Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2014/11/lego-batman-3-beyond-gotham-review.html

Gotham alone is simply not enough for Lego Batman.
With its latest (and maybe final) entry in the Lego Batman trilogy, Lego Batman 3 takes Batman and his friends out of Gotham and actually into the realms of space to take on the alien villain Brainiac.
Of course the trademark comedy and charme from the Lego game series is pretty much a given by now. Yet is taking the story into space enough to make Batman 3 stand out as the true climax of the trilogy?


Story

The plot:
The best-selling LEGO Batman videogame franchise returns in an out-of-this-world, action-packed adventure! In LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, the Caped Crusader joins forces with the super heroes of the DC Comics universe and blasts off to outer space to stop the evil Brainiac from destroying Earth. Using the power of the Lantern Rings, Brainiac shrinks worlds to add to his twisted collection of miniature cities from across the universe. Now the greatest super heroes and the most cunning villains must unite and journey to different Lantern Worlds to collect the Lantern Rings and stop Brainiac before it’s too late.
(source: Lego.com)



Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham's story manages to string all three Lego Batman games together to a nice trilogy that feels well enough thought through as well as entertaining to make for a nice trilogy with little to no downs. And despite the fact that Batman 3's scope, that has numerous of your favorite DC universe heroes as well as villains have a big battle in the realms of outer space, makes this third entry in the franchise feel fittingly climactic, there's not that much too unusual or special about its storyline itself.
Just like many other aspects of the game, it is obviously and respectably best suited for younger gamers with control mechanics and an easy-to-follow storyline to grasp. And in that sense, Batman 3's story suits its target audience just right while simultaneously delivering a great feel of an epic final chapter in the series. Starting from Earth, going all the way into space, onto the Justice League's Watchtower and over to several different planets of the Green Lantern Corps in order to obtain the Lanterns' rings of power is quite exciting. It keeps you guessing quite a lot to what location the game's story is going to lead you next. Additionally, it's somewhat great to see how the overwhelmingly powerful and dangerous threat of the villain Braniac makes the heroes as well as the villains of the DC universe join forces. Seeing Batman, Superman, Robin, etc. work together with their Nemesis counterparts like Joker, Lex Luthor and Killer Croc is quite a nice change of pace and somewhat of a new and interesting situation (even when seen in the more childish light of a Lego game).

Yet with all the big focus put on younger gamers, there's still a respectable amount of aspects about the comedy and the game's story that is opted to appeal to adult gamers. Many tributes and quotes from classic movies like Jaws and even the sudden appearance of Conan O' Brien within the game's explorable hubs will make even the grumpiest of old gamers at least chuckle on more than one occasions.

It's called "Batman 3" but it actually feels more like Justice League game.


Gameplay
 

Core Gameplay Mechanics - "The Suit Makes The Man"

Though it might first seem like a lighter Lego version of the beat-em-up Arkham games, LEGO Batman 3 is for the most part actually a puzzle game with other genre-mechanics mixed in occasionally.
With that said, most of Lego Batman 3's level design is centered around linearily structured rooms that require certain lever-and-button-puzzles to be solved in order to progress to the next room, in which you encounter another puzzle or task.
The twist that is being put on the puzzles here to make them stand out, is that puzzles require the use of differently powered suits to solve them. Therefore, each level has you control a set of multiple characters at once that you can freely switch between as needed. This feature becomes very important since every character has a set of different suits to put on that grant the character a specific ability. For example, Batman's collection of suits consist out of a destroyer suit that boost his power, a detective suit allowing him to go stealth and slip by surveillance cameras, and more. Puzzles in Batman 3 accordingly have to be solved through switching to certain characters as needed while also changing them to a specific suit like for example a magnet suit to activate a metal lever.

