REVIEW: LEGO BATMAN 3: BEYOND GOTHAM (PS4)

lego batman 3 cover art

Everyone has their first Lego game, whether it was Star Wars, Indiana Jones or one of the countless others, but for me, it was 2008’s Lego Batman. Since that game I’ve seen the Lego franchise really develop into something special with its sequel Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, which introduced both voice to cut-scenes as well as a fully realized open world that was expanded upon in 2014’s brilliant Lego Marvel Super Heroes, one of the single best Marvel games to date. Now a little over a year later after the release of Lego Marvel Super Heroes, developer TT Games returns to the DC Universe with Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, but is Lego Batman 3 to DC what Lego Marvel Super Heroes was to Marvel? No, not quite, but it’s still an awfully fun game with a ton of content that just gets a little too scatter brained over what it’s trying to be.

The subtitle of the game is “Beyond Gotham” but the game starts out like both Lego Batman games before it with the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin in hot pursuit of some of their more dangerous rogues. After a distress call from the Justice League alerts them of an incoming cosmic level threat, the well-known Superman villain Brainaic, Batman and Robin turn their attention towards the stars and eventually team up with the very group of bad guys they were once trying to bring to justice to fight against a threat that could spell the end of the earth as we know it.

2012’s Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes first seemed like a Trojan horse game that would introduce more people to the larger DC Universe in the guise of a Batman game but very much was a Batman game that just happened to feature Superman and Lex Luthor with a dash of Justice League at the end. Lego Batman 3 does a much better job of bringing in more DC heroes and villains into the fold without taking away the spotlight from the title hero and his trusty sidekick, though the roster of the Justice League and the Legion of Doom that appear in the story is quite small compared to the amount of heroes and villains that got a piece of the action in Lego Marvel Super Heroes last year.

It’s with the additional heroes that the game has difficulty managing a solid identity in that it’s struggling to satisfy both Batman and DC Universe aficionados. Starting out it plays like the two Lego Batman games that came before it, exploring the streets of Gotham and the Bat-Cave which are well-worn environments that don’t really serve as an exciting opening. Then the plot turns its attention towards the threat of Brainaic that is then side-lined for a whirlwind tour through the various Lantern planets, though the reason for the group going to the Lantern worlds opens up some excellent comedic moments that I won’t spoil here, you’ll just have to see it for yourself. All the while this is going on the game is still trying to focus on the title character, Batman, who isn’t even playable in some of the later levels.

lego justice league

From a gameplay perspective however, both Batman and Robin are of the best characters to have in any given situation thanks to the new ability to switch suits on the fly, something that will make it near impossible to go back to either Lego Batman 1 or 2. Previously in order to switch suits that grant Batman and Robin additional abilities necessary to solve puzzles, you had to either find or assemble a station to change outfits. In Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, all the player needs to do is hold down the character switch button (triangle on the PS4 controller) and select the suit you require once you find it for the first time in the main story. It makes exploring and replaying stages for collectibles much easier, conversely it also means that you only need less than a handful of characters other than Batman and Robin to get everything, causing the roster of over 150 characters to seem superfluous and more like window dressing than meaningful additions. When all is said and done Batman ends up trumping super powered characters like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and even Superman in the amount of things he can do.

A lot of the suits carry over from other Lego Batman games with some nice looking redesigns and new additions like the Space Suit that allows Batman to fly with the aid of fuel stations or by simply purchasing a red brick cheat that is available upon booting up the game. This suit also grants the ability of a cutting laser than functions like Iron Man’s or Superman’s heat vision. Robin also has some old favorites but also comes equipped with an illumination suit that reveals dark tunnels and the techno suit that allows him to summon a miniature Robin that can access places neither character can. For a first in the series other characters like Lex Luthor, the Joker and Cyborg can also change into alternate versions of themselves, something that you should keep in mind if you’re planning to collect absolutely everything or risk being stuck like I did when I forgot that the Joker for example had access to more than one suit.

suits lb3

What made Lego Marvel Super Heroes such a fantastic game is that it took the player to almost every corner of the Marvel Universe and offered new places as well as interesting environments to explore, which is something I missed when playing through Lego Batman 3. The later Lantern levels are nice with their alien architecture and various hues, as are some stages that take place in shrunken versions of famous cities, however getting to these means playing through the opening stages which like Lego Batman 2, seem to run together. The Gotham stages are old territory by now and these are followed by a few levels that take place in Brainaic’s ship and the Watchtower that are pretty bland places to play around in. That all being said, this game does have the single greatest bonus level perhaps in all video game history themed after the 60’s Batman TV show with the Caped Crusader being voiced by none other than Adam West. This stage also follows quite possibly the best ending credits found in any game ever as well that is similarly themed.

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The Watchtower is a place you should get to know well as it’s one of the multiple main hubs you can explore upon completing the game to track down additional characters, gold bricks, and Adam West, the Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham equivalent of Stan Lee in Peril from Lego Marvel. Other than the Watchtower you can explore the Bat-Cave, the Hall of Justice and seven Lantern Planets that feel like the planetoid areas from Ratchet and Clank or Super Mario Galaxy. While it sounds great that you have so many areas to explore, it really makes you miss NYC from Lego Marvel and Gotham City from Lego Batman 2.

It’s understandable that TT Games would want to try something new and not stagnate by having the same layout repeated in their games, but both of those games featured streamlined maps where you could easily decipher where everything was at, allowing you to track down the character you either needed or wanted. Even with the various trackers turned on by finding the red brick cheats, it’s hard to figure out where you’re headed to in either the building levels or the Lantern planets and there’s no map to speak of to tell you what you’re getting when you initiate a quest. The Lantern planets are also pretty boring areas to explore with some feeling like the same area with a different color scheme in the skyline. For either a Lego Batman 4 or a Lego DC Super Heroes follow-up, TT Games should consider returning to an urban map, maybe offering some of the other famous DC cities like Metropolis, Coast and Central City and do away with the spherical planet levels.

Speaking of repetition, a cause for turning down the game’s soundtrack is the repeated music tracks and voice clips from characters like Conan O’Brien. Yes, the Danny Elfman Batman them is iconic and O’Brien is funny, but after three Lego Batman games, hearing that same theme played over and over is headache inducing, as is O’Brien explaining what the computer is every time you approach it. Carrying over from Lego Batman 2 is the John Williams Superman theme when flying around as the Man of Steel which has a sister in the Wonder Woman theme song that plays when soaring as that character. Much like the Elfman theme, both wear out their welcome pretty fast after the first few times you hear them.

While it sounds like I’m being hard on the latest Lego outing from TT Games, it should be stated that I did (and currently still am) enjoying my time with Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and if you’re either a fan of Batman, the DC Universe or all the other Lego outings you should consider this a must-buy. After last year’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes I had unreasonable expectations perhaps on this game to be the DC Universe equivalent of that Lego outing that this game simply didn’t, or couldn’t meet. I hope that for any future Lego games that carry the DC license TT Games can decide whether they want to be a Batman game or a DC Universe game and not both, something that I feel drags down the experience in this fun but ultimately flawed third Lego Batman outing.

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