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Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham PS4 Review

I never expected Lego Star Wars: The Video Game to create such an impact that we are now at a point where multiple Lego video games are coming out each year. The English based developer, Traveller’s Tales, has obviously found their market and Warner Bros. must be stoked that they can keep selling games that have mostly followed the same structure since the beginning of the series. It’s the charming presentation and fan service that keeps me with these games, since the gameplay is rather straight-forward in design to keep it simple for the kids. Batman returns for a third entry in his Lego Batman series, but this time the Dynamic Duo leave the city of Gotham and the open world adventure of Lego Batman 2 to go into space, along with their Justice League buddies, to take down the latest evil threat from Brainiac.

The threat is so drastic that the likes of The Joker, Lex Luthor, Cheetah and others decide to team up with the DC heroes. The story does shine the spotlight on a main cast, such as Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, and some of the villains mentioned above get their screen time as well. Overall, there are around 150 DC characters in the game, the biggest the Lego DC games have included, which allows people to play as some of their favourites when replaying the stages looking for unlocks and secrets. Some of the unlocks focus on special heroes, like The Atom and Plastic Man, who use their abilities to reveal sections in levels that otherwise couldn’t be reached. But as far as the stars go, this is clearly a tale about the Justice League.

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While there is a commemorative focus on Batman, with various references to his incarnations that cover Adam West’s 60s portrayal – the actor, amusingly, is a hidden collectable in the game, as poor Mr. West requires saving in every level – to moving up to the current times with the end of The Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, it does make me wonder why the series attaches itself to the Batman name, when clearly it’s now focusing a much wider range of characters and locations outside the realm of Batman’s crime filled Gotham. For every time Batman gets the light, there’s another section that features another group of superheroes doing the good, with Batman taking a back seat until he’s next on screen.

As a game that offers so much Batman fan service, it seems weird to have it also filled with a lot of other DC heroes. Superman and the others easily have enough content to fill their own Justice League Lego game and offer those heroes a celebration of their hard work in saving the planet from evildoers. There is a feeling in me that this trend is going to continue until DC gets its cinematic movie universe intact and characters have been given a bigger spotlight in the public eye.

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The initial levels can be somewhat of a drag, as their choices of locations aren’t exactly the most thrilling. The game starts with Batman and Robin in the sewers chasing Killer Croc, before moving to the Bat cave and then eventually launching into space to arrive at the Watchtower. I felt I had to stick it out for the first six chapters, to eventually get to the more stimulating parts of the game, which begin when Brainiac shrinks down Earth and the Justice League are sent to Paris, where the level design is changed into Lego bricks, rather than the solid “realism” design that has become a feature in Lego games. This means players can smash buildings as giant Superman – maybe living out your Man of Steel fantasy – into little Lego pieces. From there begins a tour of each planet for every coloured Lantern, opening bigger levels and varied scenery.

While the game does become a lot of fun once it gets going, this is still a Lego game, and the same issues that plague the other titles still remain here. Sometimes these games make me feel that I’m dumber than a kid, as I become stuck, with no clear route in sight in what exactly I should be doing. It can be frustrating when situations like this happen, and it’s mostly because the building blocks for a device were not clearly shown or I had missed something that needed destroying. Some of these were probably my own fault for not noticing, but it’s happened across multiple games and it’s something that I feel the design of the Lego games needs to work on, making it clearer, because the actual puzzles are incredibly easy, so it seems weird why someone would get stuck on something as simple as finding a switch, pieces of Lego or cycling through a hero’s various costumes to find which one matches. Although, the latter is often the case of the context sensitive button not appearing on screen unless you are precisely on a spot. Maybe my old age is coming out and I’m not as methodical in my scouting abilities, but it is still annoying to deal with.

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AI can have issues with party members getting stuck on ladders or behind objects, often requiring you to switch to them to get them out of position or travelling away from their point of origin to cause them to teleport. The designers have once again left out online play, leaving this as a local cooperative only affair, one that still has the dynamic camera that goes wild, flipping and cutting off views that make it a pain in the ass. I also say this following comment often – combat needs improving, as it remains dry and unoriginal, some depth should be added to it, as even though you get to use some funky powers from the various heroes, the basic combat still remains bashing out the same short combo. It’s time to add a little depth to the system, maybe by creating a Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (hint, hint, Traveller’s Tales).

Even though it stays true to the nearly 10 year old formula, some improvements have been made to the mechanics, such as characters able to swap suits on the fly, rather than having to equip them at various stations throughout a mission. This makes everything more streamlined, as you can cycle through the suits with the trigger buttons or hold down triangle to pick from a ring interface. There is also a ton of content to get through once the game’s 10 hour story is completed, such as finding red bricks and golden bricks, maxing studs, hunting mini-kits, and unlocking characters. The quality ranges across the scale, some worthwhile, some not, but people with OCD can spend hours trying to get everything from the story missions and the more open Lantern planets.

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The developers have captured the essence and history of the DC universe in the most charming of ways. Jumping into flight as Superman sets off his theme tune, while this is also the same for Wonder Woman, as she flies around to her old 70s TV theme. Easter eggs are everywhere, even as far as recreating a level based on the 1960s Batman show, with sound effects, comic styling and the TV theme added for nostalgic love. Traveller’s Tales has taken care to show fans and the licence owner the respect something like this deserves when translated to a video game.

Visually, Lego Batman 3 looks great, as far as Lego designs can go, offering lovely detailed environments and models, with sharp visuals to back it up. The same can be said for the music and voices, playing all the familiar tunes you love from the universe and featuring a cast of well-known voice actors. Troy Baker returns as Lego Batman, Laura Bailey as Wonder Woman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor (the original voice of Lex Luthor from Superman: The Animated Series) and Adam West as himself. There’s plenty more on the list, all doing a good job of their respected characters, but some of the additional celebrities, like Conan O’Brien, are grating on the ears, due to limited, repeated dialogue. I do have to say that I am warming up to the idea of the Lego characters talking. I was a fan of the original concept of silent models that sold the game’s comedy on physical and facial expressions, but I am enjoying the banter that comes with a voice cast.

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Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is another solid and humorous jump into the world of Lego and the DC universe. It has issues, such as sloppy AI and a sluggish start, but that aside, the game is packed with references pouring out of its ears. There’s a nice celebration of the caped crusader in here, while presenting itself under an umbrella of charming visuals, slapstick comedy  and the tried and tested classic Lego gameplay that comes with all the love, discomfort and ridiculous side content that everyone who plays the series should expect by now.

7 out of 10