Few franchises are as ripe for a LEGO once-over as Batman. Unlike his fellow comic book chums, Bruce Wayne is a truly self-made hero. Born with no Kryptonian spoon in his mouth and avoiding radioactive daddy-long-legs, his strength stems from determination and smarts. The gazillion bucks inherited from slain Papa Wayne didn’t hurt either. No surprise then, that the self-made man and the make-it-yourself brick sensation meld together so well.
"Expectations are rightly high for any Batman game," explains Jonathan Smith of Traveller’s Tales. "He’s an incredible hero, who does the coolest stuff. To put all that in the hands of players is a great opportunity, and a huge challenge." With the blockbuster hit of LEGO Star Wars under their utility belts, we have no doubt thatthey’re the guys to meet the challenge.
Above: All images are from the Wii version
For starters, the devs are no longer shackled to a film narrative. With no film ties, they’ve opted instead for the light-hearted spirit of the 1960’s TV series and comic books. Unleashed from the highly canonical ways of Star Wars, Traveller’s Tales have been able to toy with the universe as they see fit, hanging the plot on the mother of all breakouts from Gotham’s premium nut-bin, Arkham Asylum.
"All the bad guys are on the loose. They’ve banded together into a few distinct groups, each with their own particular master plan, and only Batman and Robin can stop them!" is Smith’s fevered plot pitch - something of a dream come true for Bat-fans. So much of Gotham’s appeal stems from its flamboyant rogues gallery that any game promising (deep breath) Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and Scarecrow - not to mention unlockable fiends - is bound to tick at least one of your Bat-boxes.
How will we be collaring the Clown Prince of Gotham and his pals? You’ll find gameplay largely torn from LEGO Star Wars. Each level, be it a dash through the chemical works that originally transformed the Joker into a grinning madman or a sewer based rendezvous with Killer Croc, is designed to be tackled by the two-character team of the dynamic duo.
As Smith puts it, levels are all based on the simple question "What would Batman and Robin do?" The answer? "Fighting henchmen all the way, using special gadgets and technology to penetrate hideouts, they’ll get on the streets and take down the villains." Most mysteriously, Smith refers to end of level encounters where you’ll "come face to face with one particularly unpleasant bad guy, who’ll be well known to fans of the Dark Knight." Whether this refers to any big-name villain or one grand uber-baddie, we’ll wait and see.
For all its charms, LEGO Star Wars wasn’t the deepest of games. Waving a lightsaber around to dice endless stormtrooper ranks was a cruel Sith-like laugh, but hardly nuanced play. Luckily, Smith assures us that LEGO Batman offers deeper thrills, particularly in regard to "different individual special abilities."