Review: Lego Batman (360)
Holy Yawnsome, Batman!
Lego Batman is the, as the name suggests, the latest in the oddly successful Lego titles and concentrates on the Dark Knight, his suspiciously close friend Robin and his numerous enemies. The astute among you will notice the inclusion of the word ‘oddly’ there. That’s not to say I dislike the Lego games. I just don’t get them. It’s like when people my age try to tell me that the latest Pixar film is excellent. It may be well made but I stopped enjoying cartoons around the time they stopped putting Thundercats (HO!) in them.
The Lego games rely heavily on one assumption. Namely, that you’ll find it amusing, or at least endearing, to see familiar characters shaped like Lego. Well kind of like Legoâ€¦ I mean, they don’t actually look like Lego pieces do they? But anywayâ€¦
Now maybe if they’d started with Lego Terminator or something I’d have caught the bug but I couldn’t care less about Star Wars (sorry) and so all I saw was a mediocre, and clunky, platformer with too many cutscenes of which most of them focussed on the idea that someone bumping into something or falling over was funny. Hilarious even, if you include another character face-palming. Laugh? I nearly gave a fuck.
Lego Batman continues that theme. The basic story is that all your favourite baddies (Joker, Mr. Freeze, Riddler, Penguin etc) have broken out of jail and are up to no good in Gotham City. Batman and Robin then spend the rest of the game putting them back, although in a very nice twist you also play each scenario as the bad guys as well. Bonus Bat-points for that.
The game plays out exactly as you’d expect. It’s a fairly standard 3D platformer with basic puzzles and a simple combat. On the plus side, every character has different attack moves and different costumes unlock different abilities which helps keep things varied. Each level also contains various items for unlockables which will only be collectable when played with different characters which encourages replaying the game.
The graphics are simple but reasonably effective and, dare I say it, cute with easily recognisable characters and settings. Gotham makes for a darker, and also less memorable, backdrop than the locales in the Star Wars and Indy games though which gives the game a slightly drab feel at times. There are no issues with animation or frame-rates but the game is a simplistic affair so that’s expected.
If this faint praise has sounded unenthusiastic so far, the worst is yet to come. Lego Batman has two serious problems. Firstly, that familiar ‘bad camera’ problem. I can almost live with the inherent clunkiness of the game but when married to such an unhelpful camera it makes anything but basic platforming manoeuvres seem a chore. There are no difficult manoeuvres in the game but you’ll find yourself falling to your death a little too often.
The second problem is that the puzzles, and by association the level design, are utterly shit. I’m not expecting Braid levels of inventiveness here by any means (this is apparently a kid’s game after all) but I was, at times, gripped by similar levels of frustration even though practically every puzzle in the game involves smashing into bits and then holding ‘B’ to reassemble them into a switch or something. One particular section involved standing on a button (or pump or something) to raise a platform. I did it. The platform got stuck. I tried againâ€¦ it got stuck again. So I ran around the room for fifteen minutes attempting to jump on/destroy everything. Eventually I had to go to an FAQ that said I need to jump on the button. I did. The platform got stuck. Tried again. Stuck. Again. Stuck. Again, it raised further. What?
Well here we are another Lego game and another counterpoint with me struggling to come up with two hundred words that can be summed up with two simple questions. Do you like Batman? Did you like the previous Lego games? If you answered yes to both get it now otherwise it would be wise to spend a few shekels on a rental lest you find yourself left cold by yet another variation of the slightly stale Lego game format.
Personally I found it to be a good lark but then again I’m predisposed to liking anything DC-based, even this kiddie friendly version of the Dark Knight that has some strange choices for villain powers (The Riddler with mind control?) and doesn’t feature some of my own personal favourites such as The Reaper (what do you want next? Lego Hostel?! – Ed) and Deadshot but given the huge canon of Batman characters, both hostile and allied, you can bet your house on there being more Lego Batman games if this sells well, and it will given the pre-Christmas release timing and all the hype still swirling around the Dark Knight movie.
Lego Batman does exactly what is says on the tin (case) and will give the young’uns, or the just young at heart, literally a dozen hours worth of fun and excitement if you don’t mind the endless stud hunting and constant lessons from videogame puzzles 101.
Secondary Score: 6/10
There are some nice touches at times and the game does seem to have been developed with some degree of care and attention, at least in regards to the Batman aspects, but the bread and butter stuff is utterly throwaway. Instead of cramming in the extras they really should have gotten the platforming and combat nailed down.
The game is fundamentally a co-op one with one player playing as Batman and the other as Robin, although puzzles rarely extend past pressing switches simultaneously, but sadly this is offline co-op only. You can allow the AI to handle the other character but this will regularly have you gnashing your teeth with frustration as the AI blindly follows you around rather than standing on a lift or clicking that switch. This is even worse when the solution to the puzzle doesn’t exactly present itself clearly.
The game itself isn’t particularly difficult, the cost of dying is to lose a few studs (think of them as coins), but it’s still annoying to die because of a hard to judge jump or because of imprecise controls and with the puzzles being as obscure as they are it’s hard to know who the game is aimed at. Kids would find it difficult and adults could find the whole thing a bit too simple.
Lego Batman’s major crime is that it’s gum-achingly boring. Tired gameplay, a distinct lack of humour (beyond ‘Lego henchman falls over’) and longevity artificially achieved using tired ‘collect all the items’ tactics means that Lego Batman remains an interesting idea tacked onto a frankly depressing game.
Fans of the subject matter will be able to coo and smile at it through gritted teeth but, mark my words, no-one will be playing this next month unless it’s to chore their way through the achievements and, as a certified gamerscore whore, this is one game that I can happily live without maxing out.