Taking bricks into space.
Once again, we return to the superhero-filled DC universe for this latest title from LEGO and TT Games. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham marks the third Batman-based LEGO game and, by now, players will likely know what to expect. Think family-friendly gameplay, brick smashing, collecting and an absolute mass of characters to unlock.
If you have never played any of the LEGO games before, the formula remains pretty much the same as it has through the multitude of previous games, most of which have been tied in to one franchise or another. Players will run around as a LEGO recreation of a character solving puzzles, many of which are environmental or based on the specific abilities of a character. They will fight bad guys, in a suitably comic and non-threatening way, while smashing everything they can to collect studs. There will be epic boss battles, which may take more thought and time than the rest of the games’ puzzles, and there will be an absolutely huge number of collectibles to find, including loads of new characters to play as. These characters and their own abilities come into their own when used in the games’ free-play modes to find yet more collectibles, and split-screen multiplayer provides yet another reason to come back for more.
That pretty much sums up the LEGO games. While they have evolved over the years and through the numerous entries in the series, not a lot has changed. The formula seems to have stagnated. In fact, in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, it seems to have gone backwards, dropping the wonderful open worlds of the previous LEGO Batman game and the LEGO Marvel game in favour of much smaller hub areas linking the missions together. While I can understand that making an open world universe may be slightly beyond what is sensible in a LEGO game, it still feels like a backwards step.
So, what exactly has got up the Dark Knight’s nose this time around? In short, Brainiac wants to shrink planets and has stolen the powers from the other, differently coloured Lanterns. If, at this point, you are wondering what Lanterns are, or even that there are more colours of Lanterns than just green, then the story and setting for this latest LEGO game will likely be lost on you. Beyond Gotham fleshes out the DC universe and pays more fan service to the comic book fans than either of the previous LEGO Batman games, including many more characters that will perhaps only be known by the fans and a story line which revolves around characters that the average player may not have heard of. The simple fact is that the DC universe is not as widely known as the Marvel universe, thanks mostly to the abundance of movies, and so Beyond Gotham will just not have as wide an appeal.
But that doesn’t mean that LEGO fans will not get their money’s worth from Beyond Gotham, although they may not know many of the more than 150 characters that are included in the game. They won’t get the in-jokes, and they won’t be able to appreciate just how well these characters have been recreated into the LEGO game, complete with abilities that fit nicely into their comic book characters. They likely won’t even care about the stellar voice acting or the special appearances by the likes of Conan O’Brien or Kevin Smith. Still, as the majority of the game revolves around Batman and Green Lantern, much of the fan service can be overlooked.
What is more difficult to overlook, is the relative slow pacing of the early game. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham really does take a while to get going, and the first few hours really drag. The Batcave and a somewhat uninspiring space station really don’t make for the most exciting hubs from which to start the game, and the levels feel equally drab. It really is tough going, and not in the difficulty stakes as they are set low for the family-friendly crowd, but once these early stages are pushed through, the game really does open up.
Soon after, players will find themselves traveling to the different Lanterns homeworlds, with each offering a small open world for the player to explore. Some brilliant ideas are thrown around, such as a rather good shoot ‘em up sequence and stomping around shrunken cities, and everything becomes so much better. The levels become brighter, more colorful and more varied. They are filled with more interesting puzzles that make use of the different characters’ abilities, and so much stuff to collect.
Visually, Beyond Gotham doesn’t push any boundaries on the new gen consoles, but still manages to look really nice, especially once the game opens up. Of course, the audio is really well done and the voice acting is way above par. The level of humor in the game, something which the LEGO games are known for, is set to high and can be enjoyed both by the followers of the comic books and the LEGO fans. The banter between the characters is just brilliant.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham does very little different from the previous LEGO titles, besides a story which will be lost on all but the comic book fans. However, there is something so satisfying, even after all of these years playing LEGO games, about roaming around and smashing stuff up to collect studs and secrets. Beyond Gotham is more of the same, and that is no bad thing, but the developers really need to come up with some new ideas soon. You know what to expect, and if that is what you want, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is worth checking out.