Lego Batman

Year: 2008
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Traveler's Tales
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 10/21/08
Rating: ****

The latest Lego adventure from Traveler's Tales takes on the Dark Knight and his Rogues Gallery in a dark and dreary Gotham City. A massive breakout in Arkham Asylum sets Batman's deadliest foes free, including the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face, Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, Clayface, Mr. Freeze, Man-Bat, Killer Croc, Bane, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Killer Moth, and my personal favorite, Harley Quinn. I've never even heard of Killer Moth, so I have no idea how he made the roster, or if he's even a legitimate character. Ra's Al Ghul is unlockable after completing 100% of the game, but that's too arduous a task for me. (I only managed to make it to 99% before giving up in frustration) The presentation and gameplay mechanics are identical to the "Lego Star Wars" and "Lego Indiana Jones" games, but "Lego Batman" features nearly twice as many levels and character abilities. It addresses several of the problems encountered in "Lego Indiana Jones," but falls flat in one crucial area - the story. Unlike the previous Lego titles, "Lego Batman" isn't retelling an established story, which results in a weak plot and overly simplistic and juvenile humor. Sadly, the cut scenes just aren't very entertaining.

The game looks great and Gotham City is wonderfully realized. The art direction draws inspiration from the Tim Burton films and the original Bruce Timm animated series, so it's very dark, moody, and stylish. The game also uses the superb original Danny Elfman score, which is effective but unfortunately doesn't seem to loop as well as the John Williams themes in the previous Lego games. One area where the game really stands out is the voice acting, which is easily the best in the series. Batman is eternally grumpy and his angst ridden grunts and groans are wonderful. Likewise, the insane cackling of the Joker is delightful and all of the female players hit their marks perfectly. While the core gameplay hasn't evolved, "Lego Batman" provides some variety by having both hero missions and villain missions. The game also features two bonus missions in Wayne Manor and Arkham Asylum that are similar to previous Lego City levels, but they are no fun at all to play. In keeping with tradition, the game also features several vehicle missions which continue to be annoying and not enjoyable. Scattered throughout the game are hidden power bricks, suit upgrades, and minikit canisters, and while most of them are reasonably easy to find and obtain, a few are maddeningly difficult.

"Lego Batman" sexes up the series a bit with an expanded and much needed female cast, and even features seduction as a special ability. Sadly, Batgirl is denied such charms and instead has to rely on her bat gadgets to get things done. The playfully zany Harley Quinn is definitely my favorite character to play, but the developers went a little too far by giving her a bouncing chest animation. I realize that giving a Lego mini figure a heaving bosom sounds both absurd and impossible, but they manage to do it - and only with her.

Overall, it's more of the same, and as such the freshness and novelty continues to fade. While it doesn't match the fun factor of "Lego Star Wars II," it's still an enjoyable romp for anyone who enjoys the Lego games. Plus, it's got Harley in it!