And even though Batman 3's numerous puzzles are overall nicely designed and put together it doesn't take long till the puzzles feel a bit repetitive since it becomes always exactly clear that for example a certain blue shining object always has to be magnefied or a surveillance camera always needs to be tricked by a detective suit. It becomes obvious that Batman 3's bag of tricks or in this case, selection of suits, runs out of surprises very quickly. This is only underlined through the fact that the game tries to mask its limited array of powers/suits in the form that it simply reskins the suits for other characters. Therefore, for example, Joker's flower suit instantly shows to be just a reskinned version of Martian Man's mind control ability.
This minor dissapointment is understandable though to a certain degree seeing that Lego Batman 3 is primarily a game for kids and in that sense doesn't want to overly frustratte them with a too big selection of powers since it would be quite confusing to manage up to 5 characters at once with uniqe powers while keeping in mind which power belongs to which character.

Be suited for the occasion.

What drastically breaks this seemingly kid-friendly gameplay design though are the many of the game's incredibly lackluster tutorials and missing clear mission objectives that create just oh-so-many frustrating moments during puzzles in which you just don't know what the heck you are supposed to do.

While the game itself always gives you a nice short introduction to each suit's powers when obtaining a new one during the course of the story, there are many occasions in which you simply get stuck during a puzzle not knowing what your objective or actual goal is. Making matters worse is the game's lack of a pause screen showing your current objectives or a map with an objective marker. Those simple HUD-additions would've done wonders to some of the game's unfairly more frustrating puzzles. And it's just a big mystery why such basic gameplay elements are just missing in a supposedly easy-to-play game for kids.

"I'M GOING CRAZY! WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO!?"

What makes those moments in which you get stuck even worse is the redundant way how to get out of them:
In many puzzles a mechanic is implemented in which you have to destroy objects in your surroundings in order to be able to use their now scattered around Lego bricks to build a certain necessary object or machine to progress through the level.
What sounds and certainly looks cool at first quickly becomes one of the most ridiculously ill-adivsed mechanics of the game, since it is absolutely never absolutely clear which specific objects have to be destroyed to obtain those necessary Lego bricks. Therefore, while most destructable objects only give you Lego bricks that simply dissapear shortly after hitting the ground only leaving some gold coins behind for you to collect, other specific objects just happen to be "the right ones to destroy" in order to actually progress through the story.
This leads to many circumstances in which the best way to make it through a frustrating part of a level is to simply and redundantly destroy everything in the entire room in order to obtain those "important Lego bricks" that allow you to build "that certain necessary thing to progress".
Yes, building stuff out of scattered around Legos on the floor is surely a cool feature in itself but seeing that it's just so imbalanced and unclear regarding what Lego bricks you actually can build something out of and what not, is just unnecessarily annoying.
The only explanation for this misguided design decision is that the developers probably thought that kids would destroy everything in a level anyway so that it wouldn't cause any problems. Well, guess what?...it does. Especially for players who primarily just want to progress through the story.

Other than the puzzles, Batman 3 features a respectable variation of light beat-em-up and shoot-em-up gameplay mixed into its main puzzle focussed level design. Those beat-em-ups parts though don't come off as anything very special since button-mashing is always good and effective enough to get through every single one of those parts. Additionally, the game even further underlines its goal of being very kid-friendly with its really really forgiving difficulty. Lego Batman 3 is very easy to beat thanks to the fact that it's just very hard to actually get a Game Over or die in the game, since it automatically just spawns you back to where you died. 

Younger gamers probably won't mind the game's flaws as much.


Open-World - "Quantity Over Quality"

Lego Batman 3 tries to take the series' tradition of giving players a big open-world to roam in to a next level by featuring several different planets to visit. Though this sounds good on paper, the game doesn't exactly feature a vast open-world but rather several smaller hubs located on different planets on which you can roam around in.
Though it does have its certain degree of charme and wonder to roam around freely in the Batcave, the Hall of Justice or different alien planets, aside from some minor side-activities like short optional tasks to obtain trophies and golden Lego bricks from, most hubs feel fairly unspectacular despite their colorful looks and omnipresence of Conan O' Brien as some kind of weird host.

Seeing what a large open-world Lego's Avengers game had to offer in comparison, Batman 3's effort to put you into various locations around the galaxy is a nice idea yet just a bit too ambitious for its own good. There was simply no way that the game would feature big open worlds on each and everyone of its several planets resulting in the many yet small hubs scattered around the game. This is therefore a clear case of quantity over quality.
Yet it has to be said that the hub-structured open-world in Batman 3 nevertheless kind of makes sense in the context of the story even despite it being not as impressive as the worlds in previous Lego games.

