Lego Batman: The Game Review «

Lego Batman: The Videogame reinvents a classic pulp hero and pop-culture icon in a rainbow of blocks and pegs. The formula may sound familiar, and anyone who’s played the other Lego games probably already suspects how this review could read: “Like Lego Indiana Jones or Lego Star Wars, but with Batman.” But this latest Lego revision actually comes with a distinct set of built-in problems.
Part of the joy of Lego Star Wars — from an adult perspective, anyway — was watching developer Traveller’s Tales humorously recast iconic scenes that many of us had memorized as budding sci-fi nerds. That’s exactly why the game didn’t need dialogue — we already knew the lines. Though Batman’s got a well-developed mythos, he lacks enough specific, widely remembered scenes ripe for parody. Since the game’s creators understandably refuse to imitate the recent darker Batman films, all of Lego Batman’s cut-scenes are relegated to pure sight gags out of necessity. Sure, I cracked a couple of smiles during these short between-level skits, but the charm of previous Lego games isn’t accounted for — and, more importantly, neither is the character.

Click the image above to check out all Lego Batman: The Game screens.
There’s only one real vision of Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones, but Batman’s been revamped by every writer, television producer, and film director who’s laid hands on him in his nearly 70-year history. Traveller’s Tales chose to go with their own serious, stone-faced interpretation of the Dark Knight, making him the straight man next to a bumbling Robin and a vast gallery of goofy villains. Thus, the main protagonist ends up being the least funny, least interesting element — and the least interesting character to play.

Which leads me to something that some readers are probably wondering if I’ll ever get to — the gameplay. Here’s the honest truth: I never played the Lego games for the barely passable platforming and simple puzzle-solving, so without the proper comedic motivation, I had a harder time finishing Lego Batman than I’d anticipated. Nothing essential’s truly changed, though: You still take two Lego characters through a series of themed stages, brawling with tons of bad guys while collecting hundreds of thousands of Lego studs in order to purchase bonus characters and various unlockables. And you’ll still occasionally get stuck, beating your head against a wall for way too long before realizing that you just missed some small puzzle solution.

Click the image above to check out all Lego Batman: The Game screens.
Really, only two major differences stand out here. First, the Lego backdrops aren’t quite up to snuff — Gotham’s grungy streets and strangely numerous factories can’t compare to Lego Star Wars’ aerial Cloud City or the South American jungle ruins of Lego Indiana Jones. Whether you’re stalking the sewers to find Killer Croc or invading a Mr. Freeze-commandeered ice cream factory, the areas blend together, becoming nothing more than a series of gray-and-brown rooms. Second, although the villains offer up an entire, equally sized campaign of their own (where you switch between villains as you progress), their levels are based in the same areas. It’s definitely entertaining to take on the role of the Joker or Catwoman as they commit their crimes, but I wish they had more exciting environments in which to wreak havoc.

A great Lego game should make you unabashedly giggle like a little kid, while a great Batman game should make you feel like a badass, criminal-bashing creature of the night. Already at odds with itself due to its dual identities, Lego Batman only does half the job for both of those tasks. Few will feel depressed playing it, but I’d be surprised if anyone over the age of 10 is delighted.

 

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