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xx Da-nuh da-nuh da-nuh da-nuh LEGO BATMAN! (review)
« Thread started on: Oct 26th, 2008, 6:23pm »

So you've seen The Dark Knight. And after consulting your dorkier-than-thou friends, you've read Year One and The Killing Joke and all those 'mature' classics that have informed the Bat's current cinematic direction. And sure, you've noticed that this particular approach has yielded satisfying results. But you can't quite ignore the little voice in the back of your head that keeps whispering, "Didn't Batman used to be fun?"

Enter Lego Batman, his vow: to make Gotham happy again. With bricks.

The plot, which is minimal, bears no direct correlation to any existing Batman comic or film, which marks a change from the usual parody approach found in the previous Lego games from Traveller's Tales (Star Wars and Indiana Jones). Simply put, there's been another mass breakout at Arkham Asylum, and damn near all of Batman's enemies have been let loose on the city, quickly dividing themselves into three teams, each acting out a different master plan to get rich, take control, or just kill a whole bunch of people. All that stands in their way is the Caped Crusader and his mostly-useless sidekick, Robin. Oh, and Commissioner Gordon and the police, of course, but come're not really expecting them to make a difference, are you?

Once you're into the game proper, anyone who's ever played the aforementioned 'Lego Movie Series' games will feel right at home - and everyone else will pick it up quickly enough. A hub level - the Batcave, initially - leads you to three different Chapters, each holding five levels. Each level must (by law) be tackled in Story Mode first, with set characters, before being unlocked for Free Play, which allows you to choose absolutely any character you've unlocked, the differing abilities of which will allow you access to hidden areas and bonus items. One button for jump, one for attacks, one for special moves. Almost anything can be broken, revealing studs that let you purchase the many optional extras available from the Bat-Computer.

As well as the familiar game mechanics - stick-together piles of bricks, rotational switches, twin levers that must be pulled at the same time, etc. - there are a few new ideas. Both Batman and Robin can use Batarangs, which require them to hold their position whilst you use a cursor to lock-on to multiple targets, then let rip. It's not much use in a fight, but it cuts down on running time when you're trying to break stuff. Also, since the Dynamic Duo aren't prone to letting other people team up with them, extra abilities must be granted to the pair through the use of different suits. Batman gets the Glide Suit (glider wings), Demolition Suit (face paint and leather straps - wait, no, I mean bombs, lots of bombs), Sonic Suit (breaks glass with soundwaves) and Heat Protection Suit (walk through steam and handle red-hot bricks without damage). Meanwhile, Bird-Boy has the Attract Suit (used to suck up odd Lego bits that charge up funky machines), Magnet Suit (walk up special surfaces like Link in Twilight Princess), Water Suit (sink to bottom of bodies of water) and Technology Suit (exert remote control over certain mechanical devices). Since each hero can only wear a single suit at any given time, you may find yourself having to backtack if you've forgotten to change appropriately - but the punishment for this is rarely severe.

Of course, Batman's only as good as his rogues' gallery, so it's a good thing that, once a full chapter is completed with Bats & Robs, the equivalent chapter is unlocked at Arkham, to be played through from a more villainous perspective. The gameplay doesn't radically change, though the baddies tend to posess different special skills, such as double-jumps, mind control, and walking through toxic gunk without dying. And maybe it's just me, but they seem to find better vehicles in their levels than the heroes do. Certainly, Batman never gets to stomp around in a clowned-up AT-ST...

The game's presentation, again, bears the same trademarks as Lego Star Wars and Indy; the same character select screens, the same studs, broadly similar sound effects, blah blah blah. You could call it laziness, but it's nicer to think of it as 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. And Lego Gotham certainly looks the business, all '30s architecture and moonlight reflected in the puddles. Think of it as the Gotham of Tim Burton's movies, populated by the cast of the Adam West '60s TV show and you're along the right lines. Adding to the impression is the use of Danny Elfman's iconic score from the 1989 Batman film, which still kicks the ass off any subsequent attempt to commit the essence of the Bat into audio form - sorry, Hans Zimmer, but you're rubbish, frankly.

Of course, it's not all roses for Mr. Dark Knight. The same Lego problems rear their heads again, with infinite lives being used as an excuse for the million-and-one deaths your stud pursuit will lead you to, the combat is still monotonous despite TT's best efforts to spice it up, and some puzzles are nearly impossible, thanks to either control stickyness or idiotic AI. Sure, you could get another player in to help, but...well, I was playing with an 8-year-old. Guess how much help he was.

But all these problems will be forgotten when you see Lego Bane snap a cop's spine. Or Batman lure Catwoman into a trap with a saucer of milk. Or Two-Face foil the heroes' progress with a vat of toxic sludge, and then dance a little jig of joy through the slime. Or Killer Moth, the single most utterly pathetic 'villain' of all time, ignore criminal pursuits in favour of beating his head off a lamp-post repeatedly. It might not be quite as funny as the inspired spoofery of Star Wars, but it's better than Indy, and the animation is as priceless as ever. And frankly, after sitting through The Dark Knight's two-and-a-half hours of pure misery, playing this is like a hand-buzzer jolt from the Joker, igniting all your amusement synapses and making you wonder: "Why so serious?"

Developed by: Traveller's Tales
Pubished by: Warner Bros. Interactive
Players: 1-2
Formats: Everything!

Final Rating: 4/5
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