Traveller’s Tales are back with another LEGO game, straying away from George Lucas’s creations for the first time. LEGO has been making Batman related toys for quite awhile, and now they’ve put them in motion, and put their fates in the hands of gamers.
The story here is an original one, or actually six original ones. Like the re-release of LEGO Star Wars that included both trilogies, this has six stories to play through. One set of three has you playing as heroes, and the other as villains. You’ll have assigned characters for the sake of the story, but once beating a mission, you can go back to it anytime in Free Play mode, using any characters you’ve unlocked. The story itself is told in typical goofy LEGO games fashion. If you’ve played one of these, you know some of what to expect. This time, they’re able to go a little more out of bounds, as they’re not working off someone else’s idea. One humorous moment has Batman shopping at “AwesomeCapes.com.” The story doesn’t aim to make you feel any emotions other than happiness, and it does an admirable job of that most of the time, providing the funny for children and adults alike.
There are two basic mission types: beat-em-up and vehicle shooter. Neither will offer much challenge to the experienced gamer, but there’s enough diversity in both to still be fun. The only real challenge, as you have infinite lives, is to get the proper number of “studs” for the level to earn Super-Hero as a rating, and thus get another piece of a special LEGO kit. In addition, there are mini-kits in each level, some pieces of which you can’t attain in story mode, as you need a different character to reach it. This, combined with around 50 unlockable characters, gives the story a whole heckuva lot of replay value. In addition, there are several different fighting styles, so playing as Batman feels different from playing as Nightwing, for instance. It will take you a long time to find every hidden item in this game. There are a few puzzles in this game, and they all follow Occam’s Razor: The simplest answer is the right one. When in doubt, jump around, or try to pull on any levers you can find, and you’ll progress pretty easily.
The major downside to gameplay comes when you’re playing alone. The Artificial Intelligence for the second character is completely broken, and much less intelligent than that of LEGO Star Wars or even LEGO Indiana Jones (which was a noticeable drop from the first series). It seems odd that this would get worse with every game they make, but that’s definitely the case here. If you don’t have a friend or family member to play the game with, you’re out of luck. There is no online play in this game at all, which seems a strange omission. The only probably reason for this is these games tend to skew a bit younger, and younger kids are definitely not the “online gamer” audience. Still, for older types, it would have been nice.
The sound and music is good, but not varied enough to be great. Fans of Batman in multimedia will instantly recognize the main theme, along with a couple of the other boss battle songs. The main theme plays during a large portion of this game; you probably won’t want to go watch Batman: The Animated Series after an extended session. The cutscenes, like those in the previous games, are “voiced” by a series of grunts and gibberish. It’s amazing just how much of Batman’s personality can come off of him only saying “hunh” over and over.
Aside from the horrendous partner AI, this is far and away the best game of the LEGO series thus far. More items, more story missions, and the denizens of Gotham City provide a lot of fun for you and a friend. This is likely the best Batman game to date, as well, which is both triumphant and severely depressing. Any fan of the previous LEGO games or of Batman and his universe will enjoy pouring several days into this game. In fact, I’m heading back in to try to complete my mini-kits now!