Traveller’s Tales goes back to the DCU for a third title in their Batman series.
So. How tired are you of the LEGO formula that developer Traveller’s Tales has been putting out… forever now? There’s plenty of new stuff in LEGO Batman, that’s true, but it’s mostly new content having to do with the DC Universe in general, and not necessarily new gameplay innovations. The way that LEGO Batman 3 plays is almost exclusively what we’ve seen from the LEGO franchise about a dozen times already. I say ‘almost’, because there are some new things in here, and some little odds and ends here and there that make playing somewhat smoother and more streamlined, but more on that in a bit because it’s nothing that fundamentally changes the game.
Starting off on a god note, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham starts off with one of the coolest intro’s I’ve seen in the franchise yet. The Batwing flying through Gotham with the Batman ’89 theme music playing is 100% pure awesome and any longtime fan should be in geeky heaven seeing it in action. Once the game actually starts, we’re treated to a storyline that actually does have a few twists and turns, and more unlock able characters than you can shake a power ring at. Unfortunately, almost of those unlockable guys and gals are only playable in Free Play, after you’ve beaten the actual in-game missions. Though if you’ve played LEGO games in the past, you’re already more than aware of that fact.
It’s actually kind of like three games really, in the way that the campaign feels. The first stars some DC villains who’re taking aim at the Justice League’s watchtower, a space station in Earth orbit that the team uses to keep watch over the planet. Past that, we quickly move onto Superman villain Brainiac as he arrives to shrink the planet down to minuscule size in order to add it to his collection. Then finally, and if you don’t want any spoilers at all please skip the rest of this paragraph, we move to exploring the Lantern worlds. It’s really at this point that the game ‘comes alive’ and feels like a fresh experience with some really cool scenery and lots more DC characters to control. It’s actually too bad that Tt didn’t just make the Lantern planets the focus of the entire game, since the first 2/3’s feels like pretty much every LEGO game that you’ve played before, and has the same tone of the previous game in the Batman series.
Throughout the entire adventure though, the graphics are excellently done. There’s no denying that Tt has the LEGO ‘look’ down to a science at this point and cranks out some very cool meldings of LEGO and ‘real’ looking textures to create a fantastically attractive game. All the individual superheroes and villains look great as well, and the transformations that some of them make as you play are all animated beautifully.
That’s actually one of the newer elements in the title. Several DC characters can transform in-game and on the fly. Cyborg can morph into different uniforms with attachments to help in a given situation, and Martian Manhunter can get massive as he turns into his ‘true form’, which is a massive green alien. Different suits mark the various abilities of Batman and Robin once again as well, as the two stars of the game (who appear more than any other characters) can do a number of things like sniffing out secrets and using tech-terminals.
Actually, the use of Batman and Robin is one of the biggest issues I had with LEGO Batman 3. Now, I’m a huge Batman fan, so keep that in mind here when I say that I think it’s time to switch from the ‘Batman’ title to a ‘DC Superheroes’ one as Tt did with the new Marvel series, which debuted with LEGO Marvel Superheroes. Including Batman and Robin in almost every level gives the game a stale feel and doesn’t use one of the biggest assets that the game could possibly have, that being the roster of heroes in the DC stable. I realize that I might be in the minority on that thought, but it bugged me and the excitement of the Lantern worlds and the ability to play as way more characters (by that time in the game) just made the point hit home for me.
Other than that though, the game is loaded with secrets and nods to DC continuity. If you’re a fan of the comics, you’re going to love all the in-jokes (I thought the Dr. Fate one was particularly cool). Deeper in the game, you’ll also get to play as a bigger number of characters like Green Lantern and even baddies like Solomon Grundy and Lex Luthor. I have to say I was a little disappointed also by the lack of chances to play as Superman in the story mode, but that was par for the course as the last LEGO Batman game limited Supes’ screen time in campaign mode as well. At least there’s Free Play.
One thing I can’t complain at all about was the sound design though. The voice work is awesome throughout with cartoon versions of all the heroes and villains voices and personalities coming off perfectly. I particularly dug Batman’s voice, as he had some laugh-out-loud moments. The music is great as well, with the Batman ’89 theme, the classic Richard Donner Superman theme and even the TV Wonder Woman tune, which was an awesome surprise when WW took to the air.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is more of the same, but that’s not entirely bad. I do wish that there were more chances to play as DC Comics’ deeper catalog of characters in the campaign, as I’m not big on replaying missions in Free Play mode. In the end though, the game in undeniably fun and enjoyable to play (especially in the last few hours).
That enjoyment is probably multiplied by the fact that I love the characters that are present here, but pretty much anyone who enjoys a good action/platformer should find something to like here, even if you’re not particularly into the comics. I just hope that the next time around, Traveller’s Tales finds a way to incorporate more characters more often, and limits the way that Batman and Robin figure in. Seeing that typed out looks particularly weird for me (again, huge Batman fan right here), but it’s me being honest.