Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
Developed by: TT Games
Published by: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Available On: PC, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo 3ds, WiiU
It seems that TT Games has been releasing a new Lego game on a schedule that coincides with Daylight Savings Time. Surprisingly (or not, depending on your viewpoint), these games have all upheld a standard of quality that is a rarity among recurring releases. Each Lego game has a unique story, addictive gameplay, and decently bug-free design. TT Games aims to keep this standard of quality on a new generation with Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, but is space too much to conquer?
While Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham may technically be the newest game in the Lego Batman series, it’s actually more of a Justice League game that also involves Batman and Robin. Most of Lego Batman 3 revolves around the Green Lantern and his subsequent kidnapping by the evil android Brainiac. As it turns out, Brainiac has been kidnapping all of the different heroes and villains who wield lantern rings. For some reason, these power rings are the key in his quest to capture planets and shrink them inside glass bottles, adding them to his collection. Batman, Robin, and the rest of the Justice League are accidental victims of this quest, so they band together in an effort to defeat Brainiac, rescue Green Lantern (and maybe Sinestro), and save the world once again. Unfortunately, Brainiac is too powerful for the Justice League alone, so they have to convince Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, and the Joker to join their cause—aided by a very strange personality swap.
Batman and Robin end up being the first victims of Brainiac’s attack, which explains their initial involvement. This attack leads to the utter destruction of the Batcave, so the dynamic duo head to the Watchtower and explain Brainiac’s evil plan to the rest of the Justice League and some major villains. Obviously, no one wants to witness Earth’s destruction, so these major characters form teams based on superpowers and/or personalities and head out on a mission to defeat Brainiac.
Lego Batman 3’s campaign travels the galaxy while showcasing the dynamic between the Green Lantern and his comrades and greatest villains, and it is by far one of the best stories created by TT. The ability to travel across portions of the galaxy and explore new environments like Oa is absolutely entertaining. Lego Marvel may have had the biggest open world in a Lego game, but New York is far less interesting than strange, alien worlds. Plus, Lego Marvel focused more on incorporating The Avengers and Agents of Shield into its story. Lego Batman 3 doesn’t have any recently released properties to truly play off of, so the story feels original. Oh, and those personality swaps between characters are possibly one of the funniest aspects of the game.
These personality swaps aren’t essential to the story, but they add so many details that enhance the entertainment. Wonder Woman stops being a regal crime fighter and becomes a raging lunatic; Cyborg loses his courage and becomes a futuristic version of the cowardly lion; Joker basically falls in love with everyone and everything, including pretty outfits. The Flash has the best personality swap in that he becomes a super-happy kleptomaniac. Every one of the Flash’s missions has a cutscene in which a serious conversation is taking place while he is racing around in the background, stealing stuff and screaming “MINE!” The Flash even tries to steal the skyscraper-sized lantern that powers the lantern rings. These little touches are what I love about Lego games, and TT Games fills Lego Batman 3 with loving details and hidden jokes. For example, sitting idly with certain characters will make them start singing the Batman theme while inserting their own name. Or, some characters will start dancing or doing pushups.
So the story of Lego Batman 3 is great, but how does it play? Lego Batman 3 follows the standard Lego formula of breaking items for studs, building new items, and searching for hidden minikits and red bricks. Additionally, TT Games brings back the side scrolling flying levels from Lego Star Wars. These flying levels aren’t great, but they do tend to add variety to the game, which I appreciate. TT includes only a few of these levels, so the regular levels remain the focus, albeit with more varied character requirements. One major change in Lego Batman 3 is the removal of a wide-open world like New York. Instead, TT includes a series of open playgrounds from DC lore like the Watchtower, the Hall of Heroes, the Moon, and the lantern planets. I actually prefer this method because it keeps the side missions from simply consisting of fetch quests and photography missions.
