Bruce Wayne Returns to Pound Bad Guys…Again.
I’ve written quite a bit about the surprising games that jumped out at E3 this year. Most surprising of all, is that there wasn’t really a stand-out hit. Demon’s Souls or Split/Second could be considered that type of a surprise hit from E3 2009, but 2010 had a spotlight that was largely shared across many different games in many different genres.
However, Batman: The Brave and the Bold tops my list of most exciting new action games for the whole family. This Wii brawler has everything you could want from a superhero-themed beat-em-up from gorgeous 2D visuals to a fighting system that is loads of fun, and even a cooperative mode that surpasses expectations.
In short, my experience with this brief demo was delightful. I got about ten minutes of play time at the demo kiosk with one of the game’s developers, showing me the ropes and the different tricks and abilities I could pull off.
The basic premise of the gameplay isn’t tough to understand at all. You simply walk from left to right, bashing everything in your path. Where this gets interesting is with the combination of the allied superheroes you have at your disposal and the unique cooperative mechanics you can employ to bash baddies with considerably more flair. These heroes run the gamut from Green Lantern to Booster Gold, and while we don’t know the exact number of characters included, we managed to catch a glimpse at the hero select screen, which had dozens of blacked out spaces. This means we can expect a full roster of DC heroes when the game ships.
While seeing Green Lantern fly onto the screen and nuke the entire area with a giant blast of green energy is awesome, it’s non-interactive. You simply build up a power bar on the bottom of the screen, and once you’ve beaten up enough bad guys, you can call for his help by pressing a button. It’s satisfying, but I speculate that it might have been more fun to take control of Green Lantern (or whichever superhero is helping) for a couple moments and do the destruction myself. Because of this, there’s a bit of a disconnect here as well. We’re supposed to be playing as one of the best superheroes of all-time, and yet the moment another hero enters the battlefield, he can destroy everything in sight within 3 seconds, whereas it might take Batman 5 minutes. Why not just play as Green Lantern?
But those are just minor comic book nerd quibbles. The game itself is very fun, and I’m glad it’s not possible to destroy everything just by looking at it! The meat of the gameplay comes precisely from the limitations of Batman and Robin. Alone, they’re still powerful and able to take out a room of enemies with a bit of effort, but together, they combine for much greater things.
One of the best things the developer is doing with this buddy system is leaving it a bit open ended. What I mean by that is that your characters are something of a clean slate in terms of how they can pummel enemies. For instance, both characters have a throw ability. This means Batman could grab an enemy and throw him in the air for Robin to pound, slamming him back to the earth. You could also toss him back and forth multiple times, until he’s near unconsciousness, then throw him in the air to let Booster Gold finish the job. It’s really up to you, and in a genre of game that is in such danger of growing stagnant quickly, this is very important. The ability to experiment and find new ways to have fun with your human partner is a huge benefit to the game.
The whole experience is tied together by a visual aesthetic which is, quite frankly, spot on. I’ve rarely every seen video games transmit the comic book vibe in gameplay as clearly as The Brave and the Bold does. Many games will cut to comic book-style framed cutscenes, but The Brave and the Bold looks like a comic book in every frame of its action. The characters are splendidly rendered, and the color palette is beautiful and engaging.
At a budget price of $40, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is shaping up to be one of the must-have titles of the year’s upcoming Wii line up. Superhero fans would be silly not to keep this one on their radar. While I don’t know how the final game will come out just yet, I know that I had a blast during my demo, and that all of the right elements for a great game are here.