canuckeh's Lego Batman: The Video Game (PlayStation 2) review

A cute cash-in on Ledger's dark performance as a serial killer

Lego Batman : An action/adventure/co-branding venture game based on, or rather satirizing, the Batman universe by making every character and object composed of Legos.

Story : There’s a breakout at Arkham Asylum and every Batman villain that matters (and 2 or 3 that don’t) manages to escape, banding together into 3 groups with vile plans for Gotham City, and only Batman and Robin can stop them. Being that this is a Lego-themed game and thus Legos aren’t capable of thirsting for vengeance or having deep, psychological trauma, all that nonsense about Bruce Wayne’s parents dying or the villains’ assorted cases of dementia, much less any trace of character depth or intrigue that may have been present in the Batman mythos is thrown out the window in favor of Robin acting like a child. There’s the occasional nod to the 90s Batman movies and the theme from those movies will be beaten down into your skull throughout the entire game, but otherwise the storyline is originally conceived for this game.

If you’ve played any of the Lego games in the past, you have a general idea of what to expect from Lego Batman. Either two players or you and a dimwitted AI partner join forces to beat up a lot of criminals, smash a lot of furniture and not collect all the unlockables required to achieve 100% completed-status of the game, all with the safety of knowing you have infinite lives and no penalty for death, making completion of the game more of a formality than a test of skill. At the same time, this is a niche market that these Lego games have somehow cornered, the deliberately easy game that’s fun, charming and accessible for the whole family, except for perhaps the 15 year old angst-ridden Halo freak of the family, but he need not worry since the other 90% of the game market is targeting him anyways.

By reading this review, you may have a smoother play experience with Lego Batman than I did, and here’s why.

The game’s biggest failing is that the puzzles are not well designed. A good game puzzle should make sense within the contexts of reality and logic, and the player will rack his brain for a good while on it before finally reaching an epiphany and solving the issue, leaving him or her with that proud sense of accomplishment because they didn’t need to go to Gamefaqs! Batman and Robin can change costumes at certain pods, with different costumes granting different abilities that, for the most part, serve a single, solitary and isolated purpose, from Robin walking on a certain shiny metal to Batman breaking a specific colour of glass. Likewise, each villain has a specific set of individual powers.

Oh, I neglected to mention that there are 2 different campaigns, one where you play as Batman and Robin, and one where you play as the villains. I didn’t realize this either until I accidentally flipped a switch in the Hub that is the Batcave and found myself in the Arkham controlling The Riddler and Clayface.

Pretty much every section of Lego Batman has some kind of puzzle obstacle. Most of the time, you’ll be able to piece together how you get across by what suit of armour the game asked you to give Batman or Robin, or to apply the absurd but cute Lego video game logic of break a bunch of things, then hold a button so your character assembles something new. There’s something distinctly satisfying about smashing a series of tables and cabinets and using the remains to assemble the skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex that you can then ride like a horse and trample over everyone in your path. But some of the puzzles are rather abstract and illogical, with the solution either hidden away or not making any sense. Take the Batwing sequence; in one area, you’re required to fly past a pipe to move forward, but none of your weapons have an effect, including the mines you found out earlier that the Batwing can wield. You’re supposed to shoot this out-of-the-way gun turret in the far corner, and then shoot the debris until it resembles some kind of station that Robin’s vehicle can use to pick up missiles that can break this pipe. The on floor levels can be worse since they were designed with the intention that players can revisit them with other characters sporting different abilities to explore previously inaccessible areas in an attempt to gather 100% of the collectables (which no one will care to do anyways). Because of this, a series of red herrings is scattered throughout the level, giving players the wrong idea of how to approach a puzzle to progress. This is made worse with the villain sequences, because you’re never really sure what are all of the abilities of any given character. For example, scattered throughout the game are windows with a green question mark on them, where a Lego Man sticks his head out and only lets The Riddler pass. Well you’d assume only The Riddler can access these areas, the game gives no indication that Scarecrow or Catwoman can also somehow sway the Lego Man that spends his days inside that window. Several of the boss fights also have obscure solutions, like how the game gives no indication that you can only damage Mr. Freeze from behind, but being as how you have infinite lives and I just gave away the solution, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Alas, I just corrected a portion of the game’s faults with my own review, so I’ll give this game a slightly higher score if just because you can now enjoy it more than I did. It has all the features, strengths and flaws of the last Lego games but with a handful of dud puzzle sequences, so if you’ve played those games then your buying decision may as well be based on your previous experience. There’s a lack of online play here, but this really isn’t the type of tactical military shooter that demands online play so much as it is the Mario Party type fun for everyone or fun when smashed with friends-type of multiplayer experience. I’d recommend the other Lego games over this one, but…

Pros : …the difference between other Lego games and Lego Batman is that while your girlfriend probably thinks Star Wars and Indiana Jones are lame, her current crushes on Christian Bale and Heath Ledger will make her more likely to open up to a Batman-based game.

Cons : I would’ve preferred if the game was based on Batman movies as to poke fun at them. Batman And Robin is a goldmine of parody-potential.

3 stars
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