Wednesday, October 15, 2008

VG review: Lego Batman

Warner Brothers, for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Wii and PC rated E10+ for ages 10 and up (cartoon violence), $49.99 or $29.99 (PC and PS2).

The developer Traveler’s Tales has obtained a license to print money recently with its “Lego Star Wars” and “Lego Indiana Jones” series of games.

As the titles suggests, the formula is simple: Take a beloved franchise and set it within the Lego universe, blocks and all.

Now it’s attempted to do the same thing with Batman and his cast of Gotham City characters. Overall it’s a fun family game, though some irksome problems appear frequently.

Unlike past Lego games, the story here is original and not based off any movies, though they keep it as simple as possible. To wit, all of Batman’s villains, from the Joker on down, have escaped prison and are on the loose. It’s up to Batman and Robin to put them back behind bars.

The combat is of the button-mashing variety, with little in the way of nuance. The good news is that just about everything in the game can explode in a shower of blocks, from bad guys to park benches. It’s fun to explode everything, but the battles do get repetitive after a few levels.

More problematic though is the level design, which wavers between clever and annoyingly frustrating. Too many times I found myself stuck, unable to figure out what to do next and forced to either seek help online or start over again. Hiding puzzles in plain sight is not good level design. It shows a lack of imagination and leads to irate gamers.

“Lego Batman” is designed for co-op play, and when you’re defeating the Joker with friends or family, the game is a blast. Playing alone, however, is a different matter, as the computer A.I. is staggeringly dense at times, leaving you to do most of the heavy lifting.

Overall, “Lego Batman” has charm and fun to spare, despite its various problems. It’s kid-friendly enough to play with your children and packed with enough extras and surprises to keep you playing despite the occasional hang-up. But it’s definitely one of those games that improves once you have someone to play with.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008


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