The LEGO Game You Deserve, Not The LEGO Game You Need
So here’s the deal. I’m not a big fan of the LEGO franchise. These games always seemed way too generic to me. I have a lot of friends who enjoy these games, just for their sheer mindless fun, but for me they always seemed shallow and kind of repetitive. In addition, I’m not the biggest fan of Batman. I don’t really buy into the whole “Batman can beat everyone” fan craze. So when I was given LEGO Batman 3 to review, I’ll admit that I didn’t come into the experience with high hopes. But after playing the game for a while I can honestly say… it’s OK. It’s not mindblowing. It’s not a huge revolution for the LEGO franchise. It’s not the comic book game that you’ve been waiting for. It’s just OK.
The game starts and we are treated to a cutscene showing LEGO Batman taking down LEGO joker gang members in LEGO Gotham, while the familiar Batman the Animated Series theme plays in the background. I gotta admit that tickled my nostalgia bone.
Unfortunately, I then had to deal with the game crashing three times when I attempted to change my controls so that stopped the tickling right away. None of my PC controllers would work right and even when I tried to alter the controls of my keyboard and mouse setup the game would just freeze completely accepting no inputs whatsoever. The lack of ability to get the game running in windowed mode was also an annoyance. The PC version isn’t exactly the most stable game out there, and in the end I needed to use Joy2Key to emulate keyboard inputs, as the default keyboard layout doesn’t allow for keys that require simultaneous presses. This was needlessly frustrating and is kind of inexcusable and it took me over an hour of fiddling with the game just to make it playable.
After a brief cutscene featuring numerous lanterns fighting each other in space, the game puts you in the sewer, chasing Killer Croc with Robin. Here’s when you get acquainted with the basic controls of LEGO Batman 3 , which really haven’t changed much from other LEGO games. You have a button for jumping, a button for attacking, a button for performing your special actions, and a menu button. There’s a bunch of other functions like quick tagging characters and such, but these are the basics that you will be relying on for the whole game.
This intro stage gets you into the swing of what you will be doing for most of the game. You’ll grapple up to a platform, jump across a gap, pull a switch, and move onward, all while collecting tiny little LEGO studs, the “coins” of the game. At times you will have to build up the world around you by using LEGO bricks that are lying around, and to find these bricks, you usually have to attack crates and bins of LEGO that are lying around you. This short introduction also shows you the game’s suit system, whereby heroes can change into different suits each with different abilities. Here, you change Robin into a hazmat suit that allows him to suck up small LEGO pieces and deposit them into a machine which then builds a LEGO gun which lets you blast through a wall to move onward. After you are finished with that puzzle, you move on to yet another one where you have to flood a section with water in order to make platforms float so you can jump across another gap.
This is the basic pace of the entire game. You get to a section, solve a puzzle, get to another section, solve another puzzle, and so on and so forth. There are some action combat bits in the middle, which are breaths of fresh air in my opinion, but so much of the game is taken up by puzzles. My problem is that the puzzles aren’t even all that deep. They are all usually just “use ability A on object B” and most of them can be brute forced through by smashing everything around you and mashing on the ability button until something happens. There are points when you and your teammates have to split up to solve puzzles and these are kind of cool. They get you thinking about how to use your abilities in tandem in a sort of Lost Vikings sort of way.
The game tries very hard to be funny and at some points it succeeds. Perhaps the most hilarious points in the game are when people from real life cameo. In the intro stage you get to interact with Adam West as played by Adam West, and you get to rescue him from Sharks, a subtle nod to the infamous “bat shark repellant” episode of the 1960’s Batman series. Other celebrities that cameo in the game include Conan O’Brian and Kevin Smith and there’s even supposedly a cameo in the end credits for Jurassic Park.
Unfortunately, the rest of the humor falls a little flat. It’s that same brand of cartoony ADHD humor that LEGO games have been known for. Characters make non-sequiturs a lot. Some fall down. Some act goofy. It occupies an odd space somewhere between Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans . Kids will like it, but the older audience will be groaning. There are some good one-liners though, like an off reference to the classic line, “I am Batman, and I can breathe in space!” Classic.
