IGN Review of LEGO Batman
LEGO Batman: The Videogame is the third "universe" to get the LEGO videogame treatment from development studio Travelers Tales. You may have played LEGO Star Wars or LEGO Indiana Jones, and if you did you're not going to be thrown a whole lot of new elements in this Gotham-gone-plastic world. But even with a recycling of game ideas and technology, the designers still manage to put out a very fun and meaty adventure that's among the quality DS products of the 2008 holiday season.
The game itself is developed on the strong foundation created for the previous two LEGO games by the Travelers Tales "Fusion" handheld team. There have been modest improvements since its use in LEGO Indiana Jones but for the most part LEGO Batman looks, controls, and plays an awful lot like the LucasArts-published DS title. And that's definitely not a bad thing considering how much fun the previous LEGO games have been on the DS. With the exception of the first LEGO Star Wars game, of course -- something that should be wiped out of everyone's mind like an old Jedi mind trick. It never happened.
Unlike LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Indiana Jones, The LEGO version of Batman doesn't fall back upon the familiarity of the film or cartoon versions. Instead, the designers created their own situations based around the comic book characters. So while the game might look like Batman: The Animated Series and use the Danny Elfman soundtrack from the first Tim Burton film, the level designs are all unique to LEGO Batman.
But the core game mechanics remain essentially the same: wander around the environments shattering LEGO enemies and building LEGO structures that will gain access to different parts of the level. And again, each character has his or her own abilities, like a double jump or a grapple hook or super strength that allows access to parts of a level that would normally be inaccessible. LEGO Batman on the DS feels like it has much more sizeable levels with far more interesting structures that require multiple plays through to uncover it all – like previous LEGO games you open up Free Play after completing a level, so to unlock everything the game has to offer you'll need to play through every level at least twice.
LEGO Batman's real claim to fame is its complete switch in perspective. For every level you play as Batman and Robin, you also have the ability to play through that same scenario using the villains of the DC universe. And this isn't just a cheap character swap, either – the levels you play through as Batman and Robin are the same areas, but restructured to tell the story from the viewpoint of the bad guys. These levels have different enemies, locations, and puzzles, so in essence you have a huge game because you can play both sides of the Gotham City fence.
The big change between this LEGO game and previous ones is in its storytelling. Where LEGO Star Wars recreated plot points in not-as-hilarious-as-the-console-version realtime cutscenes and where LEGO Indiana Jones offered up heavily compressed full-motion video intermissions lifted from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 editions, LEGO Batman changes things up by telling the different chapters through comic book style panels. These cutscenes are really well drawn but you do run into the problem of trying to interpret what each panel means since LEGO people apparently don't talk. And then there's the issue of being unable to skip cutscenes you've already waded through; sure, you can speed through the panels as they're being shown but forget about just jumping straight into the action if you already know what the heck's going on.
So even though the story continuity is scaled back again when compared to the console versions, the experience is far from truncated – just like Indy and Star Wars, LEGO Batman has been given full attention by the handheld development team. This Nintendo DS product has an enormous amount of gameplay in the form of levels and unlockables and you'll be playing this game for hours upon hours unlocking it all. If you've got a friend with a copy of the game, you can work together on separate DS systems using the wireless connection instead of having the computer AI partner have all the fun.
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