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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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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– 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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LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Interview with Matt Ellison

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On this day of DC Universe fun, we got a second interview in as many months with TT Games about LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. This time, Sean got some extended time to sit down with producer Matt Ellison from TT Games to talk about all the new things we’ve seen.

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We’ve just seen a lovely demo of the game, including London looking spectacularly small, Paris looking spectacularly small and Pisa looking very straight. What inspired you to go away from America and in to Europe with these levels?

It was always designed to be Europe actually. We do have Gotham as well so that’s American-ish. But it was an opportunity to show different things and different sights. It was really cool to be able to put London in there because we’re a UK developer and it was something we really wanted to do. Obviously Paris is very iconic and Piza with the leaning tower is very iconic and some of the other sites. It’s all things that are very cool that people recognise from a very young age.

As you say it allows you to have fun with those landscapes, like the Battersea Power Station having a load of toxic waste in it.

Yeah, stuff like that and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, it’s very cool to be able to show these things that people recognise because it gives you a different attachment to it.

lb3p2 You’ve got a very extensive character and sub-character list. As there’s so many, how have you managed to nail down which ones you wanted to do?

There are a few different things that go in to how we come up with the list that we ended up with. The first thing is the story, so the story governs which characters are going to be front and centre. Then we have the LEGO side of things. LEGO make their playsets and we always try to include all of the playset characters in to the game so if someone sees it in the game they can buy the toys. Then there are the ones we wanted to include. Some of the most famous ones, some of the more obscure ones, some of the more colourful ones, quirky ones and then we talk to DC to find out what’s coming up, who’s big right now, who should we be including. And they send us all the reference for the character outfits so that we can make sure they’re accurate and representative of what they should be. On this game more than any other we’ve been listening to the public. Throughout the game development cycle, we’ve been asking what characters people wanted to see and a couple of those have been added fairly late to the roster, but there’s so many people asking for them, we’ve kind of snuck them in.

There are so many different suit and sub character options across all the characters, how do you limit yourselves to stopping getting an OP character.

Five of the characters have 8 suits; Joker, Lex, Batman Robin and Cyborg have those eight suits you can cycle in between. But they have all these different mechanics and visuals and the visual representation of what you have to do in the puzzles remains consistent. So there are different characters you’ll have access to who’ll be able to do different things and as you unlock them, you’ll notice which abilities you’ve got and what you’ll be able to work through. It’s traditional with the LEGO games so people should know what they need and when with the characters and we’ll give them as many abilities as we possibly can. But they are all accurate as to what powers they can do and what they should have.

It’s quite a good position for the DC Universe especially with 3 TV shows based off it and as you announced at the weekend, the Arrow DLC pack is coming too based on the TV show with Stephen Amell.

It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to include this kind of add on content, which is totally outside of the game. But there is a way in which we can do something on it, so we can have a level, we can have these characters and find a way to include them into this and be part of this experience. Arrow was announced at the weekend and there’s The Dark Knight/Man Of Steel and you don’t normally get those kinds of opportunities – no one has done a Nolan Batman game before. So that’s the first time that’ll be able to be seen and we’ve been very lucky that we’ve been able to get the chance to do it.

You’ve been lucky as well to use different things from different studios and franchises, including the soundtrack, from Danny Elfman to John Williams. It must be quite good to have that freedom?

The Danny Elfman music we’ve used on previous LEGO Batman’s as well and it’s sort of tied to our Batman now, it’s part of his identity. But, as you hear that, it’s great that we have the relationship with that and it’s good that people are starting to relate it to our Batman. The John Williams theme from Superman is a must from LEGO Batman 2, that was fantastic and we had to include that again. Being able to add that to Wonder Woman as well is quite cool and again it’s something that people remember, especially that older audience we have. The younger kids probably aren’t going to know that so it’ll be something that the parents will recognise and be able to educate them a little bit about the history behind it. lb3p6

There’s a lot of artistic freedom with the game because you’ve gone outside of the confines of Gotham. How do you approach the new world that’s not as obvious on the page of the comics? 

It is slightly different. We knew we wanted to make this game when we were doing LEGO Batman 2 so at the end of it we teased it by having Braniac say that he’s located the Green Lantern’s power ring. So we knew that we wanted to go in that direction. The Lantern worlds have so much stuff in them, the planets are so unique all with different vibes to them, lots of different enemies to encounter – visually they all look very different which works very well in a LEGO game having all these different colours and all the Lantern Rings, it was quite effective to replicate visually. So it’s just a great opportunity to be able to explore the wider reaches of it all. You’ve got the Watch town and the Hall of Justice as well so there’s lots of places for people to enjoy.

You’re all big fans of the DC Universe in the studio, what’s been your favourite parts?

