Since 2005 there has been a Lego Star Wars game released by Travellers Tales games each year. Then, in 2008, having run out of Star Wars material TT games released Lego Indiana Jones which I found to be distinctly underwhelming since it did not feel any different from the Lego Star Wars games. It was with diminished expectations then that I loaded Lego Batman for the first time.
My first impression was that again nothing much had changed, with the core game mechanic in Lego Batman being the same as in the earlier titles as it is a 3D platform game in which you have 2 controllable Lego characters which have differing skills that you need to use to complete the simple puzzles in the level. You can then unlock a range of bonus features including extra characters, vehicles and bonus levels as you progress through the game.
The game also has the same flaws as earlier titles, this includes the absence of any online multiplayer option, AI partners that, at times, do not go where you want them to go and the dual use of Y for switching between characters and entering vehicles, which can lead to switching characters when you want to drive a vehicle and vice versa. As I progressed through the game though, I did not have the same sense of disappointment as I did with Lego Indiana Jones though and I think this was due to a number of small changes to the design and presentation of the game.
The first difference is the way in which the source material is used. The Lego Star Wars and Indiana Jones games had levels which were loosely based on events in the films. In contrast Lego Batman has a completely original story and is inspired by the Tim Burton Batman films and Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990s. What this means is that the level designs are all set at night with an urban design giving them a different feel to the normally bright and clean levels found in Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones. The only issue I had with this was on a couple of occasions it took me a while to find the exit from an area as it was difficult to see.
The way the story is presented is also different in that you first play through a chapter playing as Batman and Robin which then unlocks the same chapter from the villains perspective increasing your understanding of what the plot was actually about and provides a different experience to the earlier Lego games which were almost always from the heroes perspective. Things that have not changed in addition to the style of game are the humour in the cut scenes and the use of music from the source material. In this case the music is taken from the soundtrack of the 1989 Batman film.
As with the previous Lego instalments, Lego Batman is primarily aimed at younger players so the game is simple to play and easy to complete, especially when you use the unlockable extras a.k.a. cheats (or just enter the cheat codes). While older gamers are likely to enjoy the game, the game’s lifespan is likely to be limited to one playthrough for most players and two for achievement junkies. The achievements in the game are well designed and relatively easy to get but require playing the game to absolute completion, which I estimate will take up to 25 hours.
After the disappointment of Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Batman was a return to form for the Lego games and demonstrated that the Lego formula can work outside of a Star Wars setting so long as the game is made to feel unique.