Review: Lego Batman (Nintendo Wii)

Lego Batman
Publisher: Warner Brothers
Developer: Traveler’s Tales
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 9/23/2008


I hate Superman. Spiderman bores me. Most superhero stories are a bit too archetypal and insipid for my tastes. Until Vertigo came along, almost the entirety of the DC universe bored me. But, of course, there was the one exception – Batman, the world’s second most popular super hero. And what’s not to like? He doesn’t have any superpowers to speak of; he just has a bunch of cool gadgets and learned some ninjitsu somewhere along the way. Japan, I think. I enjoy the idea that there is nothing special about him (ignoring the wealth), he is a self-made hero. He got where he is through individual determination and intelligence. He’s John Galt in a cape!

There are, by my arbitrary reckoning, three Batman eras in the popular cannon. There is the old, Adam West ultra-campy Batman of the 60s, Tim Burton’s slightly darker post-Frank Miller version, and, of course, the biggest movies of the bunch, Christopher Nolan’s two hyper-dark, introspective pieces.

Which of these versions you like (and, yes, I am pretending the Schumacher nightmares never happened) says something about you, I suppose. Me, I like anything Frank Miller touches, so I tend towards the new ones. Of course, I grew up watching syndicated versions of the Adam West series, so those will always have a special place in my heart.

It seems obvious that Lego Batman is, at its core, a kids game will stick with the cheese and relative moral safety of the Adam West series, but does the game live up to the deliberate camp of that era, or is it so-bad-its-good by some fluke? And, after encountering several game-stalling flaws in Lego Indiana Jones, has the gameplay improved?

Read on to find out…

Story/Modes

The plot of the game is fairly straightforward – at the beginning of the game, all of Arkham Asylum’s inmates escape and plan to take over the city in one way or another. They team up to wreak havoc on Gotham, and Batman must step up to stop them. This is divided up into three chapters, each one led by one of Batman’s arch nemeses. The Riddler makes up the first chapter, and he is followed by the Penguin and, saving the best for last, the Joker. Once you beat a chapter, the real fun begins – you can then play as the villains. It turns out this is a pretty cool way to fill in the plot holes – it isn’t until you play both sides that you see the entirety of the plot, which I found to be a fun, innovative way to tell the story. Of course, like the other Lego games, once you beat a level, you can come back in Free Play mode, where you can replay the level as whomever you wish. This is the only way to get all the unlockables – just like the previous games, different characters have different abilities and they are all required to get every last little collectable.

Score: Classic, for the best Lego storyline so far!

Graphics

And I thought Indiana Jones looked good in Lego! This game looks absolutely fantastic. The graphics are a huge step up for the Wii. The overall feel of the graphics is actually a bit closer to the Tim Burton movies – dark, beautiful, Gothic architecture without going too far like those Schumacher atrocities. There are tons of nice little touches everywhere, like the reflections of the characters in puddles in the alleys, cool billboards, and an overall attention to detail.

Score: Unparalleled, for putting out a better 1989 Batman movie tie-in than anything else that came out…

Sound

The sound in this game is just as stellar as previous Lego installments – smashing everything in sight yields some entirely satisfying noises and the characters are portrayed excellently even with the simple grunts and squeaks they make in the Lego universe. And the music? Danny Elfman, so that’s a win right there. The game borrows quite a bit from the “Ëœ89 movie (you end up in the last level as a bat in a belfry, natch) and the original soundtrack is a great thing to borrow. No Prince, this time around, however…

Score: Unparalleled, for Oingo Boingo!

Control & Gameplay

This is the one area I wished I had played longer in my Lego Indiana Jones review before I posted it. While playing that game, I encountered several points where I actually had to restart the level because I was stuck, which is a major, major flaw. So, while playing this game, I kept an eye out for anything like that so I could dock some points from the Bat. I’m at about 85% on the game and so far, I’ve found one. I got the Penguin’s sub stuck in an area that it really should not have been in. So, yes, there are still glitches, unfortunately, but they appear to be quite a bit rarer than in the Indiana Jones game. The control is identical to all the other Lego games – straightforward and easy to learn. There is one added feature this time around, though. Using the Wii IR sensors, you can actually point and click to use the Batarangs (or…Robinarangs or whatever he calls them). This is a pretty fun addition and the only reason Control loses some points is due to getting stuck forcing me to restart a level. That, and I’m still mad about Indy…

Score: Mediocre, for being a sad little submarine.

Replayability

Just like all the previous Lego games, this one is made for replay. After finishing a level, you replay it in villain mode, then, in order to complete your minikit and ability collections, you will need to replay both of THOSE again with a complete set of abilities in your army (high jump, generator starting, batarang, freeze ray, etc etc). This means that, for any given level, you will need to play it four times in order to get everything available. Of course, if you like platformers (and I DO), this is hardly a taxing chore. Figuring out every last puzzle proves addicting and makes the game entirely replayable.

Score: Great, for letting me run around as the Scarecrow.

Balance

Balance has historically been something Lego games don’t particularly excel at. They are kids games and tend to be a bit on the simple side . Just like in previous versions, you still can’t die. That said, the puzzles this time around are definitely a bit more challenging. I found myself a few times confounded by a puzzle or two and scouring message boards for clues, but most of the challenges can be overcome with the normal Lego game approach: build everything, destroy everything, and press every button twice.

Score: Good, for making me try to fit two people on a one-person platform.

Originality

Well. This is now the fourth title in a line of hopefully continuing Lego platformer games, so originality isn’t a strong point. The brief points of originality in this game are the variety of abilities. The variety is greatly improved over previous installments, and it’s a welcome addition. Included this go-around are freeze, high jump, plant growing, batarangs, heat suit, dive suit, vacuum suit (more fun than it sounds), glide, bombs, and quite a bit more.

Score: Below Average, but what can you do?

Addictiveness

If I may quote my previous Lego review, “As a sure sign of addictiveness, when I am not playing this game, I am thinking about playing this game.” These games are pure fun, and thoroughly addictive. I’ve played this game every night since I purchased it and will continue to play until I get that 100% rating.

Score: Classic, for fun, complete appeal.

Appeal Factor
It’s freaking Batman! Who doesn’t love the bat? The game is easy enough to be played by everyone, challenging enough to entertain more experienced gamers, and features a lead character that’s been around since the late 30s. If you don’t like this game, I don’t like you.

Score: Classic, for anyone that doesn’t love Batman is a jerk and should be ignored.

Miscellaneous

All right, so we know I love Batman. But I hate Robin. There is something extremely disturbing about boy wards of any type, and Robin is no exception. Happily for me, the cut scenes do everything they can to reinforce the stereotype of Robin as a punchy, moronic, suckup. And for this, I say, you get a perfect score!

Score: Unparalleled, for reinforcing my Robin hatred.

The Scores
Modes: Classic
Graphics: Unparalleled
Sound: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Great
Balance: Good
Originality: Below Average
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
A couple gameplay flaws and a relative lack of originality are the only things detracting from Lego Batman. This is by far the best of the Lego platformer games and hopefully the success of this one means we can look forward to Lego Harry Potter in the future…

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