Lego Batman

Lego Batman at

The first million is the hardest.

-- Unknown

Some of my better Saturdays were spent with a bowl of Apple Jacks, watching Adam West batusi his way through pastel-tinged danger and bat-cliffhangers. I have vivid memories of queuing up outside of a movie theater in Sun Valley, California, anxiously waiting to get tickets for Batman '89. I can, with disproportionate gusto, explain how a DC comics PR stunt saddled Batman with decades of guilt and helped redefine his precarious psychological machinery.

But before the Dark Knight endeared me to pulp crime fantasy, I had a love affair with tiny Danish cubes. I would watch as my father painstakingly deciphered a large sheet of directions, his hard work was rewarded with utter destruction. I'd devise complex excuses to rend brick from brick. Doors would be ripped away, flowers would be unearthed, nothing was safe. I think it's an innate human response to spend hours building those damned little sets, only to tear them to bits in a gloriously destructive minute.

Naturally, the words “Lego Batman” excited memories of childhood joy within me. At last, my love of brooding vigilantes and architectural destruction were married in one convenient package! This game was made for me and yet, somehow, it manages to miss the mark.

Chances are, you're already familiar with the Lego series of games. Lego Batman isn't a significant departure from its predecessors. You'll still collect Lego studs, unlock characters and vehicles, revisit stages and cause massive property damage. Instead of having innate Jedi abilities, the Hero characters rely on gadgets – suit chambers strewn about levels allow for a change of activewear and a Schumacheresque ability to adapt to certain situations. It is, instead, the Villains that get by on genetic luck. They don't have the luxury of a multinational corporate bankroll supplying them with toys, apparently.

In a refreshing change of pace, the story unfolds in two halves. As Batman and Robin, you'll be hunting down a gang of escapees from the notorious Arkham Asylum. Each chapter centers around a specific set of baddies, with characters as iconic as The Riddler and as laughable as Killer Moth making appearances. Upon completion of the first chapter, you'll be able to switch to the Villain's point of view. In this way, we are given dualistic doses of an otherwise linear plot. The Dynamic Duo foil the dastardly scheme, the evil-doers set up the caper. The player has a hand in both.

To better suit the Caped Crusader's physicality, Lego Batman features a slightly reworked combat system. Players will still be able to mash the attack button to work their way through goons, but they can also execute a grab attack to toss a little variety into the mix. Each character has his or her own grab animations and in the case of some, will trigger a special ability (Scarecrow tosses fear dust into the air and spooks the enemy, The Joker uses an electric joybuzzer to shock his foes).

But that's about the extent of the innovations present in this title, I'm sad to say.

By now, I'm certain that Traveller's Tales is content with the Lego series, and I'm pretty sure that gamers are ok with the fact that they are essentially re-buying the same game (albeit with different character skins). At some point, I realized that I was playing the basest of Platform-Puzzle games: running through levels multiple times to collect LegoCash with which we can unlock score multipliers, or completing frivolous minikit collections with newly-uncovered character powers. In all honesty, it feels like the bloom is off the rose with Traveller's Tales' legendary game design.

This was the first Lego game designed specifically around the "nextgen" consoles. Aside from some graphical niceties, it doesn't seem as though much was really done with this newly built framework. There could be more effort put into level design, for instance. Oftentimes my co-crimefighter would get caught up with a tricky jump or poorly placed obstacle. Frustration would gather as I waited impatiently and my partner attempted to fine-tune her depth-perception-platforming skills.

“Jump on that thing. Right there. No, over there. OVER THERE! YOU'RE JUMPING BEHIND THE LADDER. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? Wait, where are you going? I thought we were having fun.”

I can only imagine what it would be like playing with, not a full-grown adult, but a child. I know that levels can't be simple “Walk to the right and fight a boss” affairs, but I'm hopeful that future Lego games can fine tune the experience. Traveller's Tales has already eased the single player's ability to switch between characters, so I'm eagerly anticipating the implementation of something that allows co-op players to switch places on the fly. That would allow more seasoned players to get past frustrating sections without the awkward angry hand-over of the controller. I'm not arguing for mind-blowing Lego revolutions, but for small tweaks that make this a painless co-op environment.

