So this might surprise you considering what my staff icon is, but I’ve never really been that into the Lego series of platforming games that have become a genre all on their own. Partly because they felt as though they were marketed as kids games and partly because they aren’t really platforming games so much as they are puzzle games. And I don’t really go in for puzzle games. Life is puzzling enough as it is. But we got this here Lego Batman 3 game in and it needed reviewing, so here we go.
LB3 reunites the Justice league as they attempt to foil the plans of Lex Luthor and the Joker and all sorts of other villains. And shortly after doing so they discover that the real threat to Earth lies not in it’s own resident villains but instead from beyond the stars, as Brainiac has managed to steal the powers of the various Lantern Corps to build a giant plot device which allows the developers to have a little fun. In the attempt to stop the Earth from being shrunken in size to be captured and turned into data for Brainiac’s collection, the Justice Leaguers decide that just this once it might be handy to have Lex Luthor and Grundy and Cheetah and for some reason the Joker around to help save the day.
I suppose I should stop for a moment and explain this concept of “Various Lantern Corps”. A short time ago DC held an event called “The Sinestro Corps War“, that established a new Corp of fighters that work with Sinestro, Green Lantern’s primary nemesis. Sinestro is the Yellow Lantern and his corp use Yellow light instead of Green. He also uses fear instead of will power, which is what the Green Lantern uses. After the events of the Sinestro Corps War DC further expanded on the color thing by adding six other colored ring corps. Red, Orange, Blue, Indigo and Violet, along with Black. All of these colors are related to a different emotion, and ya I’m falling asleep now too. On with the review.
The team splits up into smaller squads in order to fight many fires at once and get some B-squad members some much needed screen time. You’ll soon find yourself playing as Killer Croc and Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and Martian Manhunter, and many more. The teams are even further mixed up when some of the characters get hit the power of some of the various rings, skewing their emotional balance. The Flash gets hit by a blast from the Orange Lantern, and becomes a much greedier person for the remainder of the game. Wonder Woman is hit by a blast from the Red Lantern and becomes a person with some serious anger management issues. Cyborg gets hit by Yellow and is now scared of everything. Meanwhile to keep it fair Joker gets hit by a Violet ring blast and is suddenly loving everything and everybody with not a hint of his previous desire to kill everything, and Lex is hit by a bolt from Blue and now hopes for the best, even if it’s making sure Superman is ok.
What this all amounts to gameplay wise isn’t really all that much, but for the writing and the plot it’s pretty huge. This is a very funny game, and part of that humor comes from seeing how people react to the new emotions and also from seeing their compatriots react to those same emotions.
Of course the game itself is exactly what long time players of the series will be looking for. More puzzles, more levels fleshing out the world these characters live in, and more smashing everything in sight until a solution presents itself. And it’s here that I have to get off the happy joy band wagon. By now the devs should have figured out that if you’re going to force players to solve puzzles and make the solutions to those puzzles be smashing everything in sight to build something, then maybe it might be a good idea to spread some hints around here and there, beyond the basic Batmite hints. Hopping bricks that tell you you need to build something are fine, but if they only appear after you destroy that last piece then the hint is pointless. I spent a good 10 minutes on one of the first puzzles in the Batcave because while I had figured out the solution, I could not find the last piece that needed smashing.
Moving on, the combat is really just a mess. It’s fine, the game is designed so that if you die it’s really no big deal, but I found eventually that it was just easier to use whatever laser beam I had access to and just blast the hell out of everything friend or foe until things stopped attacking me. This works as a strategy early on, but later on in the game you lose access to some of your powers and must make do with what you have. Again I like when developers switch things up, but gimme something. Towards the end its impossible to see what’s going on with all of the enemies and friendlies attacking each other. It’s cool to watch, but if you’re trying to do anything it’s hopeless. When it comes to destroying the environment the hit detection is hit or miss sometimes too. I’m referring to those times in game where you have to use a special power to destroy a piece of the environment, but it doesn’t always work the first time. Golden items that need to be destroyed seem to suffer from this the most, as you can sit there for a few minutes wondering if you’re doing anything before finally succeeding when your finger twitches and moves the beam a hair.
Switching characters is often a tedious chore too. Your team is often a group of 3 or more heroes, and you’ll want the one that the game insists you can’t have about 50% of the time. I eventually figured out that you can push the joystick towards a character while you’re pressing the select button but this only works if you don’t have a whole army working for you at that moment.
I found that the game played beautifully streaming to my PSTV. The input delay was minimal and the downgrade in graphics was minor at worst. Of course network issues did effect my gameplay, but really it only happened once, and for how long I played it that way I’m kind of surprised.
I’d like to commend the developers for how they handled Superman in the game. Many people complain that DC events often wind up being “Wait for Superman to solve it”, but the writing here took a very clever approach. I won’t spoil it for you but I did like what they did a lot.
Lastly, I think the developers showed themselves to be true fans of Batman with their inclusion of Adam West and the “Same Bat Time Same Bat Channel” level in the game. That level was a real trip, and made a lot of the frustrations I felt during the game feel like they were worth it after all. This level plus the various levels that were inspired by Resogun were some of the most interesting levels I played through in the game.
Short Attention Span Summary:
If you love the series you’re not going to find anything here that will take away from your enjoyment, and if you don’t love the series nothing here will make you change your mind.