I like the characterisation of some of the characters we have in this game. Solomon Grundy is probably my favourite addition of the new ones. The way he’s animated is just fantastic, walking around like he’s a zombie – he’s very funny. Just being able to include more of these characters I think is the best thing because we’ve got 3 times the characters we had in LEGO Batman 2, there’s just so many of them in there. Like Polka Dot Man, Condiment King, they seem so random but in a LEGO game they just add to the humour and add to the fun of it.

With the voice acting talent you’ve got Troy Baker back as Batman so you’ve got quite the talent behind the characters as well. 

LEGO Batman 2 was the first LEGO game to have voice acting in it, we brought Troy Baker back for this because he’s fantastic, it’s a bit of a no brainer. The voice acting is something we’re really pushing so we want to make it as good as it can possibly be. So there’s much more script, we’ve got Josh Keaton doing Green Lantern, Scott Porter doing Aqua Man and even Adam West doing voice overs for the game, it all adds to the authenticity of the game and adds to the weight behind it when you’ve got guys that really know what they’re doing.

Especially with Adam West it must be good for his amazing alliterative, totally tantalising dialogue that he’s got going on during this. And his era is replicated even down to the comic book “Kapow!” phrases and noises from the 60s Batman.

The 60s stuff is brilliant and is by far the most in depth bonus level we’ve ever done. That was really something we went all out on. Again it is just an amazing opportunity and was always on the wish list to try and do. So to suddenly have it happen is just fantastic for us because it’s the origins of Batman from the mainstream platforms. And it’s just fantastic having him voice it, having those “Kapow!’s”, having the Batusi dance… It all adds to it and people who know that Batman will love it and even those who don’t, it will still be bright and colourful and brilliant for them to enjoy.

lb3p5 The game is coming out in November, how much do you think you’ve left out from what you wanted to put in?

I don’t think there’s anything possibly left out. By far this game got bigger and bigger and bigger the more we got in to it. The original concept of what this game was and where we ended up is far bigger than what it was originally going to be. Because these opportunities present themselves as you’re going through it. You know you think “wouldn’t it be great to add this” and you just do it. It just builds and builds and builds and we’re so pleased we’ve got a massive game at the end of it.

I want to ask about Batcow, because that is very, very, very, very niche. So, why Batcow?

I believe the story goes: One of the designers said “We should put Batcow in the game.” And everyone said, “Who’s Batcow?” and then he showed a comic that had Batcow in and Batcow got put in to the game. I think it is almost that simple but it is a genuine thing that exists and it’s part of the humour that we have in LEGO games that we can do things that are obscure, chuck these things and widen the scope of the DC Universe in this game and it’s a very funny thing to be able to do. We’ve got lots of obscure characters in there but there are all the ones that people expect as well.

I’m guessing many other characters came about the same way.

Well, sometimes. We’ve got Manchester Black in this game because he has Manchester in his name and apparently comes from Manchester. So it varies and some of them DC said “these would be cool to include” and others people have been asking for them and we like to give people what they want. There are more than 150 characters in the DC Universe but the ones we’ve got we’re happy to have in this game.

Well if you used them all, you wouldn’t have a LEGO Batman 4.

[Laughs] Yeah, I dread to think where we can there.

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LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will be available on November 14th for Xboxb 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC and WiiU

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LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Hands On Preview

lb3pft We’ve been furnished with some excellent news with LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham over the weekend. The list of characters, over 150 in total, is very quickly taking shape and we have some awesome new levels being revealed to play with.

LEGO games are LEGO games. Part of the big idea behind them is that they all have consistent mechanics. They are family games for children and adults alike, best enjoyed together. As such they all have, whatever the franchise on top of it, puzzles and gameplay that is instantly recognisable and transferrable from previous LEGO games. This ease of play and similarity with other LEGO games is key to the design of them.

It also makes them rather hard to review and preview. Because we all know exactly what we are getting. There’s some awesome things in LEGO Batman 3 that allows us to go in to further detail but for the main part, this is a fully functioning, comically entertaining LEGO game. The story is that (spoiler for LEGO Batman 2) Brainiac has the Green Lantern’s ring and is going to embark on a dastardly scheme to gain control of the Earth. There our heroes of the Justice League and usual suspects Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc will come in to save the day… Or at least prolong the saving. lb3p3

Different things occur which allow the characters to move a little bit out of their normal comfort zone thanks to the Lantern powers, especially from characters you wouldn’t normally expect. But in the scheme of things, the plot allows the game to move out beyond Gotham and out to other planets and  in to outer space. People who played the Star Wars games will easily recognise the flying/shooting mechanics and whilst the game is fun, it is never exactly challenging. But, see above… That’s the point.