What really dampens my enthusiasm for this game is the fact that the previous level of Lego humor is largely absent from the Batman campaign. Sure, we get tons of instances where Robin impulsively jumps off of a roof, or does a handstand while riding his bike. Great. For the most part, Batman plays the straight man, the dour do-gooder that he is in my Detective Comics.

That's just wrong.

I understand they couldn't Adam West it up, but Bats' reactions to his Rogues and his environment is the same detached schtick that we've come to expect from the character. There's no whimsy with him. His gadget suits are functional, but drab. He punches enemies or flips them to the ground. No cocky dodges, scaring bandits, or any of that fun nonsense.

The enemies, on the other hand, are a much more enjoyable experience. They exude personality. My partner and I spent many a minute lining up our characters, walking them from room to room in an odd costumed congaline. Poison Ivy sashays seductively. Joker giggles maniacally as he walks around. The Scarecrow stalks about like a schlocky horror movie villain. Comparatively, Batman lurches around with his cape in front of him like a second-rate Dracula. Cute, but a little bland.

In fact, out of all the characters present in the game, it was the goofball D-lister, Killer Moth, that held my fancy. Dressed in a purple, green and orange suit, Moth should have been a complete joke of a character. And he was. In every cutscene, he is utterly fascinated by light sources. In-game, he awkwardly flaps his wings and flails about when gliding. He's hilarious to watch.

And that's what initially captivated me with Lego Star Wars: familiar characters that were reinterpreted with a bit of goofiness to them (albeit, with nods to glorious canon). For some reason, this title chose to toe a serious, darker line. It's nowhere near as entertaining.

It's hard to believe that I'm writing this, because the initial wow-factor of Lego Star Wars revolved around what was not only a fun take on a universal geek obsession, but the execution of a game playing ethos that didn't punish characters for dying. We were given a game that could appeal to old gamers and neophytes alike. Who would have imagined that the formula would become tiresome so quickly? It may be that the average kid-gamer will eat this title like candy, that they'll run through and unlock everything they can get their dirt-caked hands on. But for me, especially without the humor to ease the bitter pill of CollectItitis, the core experience just isn't that fun. And since the gameplay hasn't evolved in a truly meaningful way, it's even more apparent that I'm mindlessly rerunning the Lego stud collector boogie.

I'm also stupefied at the removal of online co-op via Xbox Live. What kind of design choice is that?

Hopefully, Traveller's Tales will take a good look at their next IP and come up with strong ways to improve their trademark gameplay and appeal to the crowd that's able to get into R rated movies. Or, at least, cast future entries in the series in a decidedly humorous light.

Lego Batman at
Lego Batman at
Lego Batman at
Lego Batman at


The limits of the Lego franchise knows no bounds. Fun for the whole family.

I've played through the game in both story mode and free play, mostly out of a touch of OCD that has me wanting to collect everything. I enjoyed the game quite a bit, but not as much as I did the Lego Star Wars games. I'm really not sure of the reason why. Perhaps it was the novelty of the SW games. I agree that not much has changed, but it was still a fun play for me. And, even more important, it is a game that I can play with my boys. There aren't many games that hold my interest, have multi-player aspects, and have content that I can share with my kids.

My sons 5 and 7, have been playing Lego Batman at any chance they get, both together and individually since the weekend. They are absolutely loving it. I had thought Lego Indiana Jones was popular in our house, but where my older soon embraced it, my younger son showed a reluctant interest, and basically passed over it, returning to the comfort of Lego Star Wars. I wasnt sure how they would react to Lego Batman when I first saw it booted up, the puzzles have a tangibly different flavor than previous Lego games, and the backdrop for each level is generally dark. Turns out it was a fruitless concern on my part. Bat boomerangs, a bat cave, a villainous HQ, robotic attack penguins, they can't seem to get enough. Lego Batman has them both enthralled from the start. They came home from school and it appears Lego Batman is a lunchroom table topic for 2nd graders, as they exchange stories about levels they have cleared or are stuck on, etc.

