Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
ESRB: E 10+
Platforms: Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PS2, PS3, PSP
Score: 9 out of 10
Warner Bros. has the formula down pat: take a beloved story, convert all the characters to a bunch of LEGOs, and ship hours worth of fun out to gamers across the world. It all started with LEGO Star Wars and continues to LEGO Batman. This is fantastic fun that brings together to tinkering of LEGO with the adventure of Batman.
A stampede of notorious criminals have busted out of ARKHAM ASYLUM, where GOTHAM CITY houses only the shadiest of characters. It's up to the famed CAPED CRUSADER to sweep Gotham clean of criminal activity using everything at his disposal, including crime-fighting vehicles as well as several baddie-bashing bat gadgets. LEGO Batman: The Videogame is a fast-paced action adventure title for fans of all ages. It is rated "E10+" and is available on the Xbox 360 Entertainment System, PLAYSTATION 3 system and Wii for $49.99. It is also available for the PlayStation 2, PSP system, Nintendo DS and PC, for $29.99.
The game revolves around Story Mode where your play as both Robin and Batman. You make your way through various levels, collecting LEGO studs and special LEGO bricks to unlock extra content and build different objects. These objects become parts of puzzles that you use to figure out your way through each level. The great part is that you fight with enemies who are made of LEGO and when you beat them you smash them into little LEGO pieces. This creates an environment of controlled violence, which I personally think teaches valuable lessons to child gamers, and is also rather adorable for older gamers.
It is a fully developed story that involves taking on enemy after enemy in your struggle to save Gotham City. Batman and Robin each have different capabilities so you use whichever one matches the task at hand. For example, Robin can walk up metal walls and Batman can shoot his little batarang and then pull himself up using it.
There is a huge cast of characters including The Joker, The Penguin, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Killer Crox, The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Two Face, Bane, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Killer Moth and more. Each level involves different types of puzzles which are basically a combination of fighting, putting together LEGO pieces, and stepping on blocks or pulling levers.
This is unadulterated, innocuous fun. No one really dies, the general attitude is quite charming, you get to pretend that you are Batman, and you get to build LEGOs. How can that miss? I can pretty much guarantee that if you give this game to your son he will love it and it will make you feel good because it reminds you of when you were young and played with LEGO all day. I am actually shocked at how much fun this game is for me being that it is absolutely not hardcore.
To top it all off, Warner Bros had a fantastic party at the American Museum of Natural History to launch the game. They had a mini-carnival complete with lots of booths of games like the ring toss and knocking down bottles and such. There was plenty of carnival food like pretzels and hot dogs, although I got to go into a VIP area with cute little hamburgers and beer. The best part was the delicious cupcakes that had LEGO Batman characters on top of them; mine had a little LEGO Joker. There was an amazing cake that literally looked like a 3D mockup of a scene from Batman, and then then cut it open and we ate it.
And finally, they had the infamous LEGO master, Mariann Asanuma, building a gorgeous LEGO mural inside. I interviewed Mariann on video for quite some time and we chatted about how she got involved with LEGO and her path towards success as a freelance LEGO model designer. I really thought that she was fantastic because she saw what she wanted to do (build LEGOs) and went after it. During the interview I said to her, "I didn't know a person could work as a LEGO builder", and she said, "I didn't know a person could work reviewing games." We both had a good laugh over that one. I hope that one of these days I'll have the time to edit the video I shot of my interview of Mariann.
To wrap up this rambling review of a game and its launch party, this is a winner. It probably isn't for the guy who takes gaming so seriously that he's ready to go pro, but it certainly is a good time for just about everyone else. There is the nostalgia of LEGO and Batman that sucks in the older gamers while at the same time attracting younger gamers. To me that is a win-win because the bigger picture is that almost any father/son combination will love this game. It's a ton of fun, it plays well, the puzzles are reasonably challenging, and it is just so damn clever and cute that you have to love it.