LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Review

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Greetings caped crusaders! LEGO returns in DC comics form to control your minds, brick by tiny brick and shrink your world… Quite literally. LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham is a LEGO game that is very obviously the product of three things. Firstly, complete and total passion for the DC universe by its creators. Secondly, its a game that has the vast experience of many LEGO games before it. And finally it is the product of a team who were able to fully express themselves and their creativity.

The story of LEGO Batman 3 sees our caped friends chasing after Killer Croc in the sewer to try and thwart another dastardly plan by the Joker. However with the rather large and hypnotising Brainiac looming down on Earth, backed up by the stolen power of the Lanterns, all the Justice League and the assembled villains must join forces to stop a bigger threat. It’s all very amusing and takes advantage of the characters own dynamics and storylines that are easily accessible, even if you haven’t exactly been a big DC or LEGO Batman fan. The story is quite simple to follow and in the great tradition of these games, very family friendly. It’s easily played by all ages due to its very familiar controls and is enjoyed by everyone for being the slightly neutral comical romp it should be and never takes itself too seriously.

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When you have done as many LEGO games as TT Games has, it can almost feel like second nature. This makes the third LEGO game after The Hobbit and Marvel Super Heroes in the last 18 months and whilst the feel of the games aren’t exactly getting tired, if you played them all then you must be someone who really enjoys them or are a massive fan of every franchise they’ve covered. If that’s the case then this game is definitely for you as a DC universe fan. The smash-everything-unlock-cool-things gameplay is as smooth as ever and I’m pretty sure there are less infectious things on the World Health Organisations watch list than this brilliant formula. It’s made all the more infectious by the sheer amount of unlockable characters that there are. Plundered might not the term for the depth of the back catalogue of characters they’ve given an outing to, but they certainly looted with intent to riot. They’re fun, quirky and not all together the most serious (Batcow, Condiment Man, Conan O’ Brian, Kevin Smith) but they are a vast and representative look at the DC universe.

The levels are quite a nice length in most places and the free form way you experience the later levels in the story is quite nice although it does lack a little direction. It’s a good excuse though to go and check out the Lantern planets and their wild, vivid and crazy colour palettes. It is definitely an expressive designers dream and after two games worth of the dark dank nature of Gotham, I’m sure it was well received. That along with some nice tourist attractions around the world and the replay value in the levels themselves for collecting and sight seeing (the moon is fun along with the ability to freeroam the Lantern planets), means there’s always something to do and have fun with in the game. Especially with the inclusion of Adam West and 1960s Batman as a bonus level. It may be one for the fans and the parents out there but if, like me, you grew up with early morning reruns of the show before the Tim Burton movies appeared then this will hit you right in the nostalgia bone.

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Whilst we can’t actually review the extra content that is coming, it is worth saying that if characters are your bag, the DLC on offer will be most fun. Dark Knight Batman from the Nolan movies, Arrow from the TV universe with Stephen Amell voicing… There’s lots to keep you as a fan entertained character wise. Is it worth the season pass money though? Well if it’s your thing to collect all the things then yes. Otherwise it might not be.

We’ve all got our favourite LEGO games. Mine so far have been the Star Wars movies (although the game does feel a bit dated now), Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter’s. So when I have my criticisms of this game, please bear in mind that I know these are different universes and franchises and that they have a different artistic direction.

LEGO games in recent times have been very open world and Batman 3 is not, at least not in the same way. You have a central hub in The Watchtower where you navigate your way through the story, various unlockables and areas to reach those things. But it doesn’t feel very natural to do that beyond the level selection and transport to other worlds. You have to go to the Batcave to do a lot of things and that includes the frankly excellent bonus mission of the 1960s TV Batman. But it all feels very far apart and isn’t very well directed. Not like that of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings, or even the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier from Marvel Super Heroes. It’s a bit hard to work out where to go and where everything is. Making a great little bit of exploration, sure, but it can get you lost very easily.

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The levels at times, despite mostly being a good length, feel a tiny bit too short. Some of the Lantern planets in the story, although you can replay them and explore them, feel a bit rushed at times. Like they needed to push the story along and not get the audience lost or make them lose interest. It’s a pacing issue and one that I feel all LEGO games suffer from at times after the middle part of the game but it would have been nice to have more time on those planets and some crazier things to enjoy. They aren’t a massive stretch from what the Star Wars games were achieving but they’re obviously much more colourful. Plus I’m pretty sure there are other areas on terrafirma in the DC universe that could have been utilised. Maybe that’s another game though. The occasional mini-game levels however, which look inspired by TRON/Daft Punk, are utterly confusing and to be honest don’t really add much to the game except a “what the hell is this?” reaction moment. I’d quite happily have taken an easy on-screen puzzle if I’m honest and kept them as a fun aside in the Batcave.

Balance is quite a key thing in LEGO games and for you to unlock all the characters, you have to want to unlock them. The balance of what the characters can do with their powers, modifiers, different suits and such is very key to how you play the game. Whilst you don’t want these bonus characters to be required in order to complete it, there is a bit of an overpowered set which you don’t really need to stray too far from. It’s not that bad a thing but it doesn’t really make you explore the other character options. Where as Harry Potter certainly did with their different spells. It would have been nice to have seen some more integration of the characters sets in to the main game for freeplay. I want an excuse to unlock Batcow! Although my only main character based criticism is how the level design of some of the levels really doesn’t like The Flash. Barry Allen moves so darn fast that you usually end up not actually fighting anyone, spinning around punching the air and falling off edges more often than a lemming.

LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham doesn’t really go beyond what LEGO games are known for. But it is a romp that makes you wonder where the heck LEGO games could go next. Ghostbusters would be fun and I’ve always said the Star Trek movies could make good LEGO games, even Doctor Who (nerdgasm). But for now we’ve got to the point of exhausting the franchises we have. Is DC exhausted from this? Possibly. Other than story and environments, there’s not that much more I think that would bring people back to LEGO Batman as this has most certainly ticked and filled every box. A good LEGO game, a fun Batman game but easily consumed. Next, please!

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[tab title=”Summary”]

LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham hits all the right spots for a DC fan and keeps up the great tradition that is now LEGO franchise gaming. It’s simple, easy, family friendly and incredibly addictive. Although at this point the gamer in me wants to see some more imaginative things, bigger, better puzzles and something new along with the smash everything, collect everything gameplay. But you can’t fix something that isn’t broken and LEGO games still work great, and this one definitely goes in the lexicon very nicely.

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– So many characters, so little time

– The Batusi jiving, catch phrase slinging Adam West

– A nice expansion of the DC universe and for the player to see more than Gotham

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[tab title=”Bad Points”]

– Mini game TRON level not needed

– Watchtower hub and utility placement confusing

– The Flash is a bit too flashy and hard to control

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The game is a great thing for DC fans, and a fun thing for LEGO fans, but even though it’s accessible to all, it doesn’t quite hit the interchangeable hairstyle on my LEGO head. There’s loads to do and some great extra bits along the way, along with some excellent worlds to explore. But it can be a bit confusing, easy to get lost and it isn’t a leap forward from the other two LEGO games we’ve already had very recently. It’s fun, but for me it isn’t the best the series has offered. But if you’re a DC fan then this will be brilliant.

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This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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