The story of the game is OK. It starts as a pretty normal good guys vs. bad guys plot, with the Justice League vs. the Legion of Doom, but then Brainiac steps into the picture and takes control of the Lanterns and their rings of power in order to shrink down the planets of the universe to mini-size. Now you must team up with your arch rivals in a fight against Brainiac for the fate of the universe. It’s pretty standard comic book faire, and it keeps the game moving, so I can’t complain too much.
LEGO Batman 3 ’s biggest strength is its roster of playable characters. There are 150 characters in the game, coming from all corners of the DC Universe. You’ll be able to take control of several different members of the Justice League, including the Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Super Man, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, and more. You’ll also be able to take control of DC villains, and even minor characters like Alfred (oh boy, Alfred fans are going to jump down my throat with that one.) When you expand the game to DLC offerings, you’ll even encounter characters like Batman Beyond, or Arrow from their titular series. Each of these characters have their own unique abilities. Unfortunately, only a very small portion of these characters factor into the main campaign.
There are points in the game in which you are asked to ride in vehicles. For example, early on Robin gets into a moon rover for a sort of excavation side-game. It’s cute, but is really just a bit of a diversion. There are also several “turret” style sections in the game which are fun but are pretty simple. The coolest vehicle sections are the 2D shooter sections, which are fast and frantic and just a whole lot of fun. They play a lot like Resogun , with enemies coming at you from all sides and a lot of different weapons to utilize. I kind of wish there were more of these sections, but sadly they are few and far between.
After a small while, the game opens up and multiple missions become available, including missions you already completed. This is kind of cool, but doesn’t really effect game flow much. It’s certainly completionist bait, as people who want to perfect their runs through stages can go back over and over again, collect more studs, save Adam West (he needs rescuing in multiple stages), so on so forth. But overall I just proceeded from one mission to another, not really knowing what the next one entailed, and not really caring for that matter. It’s not like I had a lot of info about the missions ahead of time, so it was really just kind of an empty decision for me.
The graphics are decent, with the miniaturized planet missions being the most interesting. It’s definitely cool to see these giant sized LEGO figures stomping around LEGO buildings and causing wanton destruction. When the graphics are turned up on high on a PC, the game looks a lot like the LEGO Movie and that’s kinda cool. It’s easily one of the best looking LEGO games that we have seen in a while.
The voice acting is also pretty good, but in my opinion falls a little short. We get halfway decent facsimiles of the voices we had growing up, the deep Kevin Conroy Batman voice, the cackling Joker, so on so forth, but facsimiles are all they are. It’s easy to lose yourself in the voices, forgetting that these aren’t the same voice actors we grew up with, until just a couple lines that are delivered in strange ways that make you remember, “Oh yeah, it’s not the 90s and I’m a 30 year old playing a LEGO video game.”
The pacing kills it for me. I feel like levels plod on at a snail’s pace and frequently when solving puzzles I I find myself wanting them to be over so I can just proceed to the next part of the time. That portion of the gameplay just doesn’t feel rewarding, and as such I find myself taking multiple breaks simply due to frustration.
But in comparison to the other LEGO titles out there, LEGO Batman 3 is still one of the better ones. It has a lot of personality, a lot of interesting ideas, and just a lot of stuff to do. It very much knows its fans, with its slick references and expansive character roster, and I like that. It appeals to the culture of comic book fans, and even LEGO fans to a certain extent. The game is at its best when you go, “Haha I get it!”
The best way to describe LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is fun, but frustrating. If you are a PC player, you’ll run into a ton of glitches and controller issues and game crashes and just general unpleasant technical fidgeting. Even if you aren’t the game’s tedious puzzles will make you shake your controller with rage. However, if you manage to get past all that, there is a decent game here, with interesting action sequences, decent tongue-in-cheek humor, and a lot of fan service. I wouldn’t call the game a “must have” title, but if you are looking for a new LEGO title you sink your teeth into, you could do a lot worse than this one.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The graphics are simple, but still very good on next-gen systems. 3.0 Control
The same controls you’ve been using for every LEGO game, with some mix-ups for vehicle sections. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Two words… Adam West. 3.5 Play Value
The game has a lot of content, but struggles with keeping you coming back for session after session. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best