When Commissioner Gordon flips that switch and the bat signal hits the Gotham sky, you know it’s only a matter of time until the dark knight makes an appearance. Cue Traveller’s Tales with their own unique vision of Gotham City’s caped crusader in LEGO Batman: The Videogame, marking the fifth instalment of the popular LEGO franchise. Yet, while The Dark Knight’s entry in the series is undoubtedly the best, it still contains the same troubling issues that past instalments have faced.
As mentioned in our hands-on preview and interview with Traveller’s Tales, LEGO: Batman is unlike any other in the series due to the storyline not being preconceived before the game rolled around. Instead, TT was given absolute freedom in creating their tale within the Gotham universe. This has resulted in a tale of humor, villainy and a strong cast of characters that reach over 30 numbers deep. The story itself is very basic, and revolves around the crazy residents of Arkham Asylum having broken out of confinement, with Batman called to arms to round them all up and bring them to justice…again.
One of the key issues TT wanted to address was making each individual character an absolute blast to play with. As such, rather than arguing the toss over Batman or Robin (let’s face it, the boy wonder is often outclassed by the legendary dark knight) each character is rich in detail with their own unique maneuvers that make them enjoyable to play with. While some may like those ninja-esque moves of Bruce Wayne, others will find equal enjoyment tossing foes around with the boy wonder, Robin.
Unlike past LEGO titles, the villains of Gotham City are playable through their own story mode. If gamers are tired of playing through the three acts designated towards the heroes, they can swap over and play three parallel acts with the villains. Whether you’re mischievous like the Riddler or heroic like Batman the game features a side for everyone. Unfortunately for our caped crusader, the villains of Arkham seem to steal the show. While playing with Batman is exciting, nothing can truly top the ability to freeze coppers with Mr. Freeze or electrify people as the Joker. Considering that each villain has a unique super power that matches his or her comic counterpart, it’s hard for Batman, Robin or even Catwoman to compare. However, in order to balance out the super villain abilities, Batman and Robin are equipped with power suits that endow them with special abilities of their own. Batman for instance has a suit that can glide across large gaps, where as Robin has a magnetic suit that allows him to walk up metal objects. It’s lucky for us that TT included these into the mix because it definitely keeps things interesting.
Despite maintaining a user friendly pick up and play formula, LEGO Batman ultimately suffers from a lot of the same problems as previous instalments. Camera angles are once again sometimes a tad awkward, making lining your jumps a fairly trouble some task at times. On top of this, just jumping from platform to platform can cause some minor frustrations. Though this doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the game, it’s somewhat incomprehensible that such an issue still exists after five iterations. Problematically, yet another issue revolves around the illogical placement of puzzle choices. TT seems to like putting unobvious platforming puzzles through levels that aren’t always so satisfying once you figure them out. Of course, having an AI partner that isn’t always cooperative or competent enough to get the job done doesn’t help the situation whatsoever.
Aside from these issues, the core gameplay is still intact and admittedly as entertaining as ever. Most of you will likely spend the majority of your time busting up blocks to gain as many bolts as possible in order to unlock other playable characters and to complete the game in its entirety. Others will go through beating down bad guys and solving the coop puzzles between both players. Much like the other titles, LEGO Batman features easy-to-use offline coop play with the touch of the start button. A second player can jump in and out with ease and can make playing the game a much more enjoyable family experience. However, conspicuous by its absence here is an online co-op mode, which is somewhat disappointing considering its inclusion in past instalments in the franchise.
One particular aspect that will send the older crowd into a sense of nostalgia is the soundtrack. The melody for the game is Danny Elfman’s score from the 1989 Batman film. While, some may have hoped for a larger variety of music, the score as it is works just fine, although a hint of repetition does creep in from time to time.
Overall LEGO Batman: The Videogame offers up more of the same, which isn’t always a bad thing. However, after five instalments, you’d expect Traveller’s Tales to tighten up a few of the more prominent quirks. Nonetheless, problems aside, it’s still the same family fun as you’d come to expect which makes it a must own title for family entertainment or Batman fans in general.