Tuesday, June 23, 2015

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (3DS, Vita) Review

Today is the much anticipated release of Batman: Arkham Knight for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. I figured it'd be an opportune time to talk about another type of Batman game that didn't release too long ago, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. While the gameplay and subject matter are definitely nowhere near equal, they both star some version of the caped crusader. Here is my review of the portable version of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.

It doesn't take a braniac to shrink the earth... Or does it?


It's been a tradition that the LEGO games on consoles are much more beefed up than their handheld counterparts. This holds true with LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. While the console versions are more fleshed out, that doesn't mean you should stick your nose up at the handheld offerings on the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. What the latter offers is bite-sized levels, plenty of unlockables, and the classic, albeit repetitive, gameplay that LEGO game fans have grown to love.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham's story begins with Batman and Robin tracking down Killer Croc within Gotham City' sewers. What follows is a plan hatched by Lex Luthor to commandeer the Justice League watchtower in an effort to make himself president of the United States through force. However, things get more complicated when the nefarious Brainiac shows up, wanting to shrink down the planet Earth for his private collection, which he actually succeeds in doing. It's up to the Justice League as well as the Lanterns and even the villains of the game to team up to restore Earth to its rightful size and glory.

While a sewer isn't the most glorious way to start
a LEGO game, it's serviceable all the same.
The game's story is told through engaging cutscenes full of the trademark humor the LEGO series is beloved for. You get funny interactions with a whole healthy heaping of DC Comics characters, both hero and villain, forming unlikely alliances for one common goal. The dialogue is humorous as well, and despite the characters constantly jabbering back and forth to one another during levels, it doesn't get to a point where it's overly grating. That's because the dialogue is pretty much written well. This is no Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, so no worries about that!

Do I have time to say hi to my mom at home?
Oh... wait.
LEGO Batman 3 consists of fifteen chapters of three levels each. The game is divided up and designed this way to best suit playing on the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, so you don't have to invest a lot of time in playing and completing a level. Instead, each level runs about 5-10 minutes for one's first go round in them.

Talk to the pole because the mask does not understand!
Most levels adhere to the LEGO formula to a "T". There's just a few that rely on on-rails space combat, where you pilot a ship, Batman, or Superman through these aerial-based levels. These are enjoyable and break up the otherwise somewhat monotonous gameplay of the more typical levels of a LEGO game.

These flight levels are a nice inclusion to the LEGO series.
These typical levels consist of beating up enemies, which act more like annoyances that anything dangerous, as you have unlimited lives to work with (combat is also extremely basic like every other LEGO game); destroying LEGO objects that reveal LEGO pieces to build machinery that helps you progress in a level; and switching between characters to best suit the situation. For instance, Superman can use his laser vision to burn through certain gold LEGO objects and obstacles, whereas Batman can use bombs to blow up silver LEGO objects, as well as use one of his many suits to detect otherwise invisible LEGO objects.

The Flash shows off how he's light on his feet.
Each level in LEGO Batman 3 contains five challenges that award gold bricks for completing them. The first gold brick is always for simply completing a given level, while the others can consist of earning enough LEGO studs-- the currency of the game-- in a level, defeating enemies with a ground finisher, destroying a set number of Joker-themed objects, discovering a red brick, used to unlock cheats within the game, and finding Joker cards, one in each level, which unlocks a new playable character for purchase with said LEGO studs.

On many levels you don't have the correct team of characters to fulfill all of the requirements in a level the first time you play them. When you go back to it in Free Play mode, you have a wider assortment of characters, such as ones that can fly to reach otherwise out-of-the-way areas and characters that can summon objects at Lantern spawn points. It makes returning to levels worthwhile as there's nearly always something you couldn't get your first time around.

Combat is as super basic as ever in LEGO Batman 3.
Characters and red bricks earned from unlocking them within levels can be purchased at a special computer in both the Batcave and watchtower level hubs. As stated, LEGO studs are used to officially be able to use both unlocked characters and red bricks, offering cheats like stud multipliers, collectible locators, and even a mode where every punch and kick gets the old Batman TV show treatment with "POW!" and "KABOOM!" visual cues.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham isn't an overly long game. It took me about 15 hours to fully complete it at 100% and get all of the trophies. It's a very easy game to get a Platinum trophy on, pending you don't mind searching for goodies (or a guide, for that matter).

The game suffers from some performance issues, such as slowdown in more action-packed situations, as well as moments where my character got stuck on some of the geometry in the game. The latter happened more often that I would have liked. Other than these issues, LEGO Batman 3 runs admirably. On the sound side of things, the voice work is very much worthwhile stuff, and the music borrows heavily from Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman movie score and John Williams' 1978 Superman movie score.

What does this fist taste like?
It tastes like Green Lantern justice!
When all is said and done, for anyone who has played a LEGO game before, you pretty much know what you're going to get with LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham-- destroying and building objects out of LEGO pieces, battles with enemies that have you going through the motions, and a family-friendly game that is adequately polished to entertain most players. If you're still wanting some much needed innovation in the LEGO game formula, you're going to have to wait for LEGO Dimensions (hopefully).

[SPC Says: B-]

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