LateView – LEGO Batman: The Video Game

First and foremost, let me be clear. Before buying my XBOX 360, which was bundled with LEGO Batman, I would have never even considered playing one of the LEGO themed games, let alone buying one. And of course my initial reaction to the bundle was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Seems as if the LEGO family-oriented appeal is more than enough to drive away even the remotely hardcore gamer. That being said, being in the XBOX 360 bundle’s has certainly extended this game beyond its target audience. And with the release of LEGO Harry Potter on the horizon (and all the fan fodder Harry Potter demands), it certainly deems necessary to take a second look. LEGO Batman: The Video Game, bundled bliss? Let’s find out!

LEGO Batman is the latest in the line of LEGO adventure games developed by Traveler’s Tales. Like each of the other games in this line, it follows three chapters (three hero and three villain) , which are played out in a LEGO world. LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game was the first in the line, which has since covered the complete Star Wars Saga. The success of the Star Wars themed games has led to two Indiana Jones iterations and more recently, a Batman iteration. And while Traveler’s Tales has stayed away from the adventure genre for just a bit to do LEGO Rock Band, the launch date for LEGO Harry Potter is soon approaching.

In LEGO Batman: The Video Game, The Dark Knight and Robin take on an array of the classic villains that are staples in the Batman franchise. Look to take on Batman’s notable foes like The Riddler, Two-Face, Penguin, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and of course Joker, as well as a few you may know little to nothing about like Killer Croc, Man-Bat, and Mad Hatter. Sufficient to say, this game is packed from front to back with enough characters to certainly keep you interested, which adds the boost the game needs since a true storyline is non-existent.

Okay, let’s talk game play. For all intents and purposes, this game is a beat ’em/slasher, spattered with puzzle elements. Yep, you hack, slash, and slam your way through each level, all the while solving puzzles which the average gamer should be able to handler with little or no difficulty. The puzzles are solved by a combination of building LEGO’s, moving objects, and suit switching, which brings me to the shining star of LEGO Batman, The Batsuits.

This is easily the best part of this game. If I may, “there’s a batsuit for that!” Okay, pardon my pun, but this is what makes this game even remotely fun to play. The puzzle solving, coupled with batsuits/robinsuits has allowed for developers to create some really unique puzzles which give something cool that’s not really seen in the other TT LEGO games. That being said, this is extended even more when you’ve completed the game as hero and villain and are able to play through a second time in “Free Play” mode, with the villain characters and on-the-fly character switching at your disposal.

Now on to the ugly. At least one level within each chapter is a vehicle level, which lets you take on foes in one of the many Bat Vehicles that are at Bruce Wayne’s disposal. Each focuses on the different vehicles types of land, air, and water. This is easily the worst part of the game. While the driving chapters offer some semi-challenging puzzles, the controls are simply just broken by being oversimplified. Of course they work, but the idea of not having a throttle or brake kind of made it “not fun”. And while this could have been a shining complement to the game, it simply seemed like it was thrown in just to say it’s there. To that point, it almost seems like the licensing Batman franchise execs probably made them add it in there because Batman’s vehicles are so important to his persona.

I wish I could say this game has little to no replay-ability, but I have to at least give it credit in the achievement (XBOX 360) category. If you are a completionist, like I like to think I am, you are going to find yourself putting in a little more time to get all 360 achievements. Of course there a few one off achievements, but some of the more lucrative ones are obtained by becoming a “Super Hero” or “Super Villain” in each level, collecting mini-kits, or by obtaining special blocks for each level in a chapter. One hundred percent can be achieved, but not without a bit of work.

Okay this isn’t a truly “great” game by any stretch of the imagination. LEGO and non-hardcore games that are Batman fans should love it, while Batman hardcore gamers that also love batman, would more than likely find it laughable since they most likely will want to be playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. And although Traveler’s Tales seems to be a whore for the LEGO franchise right now, I would love to see them make an adventure game without the constraint of the LEGO world or some weird licensing agreement (take a look at their game history to see what I mean). I think they really could do something great if given the chance to create something original. And while LEGO Batman may not be good enough to stand on its own two feet, it’s a great value as an XBOX 360 bundle, which should keep the console owner busy until he can shell out some dough to buy something better.

Verdict: Bundle Only.