I had such high hopes for this game. I really did. I loved Lego Star Wars, in spite of numerous glitches and faults. Lego Indiana Jones was passable, but still decent. Lego Batman? It might as well be their first attempt at a Lego game, instead of their third.
It's riddled with all the same issues that the first two games faced. You still can't judge jumps properly, you still get stuck on random objects and you can still blow up crates through walls. The lack of improvement in this area turns the game from stellar to, well…something Clayface would eat.
It's not like the game is without merit, however. It's still whacky, and charming, but it still hasn't been tweaked to perfection. I just can't understand why they are still not fixing the problems that were evident in the first game which was released over three years ago. It's just not forgivable.
The storyline is about a deep as a mud puddle, and that's just fine by me. I don't play a Lego game for the interesting plot lines. Instead of following a movie, Lego Batman is an original script written specifically for the game. Essentially, the villains of Gotham have escaped Arkham Asylum and it's up to the Dynamic Duo to round them up. Everyone goes home happy.
What this game lacks in finesse, it makes up for in diversity. You play three chapters of the game as Batman and Robin, before switching over and playing as the villains for another three chapters. Each chapter is made up of five levels, with the usual vehicle-only levels thrown in at each opportunity, making for a grand total of 30 levels. Not too shabby at all.
As well, Batman and Robin each have an assortment of technology suits that change their individual abilities. Batman has a glide suit, a demolition suit and even a sonic suit that destroys glass windows. Robin has magnetic shoes to walk up metal walls, a suit that allows him to walk underwater and even one that allows him to suck up leftover Lego bits and build stuff with them. It's a pretty neat way of ensuring that the player doesn't get bored with just beating on baddies for a few hours.
Another new innovation was the Bat-a-rang, or bat boomerang. Clever concept, terribly executed. The targeting system is so inaccurate, you'll hit nine baddies and a tree before hitting something you actually want to hit. I'll pass, thanks.
When playing as the villains, gamers will be excited to note a star-filled cast, with notables like the Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and even Killer Moth! Remember him? Neither did anybody in my nerd-filled household. I had to Google him. Apparently he appeared in comic number 63. Whatever.
The villains have cool weapons as well, but my favourite has to be Poison Ivy's poison kiss. If you do it as just the right angle, she looks like she's expelling noxious green gas from her, well…derriere. Admittedly, the Riddler's mind control is pretty damn fun too. Steering unknowing citizens off a cliff is good family fun for hours.
At two separate video game conventions, I was told that Lego Batman would eliminate the horrendously terrible AI partner that follows you around during single play. While this is true (to a degree), it's still not perfect. In combat, they'll distract some of your enemies while you dispose of others. Occasionally, they'll destroy them for you. Where they are still lacking is in normal, routine gameplay. I still had to go back and rescue Robin from a door, ladder or grapple-only barrier about once a level, and they are still equally as unhelpful during those annoying puzzles they throw in. It's enough to make you throw a controller or nine. It's really too bad that the final result doesn't live up to the very polished demos presented to us earlier this year.
To continue complaining, the game itself is just too damned unhelpful. I'm not dumb, and I'm a pretty decent gamer, but when it takes me half an hour to realize that I had to Bat-a-rang three switches, pull 16 levers, jump through 27 hoops and destroy 52 Lego blocks, all the while beating up baddies and the level boss, I find myself feeling like the world's biggest moron. The game expects you to realize all these steps, without any indication of what they actually are. I cannot help but feel bad for the poor seven-year-old who is still stuck on the first few levels because they just cannot figure out how to beat a boss. At least you don't die, right?
When it comes to graphics, Lego Batman's environment is surprisingly non-Lego. They used real buildings, real walls, real pavement…all of which you can't destroy unless it's blatantly Lego. While the attempt was to create a realistic looking environment it just looks lazy and takes away from the unique experience the Lego games are here to bring. Where's the fun when you can only destroy a couple of benches and a streetlamp?
The audio gives the gamer what is to be expected from a Batman game. They've thrown in many themes from the movies, but have done it rather haphazardly. Most of the time, the music lines up with the story and cutscenes, but every once in a while you'll have thrilling, the-boss-is-around-the-corner music when you're in a dusty alleyway with a rat and an underwater-suit Robin and nothing else. It's a little anti-climatic.
I'd just like to stop and mention the magnetic suit right now. It's a neat concept and I like the execution, but when Robin's every step is clanging like two garbage can lids wielded by the energizer bunny, it can get really annoying really fast. Just ask my roommates who were trying to sleep during a level filled with Robin's gravity defying suit. It's like a scene from Transformers, but not cool.
For the competitive gamer, I must say that this game is loaded with achievements that are both simple and bloody impossible. The multiplayer is generic multiplayer, no bells or whistles, and you can still create your own character. Go team.
In the end, Lego Batman is just a crappier version of Lego Star Wars or Lego Indiana Jones but with a guy in a cape. There is no online play, the AI still sucks and the environments have gotten worse, not better. It doesn't make you smile, as past editions have, and it certainly makes you more frustrated than any Lego based game ever should. If you threw on a cape and some tights and ran around your living room, you'd probably have more fun than playing this game.