LEGO Batman Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PS2 | DS
LEGO Batman box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Traveller's 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: Sep. 23, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Construction Time Again
by Jason Lauritzen

The LEGO branding applied to video games is a novel concept. Developer Traveller's Tales takes popular franchises like Star Wars and makes them kid-friendly, accessible, and, most of all, fun. They've become so adept at the process that the same year we received LEGO Indiana Jones, they turned right around and gave us another: LEGO Batman. This is a testament to everything that's right and wrong with the series. Like with previous LEGO games, we get a game that is full of charm, but seems so similar to everything the developer has done before. It doesn't make for a bad game by any means (there's fun to be had), but rather gives the sense that the LEGO series is on autopilot, cruising along comfortably at its own pace.

LEGO Batman screenshot

Unlike Traveller's Tales' Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, LEGO Batman doesn't follow a particular film. The story is split into three episodes, each headlined by one mastermind villain - such as the Riddler, Penguin, or Joker - as they carry out a nefarious plot with the help of equally evil accomplices. This means you get to see plenty of bad guys from the Batman universe. From Catwoman to Mr. Freeze and Two-Face, the world is densely populated with fan favorites. On the hero side of the equation, you get to control Batman and Robin as they attempt to return everyone to their rightful home at Arkham Asylum. The twist - both in terms of plot and gameplay - is that once you beat an episode with Batman and Robin, you can go back to it and play as the bad guys, giving you a different perspective on the scenario.

The decision to not follow the storyline of a particular Batman film makes sense. Aside from Tim Burton's original offering, the Batman films of the '90s were an artistic train wreck, and while Christopher Nolan's entries in the series have received acclaim, they are more character studies than full-blown action pieces. Besides, like past LEGO games, we've got characters who don't speak and have to get their point across via vivid animation and the occasional voice blip - whether it be a grunt, laugh, or an evil cackle. It all works well enough and it's a staple of the series. Plus, this time out Traveller's Tales included the option for players to skip cutscenes, should the near-silent cutscenes' charm be lost on some gamers.

Since there's a formula at play for LEGO games, gameplay is very similar to past entries in the series. Batman and Robin can dish out melee attacks, destroy objects for studs (the game's unlock currency), and build objects out of LEGOs. However, there are some new ideas at play. The two heroes can throw Batarangs to destroy hard-to-reach objects on-screen and use grappling lines to hoist themselves to higher heights or travel across gaps. Then there's the clever suit system. Both Batman and Robin have an array of specialty suits that gave them different abilities. For example, Batman can get a glider to float longer distances; he can equip a demolitions outfit to set off bombs; or he can fire off a sonic gun that shatters glass. Robin can use a technology suit to maneuver remote-controlled vehicles; equip a magnet suit to walk along vertical surfaces; or throw on an attract suit, equipped with a vacuum, to suck up critical LEGO pieces.

LEGO Batman screenshot

The game's villains are short on suits, but make up for it with unique character abilities. For example, the Riddler's cane allows him to control the feeble-minded. This is useful for forcing NPCs to open locked doors and flip vital switches. Mr. Freeze can use his trusty freeze ray to turn police officers into blocks of ice, stopping them dead in their tracks, and he can form ice platforms over hot surfaces. Poison Ivy is immune to toxins and can grow plants, which she can then use as makeshift platforms to reach important items.

Vehicles factor into the game as well. During levels, you may have the chance to build a car to ram through tougher objects or build a waste disposal machine that can suck up toxic waste, allowing Batman and Robin to pass over once-dangerous terrain. There are also vehicle-centered levels. In these you get to pilot craft like the Batmobile, Batboat, and Batwing. For the most part they're a fun diversion, but compared to the character controls, they feel a little too slippery. Trying to do something very specific - like sling shot a water mine across the screen using the Batboat's towline - is a troublesome process.

LEGO Batman screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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