Batman: The Brave and the Bold - hands-on

If you’re not familiar with the Brave and the Bold’s take on the Batman universe, it’s very different from that of Arkham Asylum, or even Batman: The Animated Series. The game, like the show, is a throwback to the campy Batman of the ‘60s, with Robin making his goofy quips and the villains not remotely serious or scary. The game looks just like the cartoon – even to the point of feeling like you’re actually playing a hand-animated cartoon, which is pretty cool.

Above: Sometimes, you just have to punch some gorillas. Those blue beetle robots are actually on your side, because, well, your sidekick here is the Blue Beetle

While the game is totally corny and has a primary-colored kid-friendly look, the combat is actually surprisingly complex. Or, at least it allows for complexity. We’re not sure if it actually requires much beyond button mashing, but as the seventeen-step tutorial explains, you have a lot of options for kicking ass. You can somersault past enemies, backflip over their heads, perform uppercut juggles into air combos, grab and throw in multiple directions, do leg sweeps, execute power attacks, and utilize an impressive array of gadgets. It’s actually overwhelming at first if you choose to go through the tutorial – although it’s amusing to listen to R. Lee Ermey bark control instructions at you.

Although the game is primarily a beat ‘em up, it doesn’t use the typical isometric view, but rather a pure 2D approach, and this is because it features some light platforming. If you’re playing co-op, each of you can choose between Batman and Robin, and later, the Blue Beetle, Green Lantern, and Hawkman, although we didn’t get to play the last two. From what we’ve seen all of the characters perform nearly identically, with slight tweaks to how they jump (for instance, the Blue Beetle has a double jump instead of the glide that Batman and Robin have). Their movesets are all the same, with different animations – although the gadgets seem to be unique amongst the heroes, and each can be upgraded after collecting money from fallen foes, which is a bit weird for Batman.

Above: There really aren't enough Batman/Terminator hybrids in the world

The combat turns out to be pretty satisfying from what we’ve seen of it. Like we mentioned before, the sheer number of moves is too much to tackle right off the bat, and the controls are weirdly unintuitive – you press B to jump and A to attack, which takes some rewiring of the brain. Once those hurdles are overcome, the fighting becomes unexpectedly meaty for such a kiddie-looking game. We liked to punch a guy a few times, follow with a power-attack to knock them down, then pick them up off the floor, knee them in the gut, toss them straight up into the air, jump after them and continue with an air combo, and finish with a power-bomb that also hits any other enemies nearby. It’s also fun to grab guys and throw them into other enemies, causing a domino effect of bodies.

The platforming never got frustrating, and the bosses were fairly easy – the whole game seems quite forgiving for the kids, but an adult can chase challenges like racking up combos to earn more money and unlock more gadgets. One particular boss stood out – Catman. Yes, it’s Batman vs Catman, but Catman is more than a dude in a cat suit. He has a ray that turns people into cats, and during the fight with him, he turns both Batman and Robin into costumed cats. In a funny twist, getting turned into a cat is the only way to actually hurt him, because he’s perched high up where you normally can’t reach him, but as a nimble cat you can leap up some small platforms and then proceed to claw his face off (not literally).

Above: Catman, meet Bat... cat... man?

We’re not sure if the combat will hold up for the entire game – what seemed daunting at first became old hat, and it doesn’t seem there are any extra moves to unlock – just extra gadgets. The art style, combined with the environments, is really cool if you can dig its approach. Those preferring a dark, gritty Batman probably won’t be interested, but while we prefer the darker Batman, we still enjoyed the game’s look. The kids will certainly get a kick out of the game, and with co-op, it might be a nice way to enjoy some family time with progeny or siblings.

Aug 18, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.