, but recent evidence now points to a brick JLA appearing in the next LEGO DC video game.
Batman is a character that demands to be taken seriously, and as we’ve seen with Frank Miller’s comic books and Christopher Nolan’s film series, I think we can all agree that dark serious Batman is best Batman. But we should never forget the lightheartedness that can surround the character as well. The 1966 Adam West series and the more recent Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series exemplify the Bat-humor we all need to laugh with sometimes. And LEGO Batman captures exactly that.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Released: Sept. 23, 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 & 3, Wii
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Unlike the LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Indiana Jones games that have a strict film continuity, LEGO Batman is free to pull from all forms of Batman lore, forming a LEGO Bat-universe made up of all the things we love about the character. And Traveller’s Tales has certainly given us a lot to love.
The game’s story is pretty generic, but story depth isn’t the main draw for this title; fighting Gotham’s deadliest in cute LEGO form is. You start out as Batman and Robin, and quickly begin kicking block butt. Right from the start Batman’s most famous gadgets, the Batarang and the grapnel hook are available, and a blast to use. Holding the appropriate button down will form a Bat-symbol on the screen (or an R symbol if you’re playing as Robin) which is to be scrolled around the areas, highlighting targets for your weapon. This is a great way to stun large numbers of foes when they become overwhelming.
My strongest recommendation for playing this game is that you play with a friend. Co-op play is exactly why you have a sidekick in this adventure. The game can still be played with only one player, but it wont be as enjoyable. Not only because playing with a friend is always much more fun, but because the game’s A.I. is extremely stupid, and when a puzzle arises, and calls for your A.I. partner to simply flip a switch or step onto a platform, it often won’t. In single player mode you can switch between Batman and Robin with only the touch of a button, but when both caped crusaders are tasked with simultaneously flipping a switch, and the A.I. half of your crime fighting duo refuses, it can be incredibly infuriating.
What I loved most about this game is how the story is told from both the perspective of the heroes and the villains. Half the game is playing as the Batman’s famous rogues, and it’s never felt so good to be so bad. But campaign aside, what really makes this game a love letter to all Batman fans is the ridiculous amount of playable characters. Once Free Play is unlocked, you’re able to go back and change to any character, from Alfred to Killer Moth, at any given time throughout gameplay to reach those previously unattainable goodies in each level, or just wreak havoc in general. A very sick part of me loved playing as The Killing Joke costumed Joker with Batgirl as my partner.
There’s plenty of Bat-vehicle action in the game, complete with Batmobile, Batplane, and Batboat, and though each of these levels are basically the same mission, it’s a fun little change up from the beat-em-up status quo. It’s easy to lay on the trigger button for each vehicle’s machine gun-like attack to destroy everything on the map, but when the level calls for a very precisely aimed shot, it can be frustratingly impossible. Only the completionists will rip their hair out in anger over acquiring the one and only Power Brick left to collect, but casual gamers won’t really care so much.
Though the gameplay isn’t perfect, what is perfect is the charm of the LEGOs. If you’re 8-years-old, or a pretentious veteran Dark Knight purist, it’s hard to not smile at the game’s many jokes and quirks. Playing as the disco dancing mech was awesome, seeing Batman shop online for new capes was cute, Robin simply being a spoiled “Dick” to Alfred was hilarious, and Joker using his butt for things it was never meant for was fantastic. And Danny Elfman’s score from the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film as a backdrop only authenticates the entire experience.
The only way Traveller’s Tales could outdo themselves is by adding more heroes from outside of Gotham City, and that appears to be exactly what they’re doing with LEGO Batman 2. I can only dream of the Brave and the Bold number of superhero team ups I want to see in a LEGO game. LEGO Plastic Man! LEGO Booster Gold! LEGO Martian Manhunter! LEGO Darkseid! The very idea is all so adorably awesome, and the best part is we already know it’s going to be a fun game!
Though campy Batman may not be the majority fan favorite version of the Dark Knight, it doesn’t have to be! Long live campy Batman!
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