LEGO Batman USA PSP-pSyPSP
English | Platform: PSP | Release: March 27, 2012 | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive | Developer: Traveller's Tales | 528 MB
Genre: Action Adventure
Traveller's Tales has been in the LEGO business for several years now. LEGO Batman is the company's fifth go at the LEGO franchise and little has changed or evolved in that time. Though it offers almost nothing new, fans of the Dark Knight and Traveller's Tales' tried-and-true formula will get a kick out of LEGO Batman. There's a reason this gameplay has proven so successful -- it's accessible and enjoyable. But all of the issues with past LEGO games (nonsensical puzzles, difficulties judging jumps, bad AI) are all still here. Nothing has changed. By now, Traveller's Tales should have a near-perfect game. It doesn't. The effort hasn't been given to perfecting the formula and the issues are no longer forgivable.
LEGO Batman is unique from past titles in the building blocks' franchise. The story isn't based off a movie or even a comic-book plot. This is an original tale. That gives Traveller's Tales some latitude, since there's no need to follow a well-known plot. There isn't even a direct tie-in to a particular Batman universe. This isn't Batman of movie fame, the campy TV show or the comics. It's Batman from the toy shelves, which means a sort of hodgepodge of ideas and a myriad of costumes meant to sell extra action figures. It translates well into LEGO, though I wonder if the original four movies wouldn't have made for better source material.
What we get in the end is a very basic tale of villains escaping Arkham Asylum and Batman hunting them down. It doesn't get any more complicated than that, but it really doesn't need more depth. If you're playing LEGO Batman, it's because you want to smash objects and beat up some bad guys. Story shouldn't be a major concern.
The charm of the LEGO characters is intact and many of the cutscenes are funny. Batman remains stoic, Robin is a goofball, and the villains are all wonderfully insane. The characters are perfect LEGO representations of their comic-book counterparts, but Gotham City itself is not made up of LEGOs. The non-destructible structures have a more realistic look. It doesn't quite work though. Gotham City is drab and without character. Anything that's not LEGO looks like Anytown, USA. It would have been nice to see a stronger creative vision for Gotham.
If the sounds in LEGO Batman are familiar, there are two reasons: Most of the sound effects are repurposed from past games, and the soundtrack is from Danny Elfman's score for the 1989 Batman flick. I'm not sure why Warner Bros. (who also released the films and owns the rights to the music) didn't put music from multiple Batman films to offer a more robust flavor. As is, you hear the same tracks repeatedly, often without any connection to the current scene.
To its credit, LEGO Batman throws everything and the kitchen sink into the mix. There's a robust cast of characters you'll play as throughout the six acts. The first three acts put you in control of Batman and Robin. There's no switching things up, but don't worry, each has a number of powered suits that can be worn that provide special abilities. Robin has a magnetic suit that allows him to walk up metal walls, Batman has a demolition suit so he can blow stuff up (he is known for such acts of wanton violence, right). These along with a handful of other suits keep things interesting.
The second half of the adventure puts you on the side of the villains. You'll get to see the flip side of each act and learn how the each member of the Batman rogues gallery sets up his or her master plan. These levels end prior to your showdown with Batman and Robin, I guess to keep the villains from ever having a chance of winning. Even though Batman's name is on the marquee, the villains steal the show. Each Arkham escapee has their own special powers, making each unique. Poison Ivy can make enemies sick with a kiss, the Joker can give joybuzzer shocks to anyone he grabs, Mr. Freeze can put anyone into cold storage, and the Riddler can take control of susceptible civilians and make them do his bidding.
The true gem, of course, is the inclusion of Killer Moth. You remember Killer Moth, don't you* Yeah, me neither. Who was the genius behind putting a guy in a moth suit in this game*
On top of the characters available in the story mode of each act, there are numerous unlockable heroes and villains who can be used when replaying levels in Free Mode. Nightwing, Batgirl, Hush (a newer Batman baddie from the comics), Man-Bat, and others can all be purchased with the LEGO bits collected in each level. And there is reason to play levels multiple times, since it's impossible to get all of the hidden elements with the default roster.
While much of LEGO Batman is about mashing a button and beating enemies senseless (and destroying the LEGO environment), there are some refreshing breaks. Just about every act has one vehicle level. In these levels, you control a plane, car, or boat and shoot your way through numerous enemies while headed towards a boss battle. This turns LEGO Batman into a pure shooter and while these levels are brief, they provide a welcome change of pace.
There are a lot of good things going on in LEGO Batman. But, unfortunately, the same problems from previous games are all back. You'll have to go it alone on PSP. Though the manual suggests you can have a second player by "plugging in another controller," there's no way we could find to actually initiate co-op play. It doesn't exist -- unless you can find some controllers for your PSP.... uh, whatever.
Be prepared to scream at your dim-witted AI partner. There are numerous puzzle elements that require cooperation between Batman and Robin. The AI doesn't always understand what this means. You'll be trying to get the AI to stand on a platform that will be raised when you pull a switch and the AI will continually jump off before you can do so. You'll find that you need to be in the perfect spot to get the AI's switch flipped so your partner will know to come assist you with a cooperative puzzle. This isn't rocket science. And if it is, then maybe it's time to hire some rocket scientists.
It seems that once in just about every level there is a moment where it's unclear what you're supposed to do next. This isn't because the puzzles are clever, but because many of the solutions aren't logical. The solutions often seem random, and when you do finally figure out that you're supposed to jump on top of a flower or that there is a hard-to-see lever that needs to be pulled, there's no "a-ha!" moment. Instead it's, "Are you kidding me" This isn't exactly a new phenomenon to the series. It's bad level design and there's no reason for it in the series' fifth iteration.
The most egregious offence is the complete lack of co-op play. LEGO games are best when played with a buddy. Not having that option takes away a great amount of the appeal. It's not as if it hasn't been done before. Leaving it out is a disservice to gamers.
LEGO Batman is good fun, but it's really just the same thing we've seen before. I don't think the LEGO formula needs much of a change, but certainly the common issues with the series should no longer exist. The complete lack of co-op is a major gaff.