We're not convinced about the latest Lego offering.
360, (PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS, PS2)
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By John Keating
We can all relate to the Dark Knight. That's possibly what contributes and underpins his monumental success over the years. He doesn't have any super powers or genetic mutations like Kent or Parker, he is merely your average Joe who decided to take a stand and clean up a city for the greater good. If we didn't know better, we might think it was Boris Johnson behind the iconic mask. The details point to him being a billionaire, having a butler, being 'nails', driving fantastical vehicles and wearing suits that make a lady swoon but abstracting over that - we all fancy the idea of giving chavs a beating while dressed as a giant bat.
Traveller's Tales knows this. They're not looking to make a Lego EastEnders or other such trivial guff. Whilst the world enters a seismic economic melt down, the boys in leafy Cheshire worry not about rising energy bills and throw some more £50 notes on the fire. They have a tried and tested formula of taking box office leviathans and bastions of male psyche and turning them into the literal building blocks of their pensions. Hot on the heels of the commercial success of Lego Indy and Star Wars, we have the dynamic duo ready to capture our hearts and wallets.
In addition to the film aficionado's, TT has the trust of parents in producing wholesome family entertainment, bringing nothing dark from Christopher Nolan's latest film to the table. Even the Daily Mail could find little to complain about here unless a toddler unfortunately swallows a small plastic brick. Lego as a brand brings with it certain limitations, so anyone looking to explore the grittier side of Batman should get their kicks elsewhere. The wheel is not being re-invented here; truth be told the gameplay stays very true to the series' cute and innocent roots.
Perhaps an area that digresses somewhat from previous games is the narrative. Not being based on any actual film plot has given Traveller's Tales carte blanche to create a new thread, so it comes as a mild letdown that such a banal plot be introduced. All of the eccentric criminal characters from Gotham have escaped from Arkham Asylum and it's Batman's objective to get them back behind bars.
The positive spin on this is that on successful completion of this task, the ability to play as the villains is unlocked and previous levels can be replayed from a new perspective. This alone makes Lego Batman a monstrously sized outing and a considerable expansion on previous excursions. With three separate plotlines for both heroes and villains, there are a total of 36 levels to play through, providing longevity that will have other kiddy compatible games turning green.
For the uninitiated, Lego Batman is a simple mix of platform antics, puzzle based elements and a collection mechanic that would make Heather Mills blush. For its lay audience, this is merely a case of opening a door to the next playable area by utilising certain character specific attributes. An example of this might be making good use of Batman's famous batarang to knock down a box of Lego off a high shelf, which Robin must then piece together to create a key for a lock. The actual difficult part to the game pivots around fending off wave after wave of plastic goons. It's repetitive and borderline stale child's play for which it makes no apologies.
All the old favourites from the back catalog are still very much in vogue. Play is extended with an extensive collectable system which offers reward of goodies such as costumes, characters and trophies. With each new character come new abilities so all the levels are unlockable for free play mode to keep score-whores and hoarders occupied. Combat is par for the course, with a one dimensional approach of button mashing. The tirade of little Lego enemies serve as 'Sock' and 'Kapow' fodder, soon becoming incredibly annoying and serve as an unwelcome distraction from the puzzle at hand.