Review: Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Nintendo Wii)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Developer: Wayforward
Publisher: Warner Home Games
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 09/07/2010

We’re pretty big fans of Wayforward here at Diehard GameFAN, as long as you ignore their older stuff like WWF Betrayal and Ping Pals. Everyone on the planet seemed to love Shantae, and Sigma Star Saga won our awards for best traditional shooter and best GBA title of 2005. Our opinions on Justice League Heroes ranged from calling the game “good” to “poor,” depending on the system, their Contra 4 remake was excellent, and A Boy and His Blob won multiple awards from us in 2009 including Wii Game of the Year, Platformer of the Year, and Best All-Ages Game. That’s pretty impressive.

Now it’s time to look at Wayforward’s latest release, Batman: The Brave and The Bold, which is a licensed platformer based off the hit cartoon bearing the same name. For those of you unfamiliar with the cartoon, it’s basically a Batman team-up show, where the Dark Knight teams with a different super hero in each episode. It’s light hearted and combines the best aspects of the Adam West campish 60’s era Batman, the Olan Soule voices Super Friends/Super Powers era and the DCAU Batman: The Animated Series era. In fact, Adam West plays Thomas Wayne, Julie Neumar plays Martha Wayne, Kevin Conroy plays The Phantom Stranger and The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, and Mark Hamill has voiced The Spectre. It’s truly a wonderful cartoon and well worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.

The big question, however, is if The Brave and the Bold manages to defy the odds and be one of those rarest of gems – a quality licensed platformer. Do we actually have a streak of two high quality Batman games between this and Batman: Arkham Asylum, or has Wayforward streak of quality games come screeching to a halt?

Let’s Review

1. Story

The Brave and the Bold is actually four platformers in one. You play through each adventure in order, but after beating the game you can play the adventures in whatever order you want. Each adventure plays out like the cartoon. The first stage is actually a stand-alone where Batman and a partner takes on a specific supervillain. Then the show’s opening credits play. From there the “real” level begins, where Batman and his chum track a completely different villain down through roughly ten or so stages before a boss fight. Repeat this whole process three more times and you have the game.

I really love how the game felt just like you were playing the cartoon, right down to the dialogue. With Robin you both take on Two-Face in the opening stage, and from there, the Dynamic Duo takes on Catman and Catwoman as they attempt to turn all of Gotham City’s residents into cats with the aid of a mystical diamond. With Blue Beetle, you take on Copperhead in a prison and then the rest of the stages involve tracking down Gorilla Grodd who has invaded Ted Kord’s “Science Island.” With Hawkman, you play a platforming level against The Clock King and then the rest of the stages has you chasing down Gentleman Ghost. I won’t ruin anything about the fourth adventure for you, but the co-op character is GUY GARDNER! The greatest freakin’ Green Lantern ever.

The game is well written, the dialogue is snappy and witty, and much like the cartoon, The Brave and the Bold is all about highlighting B and C level super heroes and showing that any character can be a great one as long as they are well written. If you’re a fan of the cartoon, or Batman at all, you need to experience this game as it will certainly bring a smile to your face.

Story Rating: Great

2. Graphics

The cut scenes in the game are limited, but when they happen, they appear as if they are ripped straight from the cartoon series themselves. The in-game graphics have a similar feel to them, but are far less detailed. You can make out the playable characters and the primary antagonist, but the other characters in the game really don’t have a lot of detail to them and they aren’t very graphically impressive. For a lot of villains you can’t even make out their heads. The exceptions to this are the gorillas and panther, but humanoid villains just don’t look very well.

Backgrounds are well done in some places, with a lot of detail and texturing, but in some areas it’s really bad. Examples of the latter are floors and shadows. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is a shadow and what is a pit that will get you killed. The Blue Beetle stage also has these little gnat enemies that are hard to see and thus hard to attack or defend against. A little more detail in the visuals could have gone a long way here.

The game is fun to look at and the graphics are pretty well done throughout the game, but this definitely isn’t Wayforward’s best title in terms of graphics, and it could have used a bit of touching up.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

3. Sound

I’m happy to report the game uses the exact voice cast from the cartoon. This means Diedrich Bader is Batman, Crawford Wilson is Robin, Will Friedle (Ron Stoppable) is Blue Beetle, Tom Everett Scott is Booster Gold (Just like in JLU!), Billy West (Dr. Zoidberg/Fry) is Skeets, John Di Maggio (Bender) is Aquaman and Gorilla Grodd and so on. This is just an awesome voice acting cast across the board and with every line in the game voice acted, The Brave and the Bold is as much fun to listen to as it is to play.

