Lego Batman is back in all his glory, smashing blocks and busting chops alongside a host of other famous faces from DC comics. If you’ve played any of the previous Lego games you will pretty much know what to expect from this one. Starting the game as Batman, the aim is pretty simple – smash up as much of the level as possible, solving puzzles (some simple, some not so simple) along the way and unlocking a whole host of other characters as the story progresses. The charm of these games has always stemmed from the fact that each level, and the heroes and villains that populate them, is fully formed in Lego.
The story opens on Batman and Robin as they pursue Killer Croc through the sewers of Gotham, but it quickly opens up and shifts focus to Brainiac, a regular villain of Superman, mind-controlling Green Lantern and other members of the various coloured Lantern corps in deep space. Not only does this open up the game, quickly moving the levels away from Gotham and into the wider DC universe, but Braniac and his ultimate goal serve to push both the heroes and villains together, opening up both groups as playable characters unlocked along the way. Over 150 different DC characters make an appearance, many with a range of costumes and abilities that help unlock hidden areas in Free Play mode, which in turn often contain further character studs. In a stroke of genius, many of the voice actors that serve on the Lego game are returning to characters they have played in the many DC cartoons, videogames and television series, such as Stephen Amell who voices Green Arrow alongside playing Arrow on television. The game is full of these “Where have I heard that voice before?” moments, and the game is all the better for it.
All the usual Lego tropes return – Red Bricks, Gold Bricks, the Hidden Minikit pieces that are either hidden somewhere within each level or unlocked by performing certain actions within the game, such as collecting a set amount of the coloured studs that appear when you smash the level up . Making a debut in Lego Batman 3, Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the iconic 60’s television series, is trapped somewhere in each level, appearing fully voiced by the man himself and in Lego form. Similar to the hidden Stan Lee that appeared in last year’s Lego Marvel Superheroes, you are required to rescue him from whatever perilous situation he has found himself in, using the powers and abilities available to the characters in your ever growing repertoire.
The brilliance of the Lego games has always been the re-playability of each game. Levels are strewn with hidden areas and other secrets that are only accessible once certain abilities or characters are unlocked – Gold Blocks that are only destroyed by characters with the ability to fire a heat beam, such as Superman, or areas only accessed by characters that can change their size. Returning players will feel right at home, but in the same vein, a sense of de ja vu does start to creep in. Some levels did feel a little repetitive, as the vast majority of the levels rely heavily on smashing up blocks to reveal solutions to puzzles, another main stay of the Lego titles. Where levels stand out is when they try something different to the usual smash everything in sight – an obvious stand out being the arcade type levels that serve as a training exercise accessed from the Bat-computer, an aside from the main storyline. Although clearly not enough to stand up on their own, these training exercises are short, fun activities that try to do something different than the usual smash everything formula, such as putting you in control of a minifig space ship in a game reminiscent of Geometry Wars.
Having played a range of Lego games in the past, I did start to feel like I’d been there done that as I approached the second act. What managed to quash this feeling, or at least keep it at bay, was the Easter Eggs that infamously litter Lego games. The game is full of nods and references to aspects of the DC universe, from the mainstream to the more obscure. Having some knowledge of the DC universe and as a reader of the Batman and Detective Comics I picked up many of the references, but I’m sure some will have no doubt sailed over my head unnoticed, picked up by only the most observant of DC fans. Don’t let this put you off however, as there are plenty of nods that fans and those with limited knowledge of DC comics will still catch – a favourite of mine being the first time that I heard the music that kicks in every time I took control of Wonder Woman and took flight.
Traveller’s Tales does such a good job of both respecting the source material and yet imbuing each game with a sense of personality and family friendly humour, and the same is true here. Lego Batman 3 is full of charming, laugh out loud moments, building on what has gone before (such as Batman’s resentment for Superman, and Robin’s fanboy like adoration for the Man of Steel, established in Lego Batman 2) to create another beautiful Lego title, that fits well into the Lego Universe that Traveller’s Tales has worked hard to create.
LegoBatman 3: Beyond Gotham is a charming platform/puzzler, and continues to build upon the traditional Lego formula that Traveller’s Tales has created. In an industry increasingly full of First Person Shooters and Sports sims, Lego Batman 3 manages to straddle the fine line by appealing both to adults and children. At times, the formula of block busting does feel a little stretched and over used, and I do wonder hw many more games can be built on the same mechanic, but as long as the source material is respected, fans of both Batman, Lego and newcomers alike are sure to find something to enjoy.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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