The LEGO games have been enthralling gamers for years, with their addictive mix of collectability and puzzle based platforming, capturing some of the most successful franchises in media history, such as Lord of the Rings, Marvel Super Heroes, and Star Wars. Traveler’s Tales newest entry in the canon of buildable worlds is LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, which is as much of a follow up to the previous LEGO Batman titles as it is to their recent previous effort, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
In LEGO Batman 3, you’re at first tasked with saving the LEGO residents of Gotham city and later Metropolis, from an overarching plot to destroy the world. The comic moments during scenes are still funny and lighten the mood considerably during the heavier moments of drama, which are about as heavy as a stack of LEGO blocks.
All the unlockables, collectables, puzzle solving and light platforming that have been staples of the LEGO series are back, as refined and enjoyable as ever. Fans of LEGO Batman 2 will find a lot of familiar gameplay elements, such as a multitude of suits to solve even more challenging puzzles. In comparison to their recent titles, most notably LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, some of the mechanics have been refined, such as flying, using characters that have this ability. Whereas in the past games, flying was often way too fast, forcing the camera to shift to unwanted angles, things have been slowed down considerably, making flying characters almost a breeze to control this time around.
There are other nice touches in the game, including some well done lighting effects in some of the more exotic locales in the game. In comparison to Stan Lee in the last game who frequently needed saving, this time around it’s Adam West who plays the role of the damsel in distress, as it were. He’ll pop up in every level, with a surprisingly cheery “Hi!, I’m TV’s Adam West, and I’m in some kind of peril!” which is always good for a giggle.
Also fueling the nostalgia is a level and several unlockable villains from the classic 1966 Batman TV series. Watching Cesar Romero’s Joker run amuck in a retro 1960’s diner, and then do the “Batusi” with the rest of the classically flavored cast may not mean much to younger or newer gamers, but for older gamers who remember the campy series, it comes off as a delightful surprise.
There are also some notable voice actors reprising their roles in LEGO Batman 3. Clancy Brown is back once again as Lex Luthor (from Superman: The Animated Series), and he’ll be familiar to previous LEGO Batman players as well.
In addition, many of the voice actors from the numerous Justice League cartoons are back, and Stephen Amell, who stars in the series Arrow, reprises his role as the Green Arrow in the game, which is a nice touch. Conan O’Brien and movie director and comic book writer Kevin Smith also lend their recognizable voices to the game.
There are a few flaws however that keeps the game from achieving true Man of Steel status, however. Whereas the previously released LEGO Marvel Super Heroes featured a story that dramatically builds to a satisfying conclusion, the story in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham seems to drag on much too long, as if the developers felt that artificially extending its length would make you invest more playtime, which it does, but the results are hardly enjoyable.
Another disappointment with the game is that after LEGO Marvel’s free roaming, open world hub of New York City, Beyond Gotham seems to take a step backward in its more linear design. There are a number of hubs to explore, from which you can enter various quests, but it is nowhere near as delightful as tooling around an open world city, creating chaos.
What’s also kind of interesting is that after the initial few levels, Batman becomes less of a focus as some of the other Justice League team members; especially once other planets open up. The later missions mostly involve the various Lantern Cores, and while this is ultimately a game in and around the entire DC canon, it just feels ironic that the titular hero is forced to take a backseat role for much of the game.
Flaws aside, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is still a delightful, family friendly romp through the DC universe. With its numerous comedic moments and nostalgia infused gameplay balancing out its often long winded narrative and limiting design elements, this is one adventure that may be worth replaying.