October 2, 2008

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LEGO Batman
(Wii/PS2/PS3/360/PC/PSP/DS)
Traveller’s Tales, Sept 23, E10+

By Glenn "The Killing Joke" Given production@hippopress.com

George Clooney reprises his role as the blockiest Batman ever!

There is a dulling lustre on this whole LEGO+Franchise = Adequate Game theorem, but LEGO Batman rubs a bit of polish onto the formula. The meta-series’ trademark slapstick cutscenes and tween-friendly antics (though, honestly how kid-friendly can the Joker’s scheme of mass murder get?) go further to cover up its gameplay flaws. Innovation is not key for Batman, it seems, as his foray into plastic blockhood brings little more to the table than this summer’s LEGO Indiana Jones did. While it does offer more gimmicks what with costume- swapping heroes and the ability to replay the story from the villian’s perspective, the improvements are thin on the ground. Your AI companions will still confound you with their bi-polar pathing abilities. While Robin seems to have no problem helping Bruce Wayne trigger conveniently placed traps to dump the Mad Hatter into toxic sludge, and equal time is spent running directly into the blast of Mr. Freeze’s ice cannon. I’ve always hated Robin. Traveller’s Tales still loves respawning players on the slippery precipice of deadly pits and does a fairly obnoxious job of indicating depth of field in their level design. So if you could get past that for Indiana Jones or Star Wars then I’m sure it’s not going to get you down much; just don’t expect it to have gotten better.

LEGO Batman does fare better in the characterization than Indy or even Star Wars did. While the sprawling cast of the Star Wars titles basically broke down to “these characters have laser swords and the Force” and “those characters won’t be played much,” Batman’s cast cuts a more distinctive figure. Hammering through bank vaults as Clayface or wafting about on the Penguin’s LEGO umbrellas is markedly more fun than thwacking savages with an interchangable collection of khaki-bound archaeologists. Of course these are momentary thrills and, while great for the younger set or the OCDriven collectaholics, LEGO Batman is at best a clever platformer and at worst a clever platformer that I’ve played four times already. BGlenn Given