Strangely, Lego Batman 3 is reliant on the various suits that Batman, Robin, Cyborg, Joker, and Lex Luthor all use. These suits are used for disrupting electrical signals, breathing in space, and blowing up silver/gold bricks. These suits are perfectly useful while adding features to the Lego formula, but they also take away from playing as some of the more entertaining characters. For example, I’ll start a level as Deathstroke or 1966 Robin, but I’ll have to switch characters within one minute because they aren’t equipped for the mission objectives. Obviously, this has been an issue throughout all of the Lego games, but it was less prevalent in Lego Star Wars or Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. Thankfully, Lego Batman 3 does have a few new characters that are very fun to play as. Solomon Grundy is one of the best characters in the entire game because he fulfills the important role of gigantic, strong character, but he also has bonus qualities. Previous strong characters like The Hulk or Rhino were only good for breaking walls or opening heavy doors, but Grundy can actually dive into swamps and find hidden items. This ability is exceptionally useful. Also, Grundy is pretty damn adorable, at least for a dead guy with anger issues.
I originally thought that Lego Marvel had the best collection of characters around, but Lego Batman 3 almost blows it out of the water. I already mentioned Solomon Grundy and the Flash, but Lego Marvel also includes Kevin Smith, Conan O’Brien, the Green Arrow, and the Green Loontern. Some of these characters are entertaining, but Conan is honestly wasted as the level guide. Sure, he has some funny lines, but they become rage inducing once you have heard them repeated at least 18 times. Every time I went to the level selection screen, I heard Conan repeat the same line about sticking the level globe next to his tv. It just seems like Conan’s potential was wasted on three or four lines of dialogue.
One character who wasn’t wasted was Adam West/the 1966 Batman. West becomes Stan Lee’s replacement as the character in peril, but he also becomes an unlockable character once you beat the story. West’s original Batman level is hidden after the credits roll, and it is by far the best level in the whole game. TT perfectly captured the original series’ feel and design, and they included the original villains in Catwoman, Riddler, The Penguin, and Joker. Hell, TT even included the spinning bat symbol transition and the on-screen “POW” and “BLAM” when Batman and Robin punch enemies. This level alone makes Lego Batman 3 worth playing. Before you ask, I will confirm that 1966 Batman has a gigantic bomb that you can pull out and run around with.
Unfortunately, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham isn’t the perfect game. Actually, Lego Batman 3 is kind of broken, at least at times. I had to restart multiple missions because characters would get stuck in an animation loop and fail to complete their tasks. Other times, a boss battle would break because the boss would freak out and start running into walls or various characters. One other frustrating part of Lego Batman 3 is the control scheme during pseudo-quicktime events. These events require you to press a button during key moments, but the game doesn’t register these button presses roughly 75% of the time. This makes important events very frustrating, especially when you are constantly dying. Neither of these issues are game breaking, but they can absolutely cause complete frustration, especially if you are 30 minutes into a level and you forget to hit the checkpoint controls before quitting a mission.
One other frustrating aspect of Lego Batman 3 is the inclusion of weird, digital minigames. Anytime that Robin needs to decode a security code, he goes into the computer system much like Bentley in Sly Cooper and participates in some basic platforming in a 3d world. Most of these digital areas involve correctly jumping over various moving platforms to reach a small code box. These added minigames seem to be forced and honestly kind of bad. I dreaded playing any level that forced me to participate in these digital platforming sections.
Yes, Lego Batman 3 is the most broken Lego game since Lego Indiana Jones 2 (which made your console crash), but it is also possibly the best game in the series. Lego Batman 3’s story is immensely entertaining, and it includes unique characters to play around with. I am sad every time that I have to switch from one of the fun characters in order to complete a mission objective, but it’s a small price to pay for the ability to play as Stephen Amell or a bomb-toting Batman. Most importantly, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham runs exceptionally well on the PlayStation 4, with almost none of the pesky framerate issues from the previous console generation.
You should absolutely play Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, but do so with the realization that two or three of the levels will frustrate the hell out of you.
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