Besides the voice acting, sound effects are nicely done. Everything has a cartoony feel to it, but without going overboard. Animal noises are especially excellent. Whether it’s a Bat-timed explosive or a the collapse of a large building, everything sounds great. To round on this section, I’m happy to report the game also uses music directly lifted from the cartoon, including the primary theme song. No, there’s no “Music Meister” in the game, however.

Overall, the audio aspects of The Brave and the Bold are simply wonderful and this is easily one of the best games of the year in terms of voice acting.

Sound Rating: Classic

4. Control and Gameplay

Batman: The Brave and the Bold plays like most platformers. You beat up bad guys, you go through weird maze like levels and you jump a lot. Missing a jump means severe damage or outright death, depending on the failed leap. Batman is the only character that repeats through all four adventures and as such, he has the largest array of moves and special gadgets. Each of the four other playable characters (Robin, Blue Beetle, Hawkman and Guy Gardner) have their own special moves as well.

There’s actually a lot of moves for each character besides their special moves, including thirteen different attacks, jumping, back flips, rolling, dodging, blocking and the use of up to eight different gadgets. All this on the Wiimote and Nunchuk combination. With all these possibilities, you will get moves mixed up at first due to the sheer enormity of options and the layout of the controller scheme. I really wish there had been an option for the classic controller, but alas, there isn’t. Fortunately, after an hour or so with the game, you’ll remember what each move is and the corresponding button presses or controls that they have. There are only two real control complaints that I have. The first is that sometimes the game doesn’t acknowledge your grapple command (the – button) unless you are in specific spots. This means you can jump and the game won’t accept a grapple command even if, before the jump, it showed you needed to grapple and then poor Batman plummets to his grisly demise. The second is that the Z button is used for various gadgets. In all ways but the batarang, this works perfectly. With the batarang however, a press of the button sends out a batarang, but holding it down lets you perform a trickshot through the infrared bit. The problem is the game sometimes takes a tap as holding it down, which means you will just be standing there and your intended victim gets a few licks in on you instead.

A neat aspect of the game is that you can call in a striker character ala Maximum Carnage or King of Fighters. You pick your jump-in hero at the beginning of the stage and can call them in once a meter is full. From there you shake your Wiimote to power them up. These heroes include Booster Gold, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Jay Garrick (Golden Age Flash) , Plastic Man, Aquaman, Red Tornado, Captain Marvel and Hal Jordan. The attacks are quite powerful, but you’ll never actually need to use them. They’re just there for fun or to help younger or less skilled gamers.

Finally, there is the odd aspect of “dying” in this game and the fact that you never actually do. You see, you collect coins through the level to buy new gadgets or to upgrade old ones. If you die via missing a jump or losing all your health, you are brought back to life in exchange for 100 coins. What happens if you don’t have 100 coins? You lose all that you have and get brought back to life anyway. Hurrah! Now this might make the game seem a little too easy, but it fits the theme of the cartoon (bad guys never win) and this game is definitely for younger or more casual gamers anyway. I didn’t mind this at all, and I actually found the game to be far more fun than most of the other platformers I’ve played over the near three decades that I’ve been gaming.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a well done platformer that never ceases to be fun to play. There are a few minor control issues and it has the usual annoyances that come with any platformer due to jumping issues, but I can’t see anyone actually complaining about the controls save for the lack of classic controller support.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

5. Replayability

Like most platformers, The Brave and the Bold is a straightforward linear affair. Now once you beat the game, you can play episodes in whatever order you want, and you’ll also find that items you didn’t have in the original playthrough can be used to unlock different paths and thus extra coins and/or power-ups as well. You can also keep playing since you won’t have enough coins in a single playthrough to unlock every item in the game, much less every upgrade as well. You can also mix up which character you play as. Say you played as Batman in the original playthrough. Now you can try playing as the other characters or vice versa.

Really the only reason to replay this game is for button mashing and platform jumping fun with a friend. The game is amusing and fun enough to play through with a friend as well as by yourself, so if you’re a fan of the cartoon, you might want to hold on to this and see how it holds up down the road.

Replayability Rating: Decent

6. Balance

I won’t deny that The Brave and the Bold is relatively easy. I mean, you can’t really die, you always instantly respawn where you fell, and there are plenty of power-ups to get your life and special meter back up to maximum. However, it’s still a blast to play, and losing coins means you take one step back from getting Batman to wield nth metal brass knuckles or a laser sword! It’s Batman with a sword made of lasers that shoots a Geese Howard-esque attack out of it. That’s pretty freakin’ metal right there.

