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LEGO Batman - updated impressions

We've been seeing a lot of LEGO Batman recently, mostly in the form of new screens, but it wasn't until this week's Game Developer's Conference that we got to see the plasticized caped crusader in action. And we saw a lot, from the suits and gadgets that Batman and Robin will use to fight crime, to the missions where you'll take control of some of their arch-nemeses and go toe-to-toe against Gotham's finest. And although we can't yet say how it all plays, we do know it's impossible to watch this game for long without cracking a smile.

LEGO Batman has a lot in common with the LEGO Star Wars games - the cutesy animation, the mimed cutscenes, the rapid construction of random helpful objects and the endless collection of studs - but this isn't just a re-skinning with new characters. The brawler-style combat has been reworked to accommodate hand-to-hand fighting, and throughout the main "hero" storyline, you'll control just two characters, Batman and Robin. While that might seem like a step back to those of you who got used to being followed around by a menagerie of weirdos in the Star Wars games, it's offset through the use of eight upgradeable suits that impart special powers.

See, unlike the villain characters (more on them in a minute), Batman and Robin are essentially identical; Robin has a wall-jump move that Batman doesn't, but otherwise their skills are the same. However, as the two heroes make their way through the game, they'll stumble onto disassembled "suit signals;" build one and step into it, and new powers are yours. We saw four of these; as Robin, you'll be able to walk on certain walls with the Magnet Suit (think Ratchet & Clank's magnet boots), or remote-control small vehicles by using the Tech Suit. Batman, meanwhile, can glide across chasms in the Glide Suit, or place mines - which can be detonated by remote trigger or by a timer - with the Demolition Suit.

Each suit is key to solving puzzles in the level where they're found, and in the segment of the game we watched, there was a lot of switching back and forth between the two characters to get ahead. Robin would have to go forward with the Magnet Suit, leaving Batman behind, until he could find a bridge or clothesline to move Batman's way; Batman, meanwhile, had to do the same thing while wearing the Glide Suit to get across long gaps.

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