I know my little guy has currently set clearing the villain missions as his personal gaming goal. Over breakfast he told me he has to get 'The Joker,' as he wants all the Jokers powers, and then he went on to excitedly describe all the different things the NPC Joker can do. I thought it was funny.

Batman was never my 'thing', other than one enjoyable read of Frank Millers "The Dark Knight Returns" years ago in college. (Sidenote: I fell asleep on TOP of my roomates first edition copy. That didnt go well.) There is something about Lego Batman that seems to have honed the gameplay or presentation over even Lego Indy. I can't put my finger on it just yet, but when I watch them play I get a sense that the mission length is more focused and the puzzles a little more intricate, yet still accessible, with the various superhero suits / villainous powers.

I appreciate the perspective expressed in the article, they are valid points from a gamer perspective and fan of the IP. At the sametime, I think they miss the breadth of Gotham City for the skyscrapers(err, forest for the trees). I think the magic of the game is blurred on an older gamer or someone full of Batman IP expectations. I think the game comes into focus and shines brilliantly if you have an opportunity to share it through the lense of a child. Where we as gamers sometimes trip in our quest for technical innovation or criticism of technical implementation choices, the younger audience is able to focus on the story, experience and charm as long as the technical polish is there to not be a distraction.

Honestly, I wish I'd get a chance to play.. they are hogging my tv and the 360!!!

I've been enjoying it for the last couple of days. Almost done with the villain missions, and then I guess I'll make a pass through it all again on free play. If nothing else, the Lego games have a knack for triggering my gaming OCD like no other game can.

Traveller's Tales has already eased the single player's ability to switch between characters, so I'm eagerly anticipating the implementation of something that allows co-op players to switch places on the fly.

I've been playing the Wii version for a while now and as far as I can remember, that feature is already there. In fact, I believe it was in Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones as well.

Spaz wrote:

I understand they couldn't Adam West it up...

I haven't unlocked everything yet so I'm not sure if it'll be in the extras but when I fired up the game and started my first level, I was really hoping that the fights would be peppered with the occasional "WHAM!" and "POW!". That would've been so magnificent. Like I said, hopefully it might be an extra but I'm not holding my breath.

My 5 year old son is definitely enjoying this one much better than Lego Indy, and I find it's actually more interesting to play than Dr. Jones' version. Even my wife picked up a controller for a few stages and had fun being Robin to my Batman, and that's something she never felt compelled to do with Indy. All in all, it's a nice, casual game that gets A LOT of play at my house.

I look at the Lego games the same way I look at Crackdown. It's not something you sit down to really dive into. It's more for when you just want to sit back, relax, and not think too hard. You don't want a challenge, you don't want too much stimulation. You just want to manipulate characters with buttons. Both the Lego games and Crackdown involve collecting lots of glowy bits of fun and both games don't penalize you for dying over and over and over and over. Even so, I enjoy Crackdown much more than I do the Lego games, because HULK WITH A ROCKET LAUNCHER!

Thanks Irongut. You answered my question before I even asked it!

I have been playing Lego Batman with my 7 year old daughter and she is loving it. This is our first Lego game and based on her enjoyment of this one (not to mention two other young ones coming behind her) I'm sure we will go back and buy at least Indiana Jones as well.

I played Lego Batman for about 15 minutes and after that decided to go outside. It was horribly dull gameplay and it didn't even have any real charm about it. The Lego Indiana Jones game was a far better execution, simply because you were following the stories from the films, seeing massive sections in funny Lego style and also the section of gameplay were entertaining.

Very simple mind you as it was designed for all to play of all ages but entertaining all the same.

Lego Batman has some serious bricks to shift before I'm convinced it's good.

Note: More puns are available on request.