LEGO Batman - updated impressions

The villains won't use any special suits, but they'll be just as dependent on each other as Batman and Robin are. In one chunk of the level, Harley has to use her acrobatic double-jump to reach a high catwalk, while Joker sticks to the lower level. Although the two are separated, each will need to solve puzzles to clear the way for the other. At one point, they both stumble onto piles of buildable LEGO bricks; Joker makes his into a bomb, while Harley builds the plunger to set it off.

The level ends in a confrontation with Commissioner Gordon, who's accompanied by a whole mess of cops that rush in with paddy wagons. Even a crowd of Gotham's finest are no match for Joker and Harley, however, and Gordon - who keeps fleeing and coming back throughout the course of the battle - is soon captured, caged and hauled off to be used as bait in a deathtrap for Batman. Never fear, though - you'll spring him in the hero storyline.

Aside from the story modes, you'll also be able to open up a free play mode, which lets you switch between any of the game's heroes or unlocked villains at will. This offers up new ways to get past the game's puzzles - and, therefore, a whole new way to play through the game - but it's still a little jarring to see Batman suddenly turn into Killer Croc, Scarecrow or the Penguin.

Of course, it's the personality that makes the LEGO games unique, and LEGO Batman looks to be everything we've come to expect from the series. The colorful, campy spirit of the '60s Batman TV series meshes nicely with the goofy LEGO cutscenes (we especially liked watching the just-defeated Catwoman distract Batman with a kiss that makes Robin clearly uncomfortable) and developer Traveller's Tales has worked with D.C. to ensure that they get the characters right. The game is also packed with cool little details, like alleys filled with trundling LEGO rats, henchmen who feel around for their punched-off heads before exploding and a jaunty strut from Joker when he's walking slowly.

LEGO Batman isn't due until sometime this fall, but already it's shaping up to be the most charming and visually appealing LEGO game yet, and the gameplay looks to be varied, simple and fun. So long as Batman fans aren't somehow expecting a dark, brooding LEGO take on the hero, we expect there'll be a lot to like here.

Feb 21, 2008