You’re also getting four different adventures that run about two hours each, so there’s a lot of gaming for your buck, even if it’s all pretty easy and straight forward. Think of it akin to going to an arcade, and having an unlimited supply of quarters for The Simpsons Arcade Game or TMNT: The Arcade Game. It takes a lot of the challenge out of it, but it’s still a fun time. Not like that time you had ten dollars in quarters and you and a friend played as Sgt. Slaughter and Mr. Perfect in WWF Wrestlefest only to find out the hard way that the game never ends…

Balance Rating: Mediocre

7. Originality

There are plenty of Batman games, although The Brave and The Bold marks only the fourth time there has been a good one (along with the aforementioned B:AA, there is Batman: Vengeance, and Batman for the NES). It’s very similar to a lot of other side-scrolling platformers with beat ’em up elements out there, only this time it’s Batman themed and set up in the same pattern as the cartoon.

It’s great to see a light hearted Batman game for once, and also a game where I can play as Guy Gardner or Blue Beetle III. An entire adventure set in Ted Kord’s base? Booster Gold in a video game? All of these things are pretty sweet if you’re a diehard DC Comics fan. However the core game itself is a paint by numbers platformer. Only the window dressings make it stand out.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

I found The Brave and the Bold hard to put down. Admittedly I’m a big fan of the cartoon, but I also hate and loathe platformers. There’s maybe a dozen ever made that I can stand. I just hate the genre and pretty much everything about it. So with that in mind, the fact I had fun with the actual game itself is a testament to how well this game was made. Each episode was pretty long though, but I just wanted to keep playing for the animated cut scenes and the dialogue. It was all quite fun and I didn’t even mind the jumping bits. I even really liked the Clock King boss fight which was just 100% platform jumping. It’s just a really fun game that I found hard to put down. It’s funny, it’s a huge fanservice to longtime DC Universe fans, and especially those like me who grew up with and loved Justice League International. It’s hard to play more than one episode at a time without a break, but said episode will keep you glued to the screen from beginning to end.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

Okay, if you like the cartoon at all, you’ll love the game. I mean, it’s eight hours or so of everything you love combined with the ability to actually be the one stomping on the bad guys. But what about everyone else? What about the people who haven’t seen or even heard of the cartoon? Well, the game is one giant fanservice to DC superheroes. More importantly, it’s a tribute to characters that the mainstream might not necessarily know, who are then given their own show in hopes of making them more popular and toyetic. The show is definitely a light hearted one, but it’s still Batman and every character is still in line with the actual comics in terms of personality. Even Batman. He’s just more Roger Stern/Denny O’Neil Batman than Frank Miller.

Batman fans across the board will like this game. Younger gamers and casual gamers alike will have a lot of fun with this as it’s a pretty easy title that still rewards you with four fun stories. Platformer fans will love the game. Hell, even people like myself who hate platformers will enjoy this game. It’s simply one of those games that will appeal to everyone save for those few sad souls who feel Batman should always be super dark and gritty angsty and a total jerk to everyone.

Appeal Factor: Great

10. Miscellaneous

Okay, the fact there is a game where Booster Gold, Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner are all playable characters in some fashion makes this a dream come true to me. Same with the Ted Kord tribute level. However, the fan service isn’t the only great thing here. There is also a computer terminal where you can enter codes to unlock bonus costumes and (supposedly) some extra missions. However, at this time only one code is know and that’s for the medieval Batman costume. That code is 5644863. Supposedly the other codes come with McDonalds Happy Meal toys. I personally will not eat McDonalds, as it is gross and bad for you, but they were happy enough to sell me a toy so I could see if it comes with a code. Alas, they do not. So now I have a Green Arrow figure that shoots boxing glove arrows. So we’re all still waiting on the codes, but in the meantime, you have that one!

So you have an awesome game that only costs $40, offers a lot of content and there’s still more to unlock. That’s a pretty good deal even if the fan service does nothing for you. There’s nothing this game lack in terms of pleasing the target audience

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Great
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is not only the best platformer I’ve played this year, but it’s also a solid contender for the best Wii game of the year as well. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s got an amazing amount of fan service, it holds up amazingly well when compared to the TV show, and best of all, it’s amazingly fun to play. It’s a totally different beast from Batman: Arkham Asylum, so there is no point in comparing the two. Batman fans should just be happy that for the first time in the history of gaming, we have had two back to back exceptional games starring the Caped Crusader. This is a definite must have for any Wii owner, and this is coming from someone who usually hates the platforming genre.