REVIEW: Lego Batman 3 – Beyond Gotham

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  • Reviewed on PS4 / Rated E10+ / $59.99 / released November 2014
  • FINAL: You WANT this game. 4 out of 5 stars

Sinister space-nerd Brainiac plans to add Earth to his collection of shrunken oddities, and it’s going to take the combined efforts of DC Comics’ best and worst to fend him off. In “Lego Batman 3:  Beyond Gotham,” Batman and the Justice League team up with Lex Luthor, the Joker and other villains as they travel the galaxy to stand against Brainiac.

This being the third “Lego Batman” game – and the zillionth Lego game – gamers should have a good idea of what to expect. Starting with a small assortment of playable characters, you travel through different locations using Lego-themed tricks to solve puzzles and unlock piles of collectibles. Eventually, you have a treasure trove of secret characters, game-altering cheats and bonus content.

Although a few levels center on Batman’s usual Gotham City hangouts, the game quickly takes off to alien planets. Lego fans will enjoy that some levels that are built in the “mini” style, which makes the normal-sized characters look like giants. Another set of exploratory levels opens up once the story mode is finished, including turning the Green Lantern home world of Oa into a stadium for vehicle races.

So what else is new for this installment? The chief draw is an almost unbelievable number of unlockable characters (around 150!), with a nice variety available at the start of the game rather than just Batman and Robin. Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern and others all appear early on, and lead to ever more obscure grabs from the DC Comics roster. Almost every character has unique attack animations and abilities to better represent their comic origins. The biggest bonus draw, however, is a level based on the 1966 “Batman” TV show, featuring Adam West himself. Keeping in line with that show’s penchant for celebrity guest stars appearing as themselves, “Lego Batman 3” includes substantial voiceover work from West, Conan O’Brien and film director Kevin Smith.

Packed with knowing winks for the DC super-fans, the game’s cheeky pandering takes center stage. The actual storyline of the game is an afterthought, which might disappoint gamers looking for a Batman-themed super hero adventure. The overall plot is that Batman has to learn to accept his emotions to be a better team player, while the Justice League’s mission takes them through the emotion-power-based home planets of the various Lantern Corps. For much of the middle of the story, the League’s emotions are scrambled (Cyborg is a coward! The Flash is greedy!) and this is played for tedious comic effect. The game has a simplistic, kid-friendly plot tucked inside fan service that only adults will enjoy, which puts a weird veneer on the entire package. Is it for kids, or is it for grown-ups? The game is for both, of course, but it loses some focus under that broad brush.

Occasionally the game delivers audio quirks, like characters talking over one another when you’re triggering missions. Plus, the Lego series’ long-included “dynamic split screen” is nowhere near as preferable as the normal vertical split option. However, given that you can still devote hours into unlocking hidden items, punching out bad guys and uncovering the game’s many secrets, the gameplay rises above the few failings. “Lego Batman 3” is great fun for families and a phenomenal nerd culture trip for DC Comics fans.

 This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham” is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC and Nintendo Wii U. Image courtesy Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment.

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