Batman has always suffered from an identity crisis. After starting out as a brooding, tortured vigilante he entered a more light-hearted phase in the 1960s with Adam West behind the mask.
In 1989 he returned in darker form thanks to Tim Burton's movie, but over the course of the next decade the film series gradually reintroduced the clownish spirit of West, much to the derision of critics.
Christopher Nolan flipped the switch again in 2005 with Batman Begins and followed that in 2008 with The Dark Knight, and the matter seemed settled: Batman is better when he's miserable.
Or so it seemed. Playing through Batman: The Brave and The Bold shows how a lighter approach can still work.Holy TV-tie in Batman
Levels in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is based on the cartoon of the same name, are treated like individual self-contained episodes, and developer WayForward has embraced the show's gleeful disregard for any kind of consistency in the choice of locations.
Haunted London graveyards, space station deathtraps, and Jurassic ruins offer up situations you wouldn't imagine appearing in a darker, grittier Batman title.
Getting the Caped Crusader to beat a pterodactyl out of mid-air and then finish it off while it flails on the ground is just an everyday sight here.
The evil masterminds you have to face are also not your typical antagonists. Lesser known villains from the DC pantheon such as Gentleman Ghost, Gorilla Grodd, and Clock King get the chance to shine, and they all offer a welcome change from Two-Face, Killer Croc, and the Riddler.
And Batman is not alone. For most levels you have a different ally from the DC universe, and Robin doesn't even make a (playable) appearance.Two-faces
Your sidekicks all have different skills to master, from Plastic Man's hammer shaped fists, Red Tornado's, er, tornados, and Blue Beetle's hover jump, and a quick prod of the touchscreen is all that's needed to swap between them and Batman.
Although hardly a innovation in itself, the way you have to combine both characters' abilities is genuinely enjoyable. Few ideas are repeated, so playing never feels like a chore.
Despite this welcome help, you'll likely turn to Batman in the fighting sections, especially near the end of the game (you can choose what order to tackle levels, apart from the final boss stage) when you've powered him up.
Extra batarangs, tougher armour and other items can be bought (with the numerous bat-tokens scattered through the levels) at the upgrade panel in the Batcave, which acts as the games's hub.
With Batman's full range of abilities available the game uses nearly every button on the DS. The only awkward part of the control scheme arises when you have to swipe the touchscreen to switch between gadgets - when in the middle of scraps it's far too fiddly. A press of the 'select' button would have been a better option.
In general, though, you feel in control of Batman and all his side-kicks. There's a solid, chunky feel to the game, with its impressive character animation, jaunty tunes, and enjoyable dialogue.It's hardly sophisticated, and there may be little attempt at innovation, but it's hard not to have fun with a game as cheerfully ridiculous asThe Brave and the Bold.
But just as the game seems to be getting into its stride during an inventive showdown with the Scarecrow, it ends.Riddle me this
There are only eight stages to fight through, including the tutorial. The amount of gameplay on offer is disappointing, and the lack of difficulty doesn't help. You restart mere steps away from where you failed, and there's no option to make the game harder.
A Challenge mode, which throws large quantities of enemies and bosses at you, only extends the games's lifespan by an extra hour or so.
This is one of the better interactive adventures for the Dark Knight, but its brevity sadly prevents it from being the unexpected classic it could have been.