Why so serious?
Lego Batman is part of developer Travellerâ€™s Tales ever expanding and popular Lego series. I have been a fan of playing both the Lego Star wars titles and Lego Indiana Jones and, barring the developers changing the format completely, which thankfully they have not, it should be a forgone conclusion that this would be just as enjoyable as the others. But how good is it and how does it play on the Sony handheld console?
Unlike other games in the developers Lego series, Batman does not follow any of the movies starring the Caped Crusader. Instead it goes with an original story in which Batman and Robin are tasked with returning fifteen of Gotham Cityâ€™s most wanted after they have escaped from Arkham Asylum during a mass breakout. Always taking a light hearted comical look at things, the cut scenes especially being most humorous, these games never fail to bring a smile to the face. Like the previous Lego games, Batman is broken down into stories and chapters. Each of these stories revolves around one of the major villains in the Batman Saga, The Riddler, The Penguin and The Joker. In each of the five chapters of these stories, the main villain is joined by another known cohort, such as Two Face, Catwoman and Mr Freeze, amongst many others, and it is down our two heroes to battle through each chapter, which then ends in a fight with whichever villainous sidekick is along for the ride, before sending them to the asylum.
One of the things I have loved about the Lego series is that, as you play through the story mode, you get to control many of the characters belonging to the licenses. Because of this, I initially thought this may play against the game as there would only be a handful of characters available to play, other than the two main heroes. Batgirl, Nightwing and even the likes of Commissioner Gordon are in the game, but it is still a pretty small list of hero characters and the game handles this in two ways. Both Batman and Robin have different suits that they can wear throughout the game, which give them different abilities for the solving of puzzles. Robin has a magnetic boots suit that allows him to walk up certain walls for instance, and Batmanâ€™s glider suit allowing him to jump across wider gaps than usual amongst others.
The other way the game solves the lack of playable characters, is that it also lets you play as the villains. I do not mean as you do in the other Lego games, play through previous chapters in free play mode. Instead the bad guys and gals have their own story mirroring the hero tale. This means that, in all, the game has six stories and thirty chapters, along with a huge cast of playable heroes and villains.
The gameplay is pretty much identical to Travellers Tales other Lego games and this is no bad thing, if it is not broken donâ€™t fix it. Sure, like each new game in the series, Batman brings a few new things to the mix. One of the most notable is the Batarang. Both Batman and Robin can use this ability by holding down the square button, which brings up a targeting reticule that the player can then move around the screen, targeting up to five destructible objects or enemies at any one time. Then, upon releasing that button, the Batarang is thrown and smashes all of the targets. This is along with a new grab and throw melee move which is ideally suited to the Batâ€™s physical combat style.
Other than these, and a few more small additions, Lego Batman stays loyal to the tried and tested style of the Lego games. It is a side scrolling platform game with the player controlling Lego mini figure versions of the popular characters, solving puzzles that are not too taxing, and smashing through Lego built scenery and evil henchmen, both of which reward the player with Lego studs. These are used both as a score indicator in the chapters and as a type of currency, which can be exchanged in between chapters at the players hubs, either the Batcave for the good guys or Arkham Asylum for the bad, for extras and to unlock the characters you have met in game for use in free play mode.
Also making a welcome return from the other games are the vehicle stages, which do a good job of mixing things up and allowing the player the chance to play in vehicles such as the Batboat, Batwing and of course the Batmobile. These stages play out similar to the others, only a lot faster and more action packed, much more like a shooter game rather than a platformer.
Graphics wise, the developers have done a fine job of bringing the game to the handheld console, retaining the style of all the previous Lego games, and the PSP seems to handle it more than admirably with only a few small barely noticeable glitches. One of only a few problems with the game arises during the games cut scenes. The syncing of what you are seeing on the screen and what you are hearing is a problem that can be so bad at times that the sound starts playing when it should, but the video sticks on the first frame, sometimes for so long that you begin to think that the game may have frozen up. Then, just as you are about to give up, the video begins and the sound has already finished. It is a bit of shame because, although you can still follow what is happening, the cut scenes in the Lego games are so nicely done and full of humour, to have them out of sync like this makes them not quite so enjoyable. Although it is a small problem, it does not detract too much from the fun of the game.
The sound in the rest of the game is pretty much spot on and, although the game is not based on any of the films, the Batman theme used in the game sounds very much like the music used in one of my favourite Batman movies, Tim Burtons first attempt, as is the music used in the background of the Arkham asylum hub, which I am sure was used in the same movie. The rest is more or less the series trademark Lego blocks being dropped, scattered and smashed. Other than that, game does not call for much more.
Overall, Travellers Tales have managed to continue their success with this series and will probably continue to do so with Harry Potter coming later this year and a third Lego Star Wars game in the works. This just goes to prove how popular these games are. The cut scene problem aside, Lego Batman proves no exception to this case and if you are either a fan of the Lego series or of Batman, this game is definitely worth checking out.
Lego Batman is available to download for the PSP for the price of Â£15.99