Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review
In the same way DC Comics’ heroes struggle to keep their normal lives separate from their masked alter egos, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham suffers from an identity crisis. Within this game, super hero adoration gives way to celebrity worship. Linear level designs become open worlds. Batman’s voice changes from Troy Baker to Adam West. And although Batman’s name is in the title, this is really Robin’s story; he gets the most screen time and draws the biggest laughs. This shotgun blast of conflicting ideas delivers mixed results, turning Traveller’s Tales’ ambitious design into a somewhat mystifying experience.
It succeeds where it should: the super hero content. Players are taken on a deep and wonderfully executed exploration of DC’s universe. Current happenings, like Superman and Wonder Woman’s budding romance in New 52, give way to content pulled from the 1960’s Batman TV series. Fan favorites like Batman: The Animated Series, The Dark Knight Returns, and even Christopher Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader are included in some capacity.
With over 150 characters to unlock, and many levels taking place far off of Earth, Traveller’s Tales sculpts a fun dive for comic book fans, but the wealth of content comes at a price.
Unlike its predecessor, Lego Batman 3 doesn't offer an open world, and is instead a linear experience connected through smaller hubs
Conan O’Brien, the late-night talk show host playing himself, is a constant threat. No, he isn’t the antagonist to Batman and Robin. Like a soapbox prophet without a job, Conan lurks in almost every room of the hub worlds. Initially, I loved the idea of this amusing personality providing intel about the Batcave and Watchtower, but he says the exact same thing each time a room is entered, and by my 30th visit, he was still spouting those lines. I eventually muted the volume in the hub worlds.
Kevin Smith also yuks it up from time to time. His dialogue is more cringe-inducing than Conan’s, but at least his role is limited and mostly left in the shadows. Adam West is fine in his role as a character in peril in each level, but his audio is often mixed louder than everything else, sounding terrible. All told, the star power hurts this experience and detracts from the hero content in weird ways. Kevin Smith speaking on behalf of Man-Bat? No thanks.
When celebrities aren’t thrust into the spotlight, Lego Batman 3’s story shines, even with Robin in the leading role through most of it. He’s written as a dumb kid (a really, really dumb kid) with a big heart who believes he can save the day, no matter what he faces. Batman has little patience for Robin, and genuinely comes across as hating him, setting up great banter between these two characters. Big laughs are also tied to the Flash and Cyborg's strange antics.
The conflict the heroes face is of the intergalactic variety, uniting the Dynamic Duo with the Justice League and the seven Lantern Corps against Braniac, a robotic villain plotting to shrink Earth to the size of a shelf-bound collectible.
This tale unfolds across a nice variety of locations, including Gotham, the Batcave, the Fortress of Solitude, the Hall of Justice, and a handful of different alien worlds. The best stages, which rank among my favorites across all of the Lego games, take place in shrunken cities. The heroes are essentially giants in these levels, smashing cars and buildings with little effort. The linear stages offer plenty of visual variety, and are nicely paced, especially for completionist runs through the stages. I'm a big fan of unlockable characters becoming a part of the collectible hunt. Scavenger missions for Bat-Mite (Roger Craig Smith) are also welcome additions.
when Lego Batman 3 breaks free from the linear level designs, bad things happen, especially in the bonus stages located on the seven Lantern planets. Each serves as a small open world, offering plenty of ground to cover, but are small enough to see the spherical horizon. These worlds are filled with simple and repetitive tasks like ring races, collect-a-thons, and more ring races. The game is huge as-is, and throwing in these sizable distractions makes the experience daunting in a bad way. They become a grind. Adding Daffy Duck (in his Green Loontern disguise) as the guide on each world doesn't help.
Suits play a large role in level exploration, forcing Batman, Robin, and Cyborg to switch between rockets, invisibility, and various other functions frequently
Little has changed to Traveller’s Tales’ long-running gameplay formula, but I did find suit transformations to be unnecessarily slow (showing a brief animation each time). The suits are fun to use, turning Robin into a walking light bulb, Cyborg into a wall-smashing giant, and Batman invisible. The interactive prompts for the suits can be spotty, forcing the character to move to reestablish the connection. Most of the puzzles are well thought out, and lead to elaborate (and amazingly crafted) Lego transformations. The act of smashing Lego constructs and gathering studs hasn't changed since the first Lego game, and I gotta say, it's still just as much fun now as it was back in the day.
Although celebrities overstay their welcome, and some of the bonus content can be a hassle to track down, Traveller’s Tales crafted another solid super hero adventure in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Next time, I’d like to see more screen time given to the heroes, and less to a talk show host who isn’t even good at video games.
The review was completed using a retail copy of the Xbox One version that was purchased by Game Informer.