3 out of 5 stars
The Dark Knight incorporates some light humor, engaging puzzles and shiny polygons in “LEGO Batman,” the latest LEGO depiction of a pop-culture legend. While the game clearly targets a young audience, it appeals to all age groups with challenging surprises and striking visuals.
In “LEGO Batman,” players take control of Batman, Robin and pretty much anybody else from the Batman universe. In story mode, players are restricted to the main characters (Batman and Robin in the hero storyline, and a variety of criminals in the villain portion). However, once players have beaten a level in story mode, that level can then be played through with any character that’s been unlocked, or in any of Batman or Robin’s many suits, each with its own set of capabilities. There are also two open slots for players to customize their own LEGO heroes for use in free play mode, which can yield hysterical crime-fighting results.
Gameplay mainly consists of solving puzzles while breaking everything you see into little LEGO bricks. The emphasis on destruction entertains all kinds of gamers and helps to break the monotony of combat and riddles. The game makes an effort to introduce different kinds of puzzles as the plot progresses, but only succeeds to a point, making the later levels feel like copies of earlier ones.
“LEGO Batman” looks surprisingly good, considering it’s a relatively low-budget kids game. The shadows are perfectly rendered and each LEGO brick shimmers in the light. The game is colorful and vibrant as the toy it’s (partially) based on.
Immortal combat: Admittedly, in-game combat leaves something to be desired. Fighting consists of two buttons, but it doesn’t actually matter which one you hit. There’s no sense of strategy with the fights, which means it’s pure luck whether you die in a particular exchange. Fortunately, death comes at a very low price, as your character will respawn and lose nothing more than its “studs,” the currency of the LEGO world.
The Riddler would be ashamed: While “LEGO Batman” contains some creative puzzles, there are several that will make gamers want to throw their controller at a wall. The puzzles aren’t necessarily difficult, they’re just surprisingly hard to find. Especially early on in the game, it’s unclear whether many objects in the game are interactive or not. In most levels, you can expect to spend a few minutes pacing back and forth looking for a clue, only to realize that you just need to jump on something.
The final countdown: Boss battles are a real letdown. They begin with a puzzle no more difficult than those before it, followed by senseless battles against villains who turn out to be no stronger than their own lackeys. Usually the villain will come fight you but then run away. This forces you to “solve” the puzzle again before you can land a few more hits. Boss battles feel like wasted time instead of exciting climaxes to the levels. In the villain campaign, many levels don’t even have a boss battle at the end, which comes as a great relief to someone who’s just played through the entire hero story.
Extra, extra, read all about it: There are way too many bonuses to unlock in this game. Each level contains tons of hidden extras, most of which can only be found by going through the level again in free play mode, where you can change suits or characters at will. There is something frustrating about playing through the entire plot of the game and still only completing less than 50 percent of it. This won’t be a problem for meticulous gamers with too much time on their hands, but the average student doesn’t — or at least shouldn’t — have the time for it all.
It takes two to tango: In every level there are two characters fighting on the side of good or evil, depending on the storyline. When playing alone, the player switches back and forth between the two characters in order to solve cooperative puzzles. The game is at its best when playing with a friend, though. Solving puzzles is much smoother when each player can complete his or her task at the same time. You also don’t have to worry about the other character wandering off from the objective, unless your friend kinda sucks.
Happy days: “LEGO Batman,” despite its flaws, really is quite fun. It can keep a gamer entertained for hours. It’s bright, shiny and will put a smile on anyone’s face. If you’re a fan of the caped crusader and could use a good pick-me-up, definitely consider “LEGO Batman.”