Batman’s videogame career hasn’t exactly been great in recent years, with the last generation of consoles “treating” us to a myriad of shoddily-produced messes passing as 3D fighters or me-too Splinter Cell rip-offs in the great Stealth Fad of the early 2000s. Why, one of the more pitiful efforts was sold on the basis that it contained a new, specially-created villain who was little more than Fu Manchu wearing a silly hat. Dark, confusing times.
It’s good to know, then, that Lego Batman is the first game in a long, long while to truly capture the spirit of old Bats, even if this is offset slightly by the genericy of it being yet another Lego *Enter Flagging Franchise Here* game.
Indeed, Lego Indiana Jones only came out a few weeks ago and our chief criticisms of it over here at Exeposé was that it was essentially the same game as its Star Wars-oriented predecessors. Imagine our surprise, then, when we boot up Lego Batman and see the same puzzles, abilities and sequences shoehorned in yet again. Maybe the Lego Batman team were copying notes from the Lego Indy lads, but the sheer cheek of it is breathtaking – it is, essentially, the same ruddy game.
And, endearing as it is, its subject matter does not help this. Lego Indy could (and frequently did) get away with it by falling back of fond memories of the films that inspired it – a kitch, rose-tinted safety net which Lego Batman unfortunately lacks. However, Traveller’s Tales do succeed in channelling the spirit of the Batman mythos; more Tim Burton’s gruesome campness than Christopher Nolan’s brooding Strepsil-requiring ninja odyssey, it never fails to raise a smile with its genuine fondness for Batman’s world.
Likewise, the game’s cut-scenes are indeed often very funny, particularly the stoic Alfred, the constant belittlement of the over-eager Robin (who, at one very odd point, is attacked by someone wielding a crocodile) and – best of all – the poking fun of The Killer Moth, who Traveller’s Tales gleefully acknowledge as an embarassingly limp baddie when placed beside greats such as Two-Face or Catwoman. One highlight of the game for Xbox 360 owners is defeating the lamp-loving goon and actually getting a separate achievement for it, providing one of the strangest methods for raising a laugh in recent videogame history.
So, if you can stomach the fact that this is a rehash of previous ideas complete with the same old frustrations which came with them – and, of course, if you have a penchant subject matter – this will probably provide a nice little diversion. But please, Traveller’s Tales, when you start making Lego Beverley Hills Cop or whatever do try to introduce some fresh ideas – this is one franchise which is starting to lose its freshness.