Be it a movie, a TV series, or a video game, there’s nothing worse than an adaptation of a beloved property that seems to disrespect what made the source material so wonderful. Having said that, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham may have moments that take the superhero genre less than seriously, but let’s face it, this is the latest installment of a series in which the Dark Knight, his trusty sidekick Robin, and associated characters have all been translated into Lego minifigures. While combining a dark and gritty aesthetic with protagonists that have peg-heads and C-shaped hands would be fascinating to behold, it’s understandable that Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and TT Games settled on a tone that has its moments of slapstick and whimsy. Indeed, the very first mission kicks off with Lego Batman diving cat-like down a manhole in search of the villainous Killer Croc—followed shortly after by Robin, who falls less gracefully and lands on his posterior.
While the newest LEGO Batman game opens in Gotham City, as the title indicates, it eventually expands far beyond the shadowy streets of the troubled urban setting. The larger story involves a villain who will be very familiar to DC Comics fans, Brainiac, who during the introductory sequences, manages to capture members of various Lantern Corps—superheroes armed with power rings that can create solid objects of different colors–using his enormous skull-themed spaceship. If this all sounds just a little bit beyond Batman’s usual night on the town, that’s okay, because LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham lets players take the reins of 150 superpowered characters.
From the onset, the creators get the character details right, such as what type of ring-constructs the Lantern Corps. members create, and how Robin has a staff that he throws. Admittedly, making Batman’s trust butler, Alfred, a playable character who wields a silver platter like a shield is a bit much. But as Bat-fans know, Alfred is a both a loyal and resourceful man-servant, and it’s more important that the game gets that aspect right.
Despite the novelty of an unlockable DC Comics pantheon, the basic game play of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham should be very familiar to experienced Lego video gamers: You bust up objects and collect studs; and you exercise your brain as much as your thumbs by solving puzzles as they arise. Similar to such titles as LEGO the Hobbit, players are also required at times to toggle between characters for their respective abilities—for example, during the first mission, Batman and Robin each have certain equipment that lets them overcome walls, radioactive waste, and other obstacles. In the tradition of Lego video game titles that are tough, but not too tough, there are plenty of cues and clues for whenever players get stuck, right down to super-imposed icons showing what buttons they need to press.
The highest compliment I can give LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is that it shows the proper reverence for its source material, while incorporating those elements that have made Lego video games so appealing to date. In some ways, the game itself is like many of the superheroes it depicts: full of action for half of the time, disguised in charm and goofiness for the other half. When kids ages 10 and up put both together, the end result is ideal for battling an afternoon of boredom.