Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Released: 10th October 2008
Other Formats: PC/MAC, PS3, PS2, DS, Wii, PSP
Lego Batman: The Videogame is the third in the 'Lego' series of games by developer 'Traveller's Tales', arriving after the much loved Star Wars and Indiana Jones tie-ins. At its core, the Lego Batman, like previous Lego games, is hugely simple in design, blending environmental destructibility (collectible Lego pieces), 'button-bashing' combat, puzzles and witty cut scenes. Not to be mistaken, the simplicity is no bad thing. There is something so charming and fun with the way the game is crafted, from the childish portrayal of superheroes to the forgiving nature of the game play. It's not going to challenge you, that's just not the point. What it does provide is rewarding mechanics and a fantastic experience for young and old to play through (integrated co-op provides an ideal platform to get newcomers into gaming!)
Featuring both 'hero' and 'villain' story modes, Lego Batman features 30 levels in all (15 for either storyline). These are connected through a central hub which can be played through also. A huge cast of characters are playable, though only two within each level, with a simple tap of the 'Y' button interchanging between the two. 'Batman' and 'Robin' act as the two playable characters within the hero campaign whilst a miss-match of various villainous rebels are used within the villain campaign, from the ever-popular 'Joker' to 'Catwoman' and 'The Penguin'. It's great to see the number of characters on show- especially since each character provides their own interaction to the world via a special ability of some kind. These generally form the basis for the number of puzzles throughout the game. For example, the Joker's use of hand buzzer can interact with electronic machinery which can open doors to new areas. This often means that even the most simplistic of puzzles require some thinking other than simply re-building smashed Lego bricks to construct levers and such-like to progress (these forming the basis of the remainder of the puzzle mechanics). 'Batman' and 'Robin', in place of special abilities, can walk through ports that swap their costumes. These act in very much the same way, giving a certain ability to make progress in the level. One example of this the way in which Batman can glide over extended gaps using his 'Glide suit'. The way that the whole ability system works is really enjoyable, giving characters individuality in regards to game style and providing a complex enough system for puzzle solving.
Playing through the levels, you may also notice objects and such that are interactable but not with the characters/abilities you currently have at your disposal. This is where the 'free-play' game mode is introduced- upon completion of a level, you will be given the opportunity to 'free-play'- meaning you can play through the level again with any unlocked character, vehicle or suit to gain access to previous locked items. This Metroid-esque mechanic offers further rewards upon replayabilty and provides ample opportunity for further play-throughs.
Looking toward the elements of the game that don't quite work, it's very difficult to forgive how simplistic the combat game design really is. Whilst not a 'button-basher' game, you will spend most of the play-time repeatedly levelling the 'X' attack button in the developer's understandable need to cater to its audience. This is all well and good in its context, however, it'd still be nice to see them throw in several more combative options or super powers that add to the game for more hardcore tastes, yet don't detach the game from its casual core. It is a Batman game after all and many will find the repetitiveness, endless waves of enemies and rigid mission structure somewhat hard to get through when so many games are doing things different. The use of vehicular levels are too few and far between to offer much variety to proceedings and are somewhat stale anyway, with a quick run through of the level a basic certainty.
All-in-all, for what it is, Lego Batman: The Videogame is successful. There is something to be said for its ease to pick-up and play and the co-op only helps in this regard for some really simple, yet fun and enjoyable gaming. The Lego game design is, as ever, rewarding and graciously charming to behold whilst the Batman license means the game is a joy to play through. For under a tenner, you can't go wrong.