Review: Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes on the role as the latest title from Traveller’s Tales, in a series which has taken off far more than most people ever thought possible. The very fact that this is the third Lego Batman game says a lot about the love people have for these titles, and with the ever growing number of Lego games covering all manner of styles and topics it’s remarkable how they continue to grow, improve and serve up new gameplay each time. That is, until this one turned up.

Don’t get me wrong, Beyond Gotham is still a very good game, but some of the things you’ll find just don’t seem to fit together quite right. You’ll still find dozens of hours’ worth of smashing, building and problem solving using a massive cast which includes the likes of Batman, Superman, The Joker, Wonder Woman and all manner of other DC characters, over 150 of them in total. You’ll still see those teasing tucked away areas that can only be accessed by revisiting levels again in free play mode using different people to help reach those awkward spots, and the young-gamer-friendly inability to actually fully die at any point is still very much in force.

So far, so Lego.

But this time round there’s more emphasis on the ability to change costumes. This has been in place for quite a while in other games, but is far more forceful in its delivery this time round. Passing certain points are accessing certain items will require you to change into the relevant outfit (something which can be done on the fly), adding another layer to the puzzler element. It could’ve worked well, but is often brought down to mindless guessing when it’s not overly clear exactly why you need to have a certain hat on or whatever else. It won’t bother some people, but I found it slowed things down a bit at times when we just want the action to carry on.

Something else that surprised me was the storyline which the game follows. Traveller’s Tales are usually pretty reliable when it comes to writing an enjoyable story, but many parts of the Beyond Gotham seemed to be lacking in direction somewhat and struggled to get going. The basic premise is Brainiac (not John Tickle, the other one) wants to shrink the Earth down to a small ornament sized ornament, and naturally the Justice League doesn’t really fancy that, so set out to stop him. There are some useful cameo roles including Conan O’Brien and Adam West, but while the latter’s contribution will be enough to get the older gamers excited (and contains some real gems), Conan’s lines get repeated often and start to grate after a little while. But stick with the Adam West option, and you’ve got an extra thing to look out for – find him, and there’s some old style Batman fun to be had. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s one of those things which make the Lego games so worthwhile. Troy Baker is still on the cast list as well providing the voice of Batman, and it’s difficult not to find quality where he’s involved.

As is the norm with Lego games, the gripes will soon get outweighed by the fantastic gameplay which only gets better when a second person joins in. With the new Party Share feature of the PS4 this also means you can play through with a friend who’s elsewhere, negating the long-standing issue of there being a lack of online co-op available. Working together is infinitely more fun than playing through by yourself, and certainly lets you get the full amount of enjoyment from the game. There’s very little by way of the open world setting we’ve come to enjoy so things can feel a bit cramped at times in the smaller, closed in levels but the visits to other planets mix things up nicely and there’s enough very pretty visuals around the place to enjoy in the absence of the wider open setting.

It’s also every bit as massive as you’d think in terms of the hours you’ll get out of it. Give the main story about 15 hours and you’ll be less than 20% finished. There’s the gold bricks, extra missions, hidden items to find, all the characters to unlock, you’ll find it hard to have nothing to do this side of the 80 hours mark. If you’re looking for value for money then you’re in the right place, even if you do effectively end up replaying the same levels to make up those numbers. Even so, with a generally top notch level design it’s always fun to play through with alternative characters and try out some new things.

So Lego Batman 3 is a tricky one to call. There’s undeniably a bucket load of the usual Lego charm, and you’ll feel the same buzz seeing various Lego structures being put together in great detail, but the mix of cheerful and moody Batman, coupled with the attempts to mix together every era of Batman you can find sometimes make things feel like ideas are running short. There’s little by way of innovation here, such has been the way with recent Lego titles, and I do worry that we’re running the risk of the series losing its edge. But this remains a fun game, one which is perfect to play with the kids and a great laugh to play with others your own age. You’ll even find plenty of enjoyment playing through solo, but if you loved the Lego Marvel and previous Lego Batman games, you might feel a little let down at times.

Reviewed on PS4

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