Product Type: Warner Bros. PSP games
Newest Review: ... a family-friendly 3D platformer. But brick-smashing remains a key element in how the game operates; not only does busting up scenery earn... more
Built To Last
Lego Batman: The Videogame (PSP)
Member Name: tom1clare
Lego Batman: The Videogame (PSP)
Date: 06/11/11, updated on 06/11/11 (56 review reads)
Advantages: Enjoyable, accessible gameplay; fantastic array of characters and unlockables; 30 levels
Disadvantages: Unsophisticated combat; the odd wobbly platforming moment; no WiFi
Because beneath its familiarly accessible (it reuses the LEGO Star Wars game engine), light-hearted veneer beats the heart of a truly complete 3D platformer, sporting a whopping 30 levels, a simply chasmic selection of collectibles and superlative structuring that perfectly tailors the experience towards maximising the extensive replay value found within. Its gameplay is a distinct evolution of the formula, not reinventing the wheel but recognising little alterations that needed to be made. Whilst it was easy to appreciate the myriad of characters in LEGO Star Wars, differences were rarely much more than cosmetic, extending as far as perhaps the ability to double-jump or use lightsabers. Traveller's Tales have built all of the "goodies" missions in LEGO Batman around "suits"; both Batman and Robin can make use of outfits that allow the ability to withstand extreme heat, glide, travel underwater, blow things up through demolition charges, and there's even a suit that allows Robin to traverse walls in magnetic boots.
Since the dawn of time, mankind's favourite past-times have been to build, and to destroy. In between conflicts, we've also learned that it's especially fun to do both with bright plastic bricks. LEGO Batman is thus the thinking-man's war game. Not really; it's a family-friendly 3D platformer. But brick-smashing remains a key element in how the game operates; not only does busting up scenery earn you "studs" (the game's currency) but in many instances leaves pieces of LEGO bouncing around, ready to be used to create new and useful objects. These can range from switches, ropes and platforms to aid your progression through the levels, to vehicles you can motor around on, as well as turrets and electrical charges required to defeat bosses. You'll need a keen eye to succeed, as sometimes you're just after a couple of small bricks needed to form that crucial rung in a ladder, whilst observing the scenery is important as by holding square, you can aim a Batarang to take out certain foes or structures that are out of reach.
It may have been released mere months after LEGO Indiana Jones, but make no mistake, there's been a heck of a lot of work done in fleshing this out. Batman's fifteen levels see him teaming up with Robin and travelling all over Gotham City in three mini-stories that chart his battles with the Penguin, Riddler and Joker, and barring the odd flying and driving level designed to add some action emphasis, most will last at least half an hour in length, packing a gargantuan amount of smash 'n' build fun as well as hidden goodies and puzzles. As if this wasn't enough, there are fifteen more stages from the villains perspectives, using Arkham Asylum, rather than the Batcave, as a hub of operations. And if anything, these are even more fun.
They rather cleverly work as a flipside to Batman's stories, so whilst the opening level "You Can Bank On Batman" sees the caped-crusader rushing to the scene of a bank-robbery, it's mirror-level "Riddler Makes A Withdrawal" pits you as The Riddler and Clayface as they go about pulling off the heist. The villain stages feature recognisable settings, but the environments themselves are unique with the gameplay taking you through different locations. Add to this the opportunity to play as an incredibly comprehensive roster of famed underlings such as Mr Freeze; Harley Quinn; Catwoman and Killer Croc, and you've got a dreamy amount of fan service.
The platforming itself still isn't especially refined; climbing ladders is needlessly cumbersome, as is judging certain jumps and the one-button mash-athon combat, though trouble-free, isn't the most thought-provoking or ideally executed. But it doesn't really matter; LEGO Batman impresses in just how much there is to interact with, how many secrets are buried away, just out of sight. There's so much to every level that really each of the thirty is worth a couple of hours of your time individually - every one has ten pieces that form a LEGO model; a hostage needing to be rescued and a unique (and usually hidden) red brick to be found; whilst amassing enough studs to reach "super-hero" or "super-villain" status grants the player a piece towards a large model. LEGO Batman instils in the player a wonderful belief that should you choose to hang around, experiment and delve a little deeper in what you might find, there'll be lots of rewards in store.
...And whilst the Story mode challenges the player to think logically about how to progress through a level, the Free Play option opened up after completing a level allows the player to use any of their unlocked protagonists in a far, er, "freer" manner, granting access to a hoard of areas and actions that were off-limits in the Story. It's the perfect means of extracting replay value; enticing the player by dangling a host of bonuses in front of them, only to be available second time through. As such, there's literally months of play to be had here and compared to the majority of modern platformers, it's absolutely gigantic.
Gotham City looks rather nice in brick form, capturing the streets and various landmarks effectively. On the whole it's as you'd expect from a LEGO game; nothing technically extravagant though nevertheless easy-on-the-eye. Though the level of detail and general activity is very impressive, there is the odd moment here and where the picture seems compressed. Still, the instances when characters scuttle around at light-speed assembling a new construction from scattered bricks is endlessly satisfying, whilst the cut-scenes outline the general plot direction in simplistic fashion, with a well-judged dash of humour. Whilst there's no dialogue and the sound effects are somewhat incidental, the soundtrack is more notable, as it uses Danny Elfman's compositions from the 1989 Batman film, which is a nice touch.
LEGO Batman fares superbly on the PSP, though the portable version does suffer from a couple of minor issues. The first is loading times; upon booting up the game, there are a couple of really quite lengthy waits, so it's best to use the console's stand-by function where possible to avoid having to repeatedly sit through these. Strangely, for a game that is essentially co-op in nature, it features no multiplayer options - not even a local, peer-to-peer setup that would have allowed for some classic drop-in/drop-out gameplay. It should be noted however that the computer-controlled ally is no slouch. It's unlikely that you'll find yourself screaming at the screen as they tend to do the right things during co-operative puzzle solving and can handle themselves in combat.
It's a real pleasure, when all's said and done. The new suits and vehicles add a sprinkling of variety to an otherwise water-tight platform game, and whilst there's still perhaps a slight clumsiness around the edges lingering over from the earlier LEGO titles, Traveller's Tales' trek into Gotham City sees the positives significantly outweighing the negatives. It may not look a world-beater at first glance, but few recent platformers have had as much thought invested in their design, or offered as much longevity and once again, it's a game that those of all ages can enjoy. This is no Holy abomination, that's for sure.
Summary: Possibly the best Batman game I've played this week.
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