I’m Batman. Not a snarky, gravel-voiced, cartoon diner-goer perpetually arguing with Superman, but a Lego superhero. Luckily, I’ve kept my dark, strange humor. I’ll need it for the game ahead of me. Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a full affair also found on PC or console, with plenty of platforms, Lego puzzles, and villainous peons to punch.
This has nothing to do with Batman Beyond or that Fox bastard child Gotham; it’s more of a nod to the Justice League and associated games. LB3 keeps the fun of Lego and once again combines it with Batman’s wonderful toys. All the usual Lego gameplay elements are there: Smash the destructible objects in the environment like so many piñatas to find Lego pieces integral to puzzles; switch between characters to make use of said pieces and build solutions to the puzzles; beat any enemies into little pieces, literally. While you’re on that, grab as many studs (read “coins”) as you can, and try not die because that’ll seriously mess with your bottom line.
The main conflict of Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is Brainiac’s plan to shrink the earth (overcompensation, anyone?) to add to his personal collection. The references and characters that come into play during the course of this epic adventure are definitely for the fanboys, while the gameplay and writing is for the kids. It seems like Lego Batman 3 is trying to straddle the divide between long-term hardcore fans of Batman and the Justice League (people who actually heard of Star Sapphires) and kids that are into Legos and Lego games. It would be nice if Traveller’s Tales (TT Games) found a happy medium, but hey, at least some kids somewhere are getting part of a proper comic book education.
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes place exactly where it says: Outside the confines of Bruce Wayne’s city (it’s not a Batman Beyond reference). Unfortunately, LB3 doesn’t offer the open-world freedom of Lego Batman 2, where you were able to swoop around in downtown Gotham denying physics with blocky buildable prowess. The fun in LB3 comes from visiting familiar places. Players travel to a variety of environments like the Fortress of Solitude and the Justice League tower during the game.
LB3 also offers a ton of characters to use (more than 100), and you can unlock them in two ways; either by finding their character tokens hidden in levels, and then only with the proper amount of studs, or by simply spending a few dollars on gold bricks, the top currency in the game. Then you won’t need to collect studs and half the game’s impetus is instantly nullified into a big heaping pile of guano. Sadly, if you want to use characters like Lex Luthor in Wonder Woman drag or the Joker smirking through a Batman mask, you’ll have to do a lot of level hunting and stud-saving. Giving up and plunking down real money is not an option.
Even if you do elect to unlock all the avatars, their abilities are often repeated. Yes, they’re determined by the innate skills of that comic character (Superman starts with lasers, for example), but they’re also limited by the game mechanics. Additional abilities are supplied by a number of suits, which also overlap between characters. Some suits grant detective skills like Batman, others allow you to survive toxic goo, and yet others let you hack terminals or light up the world around you.
The suits are the key to the puzzles in the game. To progress you’ll need to switch between the two active characters and manage their multiple wardrobe changes. The AI is smart enough to make the second character move where they’re supposed to, which is great since there’s no “wait” command that I could find.
3D platforming is the last game element that has made Lego games great (or fun, if “great” is too high praise), and touch screens can be imprecise for 3D navigation. LB3 offers a choice between virtual joypad or touch controls, though trying to perform the platforming dance of death with either scheme took some getting used to. Players with Android controllers can avoid that struggle.
There’s plenty of game here, as there should be at five bucks. Like other Lego games, the levels are chock full of secrets that require replays with different characters (and their varying abilities) to find. There are minigames like hacking woven into the levels, which are neatly divided into easy-to-replay packages. Fans get to see a lot of familiar places and faces, but the selection of characters and places, versus the simplicity of the puzzles and gameplay points to LB3’s inability to pick a team: Team kid-friendly, or team fanboy. Extemporaneous characters that only really make sense to hardcore fans are monetized; there are rumors you can unlock Conan O’Brien, for instance. I’d like to meet the kid that would grasp the irony of playing as the ginger talk show host, and buy that kid a beer, because he is at least 21.
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham gives you all that you would expect from a full mobile title. It has tons of levels and unlockables, multiple controllable characters, and two strong IPs (Lego and DC Comics) to build on. Maybe it took a step backward by taking away the free-roam aspect, but it’s still fun. If only the gameplay was just a smidge more complex, or the puzzles more challenging. The gameplay is probably perfect for younger players, but then, they won’t get some of the references. It doesn’t disappoint; you’ll get something near a console experience in the palm of your hands, and bully for you if you have an Android controller. There’s fun to be had in LB3; just smash stuff and snatch up those coins, and try not to cringe at the guy trying to sound like Mark Hamill’s Joker.
Comic fans will love Lego Batman 3’s roster of DC places and faces, but might get bored by its kid-friendly gameplay.