"How can you even be in spa...?" - "BECAUSE I AM BATMAN!"


Multiplayer
 

Further continuing what's become an important mechanic for the series is Batman 3's big emphasis on co-op gameplay. Though the game's entire story can of course be beaten solo by switching between characters to solve puzzles, the story is definitely more fun to be played with a friend assuming the role of a specific character. Puzzles become to a certain degree a bit more fluid as a result seeing that your friends can already get into certain positions by themselves to help you (A.I. teammates on the other hand would just stand or run around aimlessly when not controlled).
Yet, sadly the game's flaws and frustrating moments considering lackluster mission directives, etc. still remain even during co-op.


Graphics
 

Once again, Lego Batman 3 has a very clear vision of how it wants to be presented and resultingly how it wants to look and feel overall.
Unsurprisingly, the game simply nails this as the game feels like a light-hearted kid-friendly cartoon show that just happens to feature Lego DC characters. All of the characters across the board, from the heroes, to the villains up to the uber-villain Brainiac are characterized with their distinctive bad-guy/good-guy roles yet while still having their own lovable charme.
The game's several different worlds are very colorful and wonderfully realized Lego versions of their original comic counterparts. Especially on next-gen platforms, playing Batman 3 on high-resolution with 60FPS really feels like you are controlling tiny plastic figurines through a Lego world. Thanks to perfect lighting and detail on their tiny plastic bodies, this illusion is near perfectly executed.


Sound
 

Further breathing life into the game is the top-notch voice acting that is the main foundation on which the game's comedic aspects work. All characters feature voice actors that absolutely fit their personality, with for example Batman having a grim and dark voice and Joker featuring a performance comparable to Troy Baker's from Arkham Origins (yet of course way funnier though).
Spiced up with cute and funny lines, the voice work supports the game's overall straightforward yet entertaining cartoony ride very well.
And even though there are many lines scattered around that aim for the more adult gamers out there, the comedy and dialogue overall is nevertheless much more appealing and suited for young gamers.

Also, there's a large selection of different suits to choose from.


The Verdict

All in all, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is storywise a nice and fittingly climactic (final) chapter in the LEGO Batman trilogy. Though presentation-wise it of course boasts the expected lovable charme that became a trademark for the LEGO game franchise, some important missing key-elements in its game design as well as cool yet very uneven gameplay features make many of its puzzles unnecessarily frustrating affairs that will eventually hold back the fun for many gamers quite a bit.
Furthermore, even despite its big emphasis on puzzles, Batman 3 additionally offers players many sections in its total of 15 missions that also include beat-em-up, sidescroll-shooter, and other genre-gameplay.
The newly introduced hub worlds in Batman 3 are most notably something that is likely to polarize players' opinions. While the now hub-world-structured open-world is certainly varied, nicely realized and colorful, there is a notable lack of actual content and things to do in them, making them feel quite a bit inferior to Lego Avenger's large open-world in comparison.

With so many core mechanics, charme yet also persistent flaws carried over from its predecessors to Batman 3's new and entertaining story, LEGO Batman 3 is best advised for longtime fans of the franchise that already became used to the game's still present pros and cons. Newcomers to the franchise though should expect a game that is largely targeted towards younger players, resulting in the game's many puzzles featuring a much more simple (and partially more redundant) mindset to be solved.
Nevertheless, Batman 3's biggest strength remains to be its large cast of irresistably lovable characters across the board that help to make the game's straightforward story feel fittingly epic and entertaining on a Lego scale. It's certainly not the best Lego game out there, but should do just well enough for kids and Lego video game fans out there thanks to its likable characters and story that mostly manage to balance out the game's gameplay-related shortcomings.

          
  
 Final Verdict: 6 out of 10 

Status: Okay / Best for Fans




Big thanks goes out to Warner Bros. Interactive for providing us with a review copy of the game.

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