Not since Arnold Schwarzenegger donned the lab coat of Dr Victor Fries (in Hollywood's shocking Batman & Robin) has Batman ever been this comical. LEGO Batman transmutes the Dark Knight to studly form, embarking him on a evil-quashing quest mixing block building, platform jumping, and a bit of action. While there's not much here you haven't seen before in terms of gameplay, the game provides an entertaining cast of characters and loads of gameplay that make picking this up far from being a riddle.
As the age-old story goes, Batman's nemeses have once again escaped the swiss cheese institute known as Arkham Asylum. This time, however, they've grown wise to the failures of their individual efforts and teamed up. You control Batman and his sidekick Robin in an attempt to stop a series of criminal conspiracies headed by the Joker, Riddler, and Penguin.
Of course, you have much more to contend with than this truant trio as they are each backed by a squad of bad guys and fellow villains. In the game's opening act, 'The Bullion Dollar Riddle', you square off against the Riddler's consortium of thieves including Clayface, Poison Ivy, and Mr Freeze. Six additional villains round out the roster in the other two chapters.
Completing the primary three chapters as Batman and Robin unlocks an alternative set of chapters played from the villain perspective. These chapters consist of five levels apiece, just like the hero chapters. Although you work through the same three plots foiled by the Caped Crusader in the previous chapters, different characters, abilities, and fresh level design ensures the villain chapters are distinct.
The variety of characters and the wide range of abilities they offer supersede the level design in being the main source of entertainment. LEGO Batman does little, if nothing to deviate from action-platform standards once innovated upon by LEGO Star Wars; however, that inventive approach has since become formula. There are regularly dull sequences that break up the fun, usually putting you to work in a long series of building LEGO switches and levers. Less emphasis on building and more platform challenges would have kept the tempo up and possibly fitted the game's theme better.
You don't need to have played any previous LEGO game to get the sense that the level design is routine, yet LEGO Batman achieves its fresh feel by developing interesting characters. Granted, much of the work had already be done by the comics, but the game attaches abilities to each persona that are both meaningful and cool. Mr Freeze, for instance, possesses immunity to frigid gas. Obviously, this stays faithful to the character and provides unique opportunities for gameplay at the same time.
Among the villains, in fact, there's enormous variety. LEGO Batman shines when you're playing as any of these nefarious figures. Ironically, by comparison the heroes are rather mediocre. The game resorts to suit upgrades (i.e. power-ups) to inject variety when playing as the good guys, which simply isn't as exciting. Dozens of additional characters can be purchased, too, although most are far from compelling. You'll want to save your studs for the law-breakers like the Joker and such.
Playing solo, you're destined to get more than your money's worth out of LEGO Batman. The six single-player chapters will get you several hours at least, but this will obviously extend considerably if you go on to take advantage of wireless co-operative play. Two bonus mini-games – Villain Hunt and Checkpoint Race – also add some value to the package.
That longevity is reason enough to purchase the game. LEGO Batman may have two faces – one a derivative rehash of previous LEGO titles and the other an interesting mix of cool characters – but it's the cooler side that mostly trumps the formulaic end. So no coin toss necessary here – you've got the heads up from us to seriously consider picking this fun title up.
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