You’ll also get some landscapes you’ve never seen before unless you’ve been in a LEGO shop recently. The game will take you to various European cities as well as Gotham, including our very own London. It’s interesting to note that all of the buildings like the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace could all be built with actual LEGO and the games are all designed so that you could actually build the things in them. Quite neat I thought, and maybe that’s something I should have known. Why the Battersea Power Station is filled with toxic waste, I don’t know. Maybe TT Games know something we don’t.

Speaking of what you should know, the list of characters goes way out of the established norms for Super Hero games. The DC universe has been well and truly pillaged of almost everything and the deepest darkest vaults of characters have come to grace the obsessive collecting we must achieve when playing a LEGO game. Niche people from Batcow to Condiment King to the real life comic Conan O’ Brien, director and Comic Book author Kevin Smith, the Green Loonton, the Darkest Knight (all Green Lantern off shoots) and DC Publisher Jim Lee. DLC was announced at the weekend with Stephen Amell voicing his TV Character of Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow along with other characters from that series. More niche with Toyman, Trickster, Manchester Black… The list actually can go on for a long time and will require you to have more knowledge of the DC Universe than you ever thought possible. lb3p4

The best thing so far for me is the 1960s Batman mode. You probably don’t remember the TV series starring Adam West but you definitely know the theme tune (ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-ber-BAT-MAAAAAN). You probably only know Adam West from Family Guy. But the art and design including the alliterative brilliance of voice acting from West, KAPOW! exclamations with brass instrument sounds and even building the Batmobile (everyone’s favourite Dinky car when they were little) put you in to an amusing trip of nostalgia and if you don’t know the series which arguably shot Batman in to the mainstream then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Other touches exist around the game, like Troy Baker (don’t pretend you don’t know him by now) voicing the eponymous hero, the John Williams Superman music returns when Superman flies and that has even been stretched to Wonder Woman getting her theme played when she takes to the air.

All told, we’ll be able to review the game closer to the release date and comment on its great level design, its fun story and its excellent humour, most of which is already apparent. But it has all the hallmarks of a LEGO game. Which you have to say is something that TT Games have done very well. They have created constantly entertaining and fun games, whatever the veneer on top of their mechanics and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham promises to be no exception to that trend.

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LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will be available on November 14th for Xboxb 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC and WiiU

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Lego Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Interview

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While we were at Gamescom, we got to have a look at Lego Batman 3 Beyond Gotham. The next instalment in the DC universe from TT Games and Warner Bros does exactly what the name suggests, goes beyond Gotham City. You will be travelling in to space to save the Earth from Brainiac and visiting far flung planets along the way to add new and interesting environments to the normally dark gothic concrete palette of Gotham. I managed to have a chat with Philip Ring, an executive producer with TT Games and talk about the upcoming chapter in the DC Lego universe.


 

The universe is greatly expanding with the introduction of space flight missions, reminiscent of the Star Wars franchise, and a whole host of new characters, which is what Philip says they were trying to achieve.

“We really wanted to big on the DC content this time around, add a whole host of new characters, new locations, new gameplay styles even with the space combat and VR missions. Just really cram this game with as much content as we can.”


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The content is indeed huge with over 115 characters including Beast Boy, Plastic Man, Catwoman, Bat Cow accompanying the traditional set of our caped crusaders and, my personal favourite, a complete remaining of the 1960s television Batman with levels, characters and Adam West voicing the titular character! TO THE BATCAVE! I asked how good it’s been to have been given the freedom of so many great franchises.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic. We’ve been so privileged to work with the franchises that we have and to go back and really dig in to the DC world. We started off with the Batman story arc and DC have been fantastic that we’ve got that freedom to do things like the 1960s level and the bonus content that comes with that like the speech, Adam West giving a voice over for it, and the modern universe too.”


 

Of course this isn’t just the television universe or the movie universe in the game, this time it’s going deep in to the lore of the DC universe.

“We have massive DC fans in the office so as soon as the design team start looking at what to include, everyone comes out with “I love this character, I want to include this” and so we’ve got everyone chipping in with the kind of content we’d like to include. And we listen to what the fans like to see. So when Blue Beetle and Beast Boy gets the kind of reaction from what the people want to see, we want to include that in this big DC experience.”


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The release date is close but there’s no sign of the development of the game stopping until the very last minute. Not because it’s not ready, but because TT keep finding things they want to put in the game.

“We’re really still putting stuff in and we really want to make it the best experience it can possibly be. So the whole team is still working and people are still coming up with ideas which you think ‘That’s too cool not to include’ so we’re constantly revisiting and adapting to make it really special.”

 

So does that mean there will be DLC if they run out of time to get it all in to the main game?

“Who knows? We’re really focusing on making sure the game is the best it possible can be. If there was something we wish we could of included or that didn’t really fit in to the main game then maybe we will do it further down the line.”


 

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will be released on PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, WiiU, 3DS, Mobile and PC on 14th November in the UK and three days earlier in the US.

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