LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii-U, Sony PS Vita, Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4
It’s been discussed many times, heck we’ve even said it ourselves in previous coverage of LEGO titles that have come before LEGO Batman 3, but they really are fantastic entry-level games. Kids can co-op with their parents, casual gamers can put their iPad down, grab a joypad and get involved without too much fuss and those aforementioned parents might even dabble all on their own! They are that type of game. Unfortunately though, for the adults in the equation at least, the popularity of these titles means that there has been a raft of them over the last two to three years. In this instance throwing a ton of characters into the mix along with multiple mechanics from several previous Lego iterations doesn’t stop the feeling of fatigue setting in - add to this the lack of evolution that we are now seeing, there is potential here that the once rock-solid franchise is losing its charm a little.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham picks up right where LEGO Batman 2 left off - Lex Luthor has been defeated but is still looking to become the President by utilising underhanded means, however out of nowhere Brainiac appears and quickly becomes a bigger threat with his plans to shrink Earth into a size more suitable for his trophy case. Batman sets out to team up with the rest of the Justice League and travel to multiple locations, primarily the homeworlds of the Lantern Corps, with a view to ultimately bring down Brainiac. As with all previous iterations the story is completely irrelevant and merely stands to give all the action and puzzle solving a neat backdrop, luckily though to keep it from being completely “by the numbers” the trademark LEGO series humour is present to keep you smiling as you listen to the next raft of exposition from one of the dozens of characters on display. The story doesn’t stand out by any means but it’s funny in places, sometimes very funny; the Joker doing an Arnie/Mr Freeze impression is a particular highlight but in summary it is fair to say that it’s par for the course when it comes to the overall “LEGO game” narrative.
The gameplay is for the most part standard fare; a mixture of the slightly evolved gameplay we’ve seen across titles such as LEGO Marvel and LEGO Movie:The Game, which is essentially quite a lot of basic environment puzzles, mixed in with some loose, simple combat and a smattering of build moments. It’s all simple enough and absolutely nothing will come as a surprise to anyone who has ever played a LEGO game in the past. For the newcomer there is also nothing to fear here, the combat is messy, consequence free but fun, the puzzles are usually just a case of changing your outfit to suit the puzzle (pardon the pun) and the moments where you are required to actually build something, LEGO style, are very much signposted. All of this adds up to a charming, colourful, stress-free gaming experience which again, much like all of the previous Lego titles lends itself easily to a broad spectrum of game player - casual, hardcore; young and old alike. The sheer amount of content in that regard is a real plus point for the game, and even more so than previous games, once the campaign is completed you really are just scratching the surface. That old LEGO statistic of “campaign complete, 12% of total game completed” has never been so evident as it is in LEGO Batman 3.
The environments are rich, colourful and for the most part fun - the puzzles come thick and fast with combat taking a little back seat throughout. Sadly, one of the biggest let downs about the game is that almost all of the environments are small enclosed areas, situated on often random planets which aren’t Earth. The lack of open world to explore, and in turn an actual open world for free roam once you have completed the campaign really takes away from a lot of what made games like LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel such delights.
It’s frustrating more than anything that as you play through the game some quite annoying design decisions get mixed in with some fiddly controls to slightly sour the playful, fun, superhero-laden adventure. Kids will adore the fact that there are so many characters and associated collectibles that there is hours and hours of fun to be had.
Technical issues have riddled some of the previous LEGO games and whilst evident in LEGO Batman 3, on the Xbox One copy we played through (in couch co-op) only a handful were found. The level restarting type glitches never occurred and the worst that we encountered were some random loading times and the always bonkers dynamic split screen camera which has always completely had a mind of its own. All in all, as far as Lego games go it’s technically solid enough (it’s been so much worse with previous efforts) and graphically it does alright, looking a little bit too much like older releases on older consoles with a small addition of some sheen to dazzle. In that respect though there is only so much you can do graphically with little LEGO fellas.
To round off the set tick boxes we have for every Lego title; content - check, tons of characters - check, puzzles galore - check. We also have the inclusion of multiple humorous random characters into the game. These often come in the form of taking a character that should always be in the game and amplifying his personality to get the laughs but on this occasion we have actual random cameos - some work beautifully, some really don’t. Let’s start with the bad...Conan O'Brien is for some apparent reason (likely as he is awful at games and reviews them on his show) is included and hangs around a hub area. At first it’s funny - what he says is funny but sadly as the hours roll by you will likely come across him multiple times. What you discover as you play is that he doesn’t have much dialogue so ends up repeating the same thing over and over again, very quickly outstaying his welcome and reducing the smile you first put forth to a grimace. On to the good and sweet baby jesus Adam West is in every aspect of the game. An absolute delight whenever you hear his voice and he’s actually a collectible on every single level - usually wrapped up in a puzzle which you may have to go back to solve later in the game. Find Adam West and it opens up an entire 1970’s based set of Batman adventures, allowing the dad in this father/son co-op adventure to remember all of that terrible TV he loved as a kid.
Arguably one of the best elements of this new title is the blatant Resogun rip off which precedes a handful of missions. Really nicely implemented and bags of fun this two player shooter actually temporarily stops the feeling of running through the usual LEGO game motions and lights up the screen. Fun, hectic on the eyes at times but a welcome new gameplay element.
Unlike some of the better previous titles like LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel, LEGO Batman 3 feels more claustrophobic, smaller in scale and lacks that open feel that the aforementioned titles gave us. There is a lot of content for your money, albeit nothing new and the little ones won’t be disappointed but it just isn’t as good as previous efforts. A handful of poor design decisions, the odd ropey celebrity cameo and a smattering of technical issues along with a small dose of LEGO game fatigue all add up to a slightly underwhelming experience. Good, but not a forward step.