Over the years, TT Games has mastered the Lego video game formula that it first cooked up for the Star Wars series many moons ago, and its latest block infused title, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, is a testament to how far the Lego games have come since their humble debut in 2005. Like the title suggests, Lego Batman 3 takes the caped crusader and a star studded cast of DC comic book characters out of the Bat’s city to new worlds that haven’t been previously shown in the first two Lego Batman titles.
Thanks to the arrival of Brainiac, who wants to shrink entire worlds to keep in his collection, the rings of power from the various Lantern factions are used against the will of their masters to create a powerful shrinking ray that can swallow an entire planet and shrink it to the size of an ant farm. Batman, Superman, and other members of the Justice League must stop this menace using their various abilities granted to them through the comics, enhanced with the use of new Lego suits, which leads them on a system hopping adventure that is larger in scale than any previous Lego video game before it. To make matters worse, Lex, the Joker, and a band of DC Comics baddies take control of the Justice League’s Watchtower space station, which leads to more than a few classic confrontations between the forces of good and evil, but it also shifts the narrative in a way that sees both superheroes and super villains working hand in hand to combat a singular threat.
In typical Lego game fashion (well, at least the last few iterations) the entire cast is expertly voiced by some of gaming’s most well known voice talents (Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, and Travis Willingham to name a few), as well as a few Hollywood heavyweights that are new to the Lego Batman franchise. Kevin Smith, Stephen Amell, Conan O’Brien, and Adam West are all represented in the game as Lego versions of themselves, although each of their cameos and presences in the game don’t make much sense other than to slap a tag line on the game box. Their influences on the game are very minor, with Adam West being the only character that can really affect how you play the game thanks to the “Adam West in Peril” section that can be completed in every single campaign mission.
Unneeded celebrity cameos aside, Lego Batman 3 (LB3) still offers the cheeky, fully voiced cutscenes that fans of TT Games have come to love and appreciate, and on more than a few occasions you’ll finding yourself chuckling at the humorous mini-movies that break up each of the game’s 45 missions. The story presented in LB3 is easily one of the best to grace a Lego game in general, and is definitely the most entertaining tale to be featured in the Lego Batman titles. I love the dynamic between Batman and Robin, with the latter always seeking acceptance from his mentor, which is made even more hilarious anytime Superman shows up to save the day and remind Batman that he’s just a mortal man with some killer toys. Batman and Robin are great together, but seeing Batman and Superman’s strained relationship in animated Lego form is definitely the highlight of LB3’s overarching DC narrative. The writing is just stellar, with multiple tongue-in-cheek jokes about DC’s most iconic superheroes sprinkled throughout every interaction they have with each other.
These cutscenes look great on the current-gen consoles, but they’re nothing to write home about. It would have been nice if the game ran in 60fps, as I felt it could greatly enhance the platforming gameplay of LB3, as well as add another layer of polish to the overall production. The game just looked like it was built for old-gen consoles first, but considering the Lego heritage in gaming, the lack of true current-gen visuals is nothing but a minor gripe. Luckily the musical score picks up the design slack thanks to the Danny Elfman Batman 1989 infused soundtrack, as well as the epic in-flight songs that get played for Superman and Wonder Woman. Hearing John Willaims’ Superman theme song each time the Man of Steel took flight never got old, and the inclusion of the jivey 1970’s Wonder Woman TV show theme song will make it hard to get the words “Wonder Woman” out of your head for a few days after hearing it for the first time.
The gameplay is relatively unchanged from Lego Batman games past, and that may be what makes it feel a bit stale. TT Games tried to change things up by requiring constant shifts between characters and their power suits to complete the game’s many puzzles, but their repetitive nature begins to wear on you during the first mission. This formula remains in place during the 10-12 hour campaign (time rating doesn’t include side-quests and replays), and thanks to the spotty character change controls, the gimmick can actually get a bit frustrating. To change to a new character, which you will do millions of times in this game, you must hit the triangle button while pointed in the character’s direction. This sounds simple enough until you factor in that at sometimes you’ll have up to four characters to switch between, so the mechanic to do so becomes a game itself as you try to throw the control to the right character without another one receiving your inputs instead.
This is further compounded by the fact that at sometimes you’re given no clue how to proceed with a certain puzzle because you don’t know which character and special suit ability to use. Sometimes the character’s icon would appear letting you know what you should switch to them, and other times the required suit ability would appear to help shed light on how to solve a particular puzzle, but this isn’t always the case. At times I became extremely frustrated trying to guess which character/power combination I needed to use to progress to the next mission area. It became a trial and error exercise that led to a ton of wasted time, and quite frankly made this Lego game’s puzzles seem overly complicated for the young audience that these types of games are geared to. I’m not saying I’m an all knowing rocket scientist, but it shouldn’t take 30-45 minutes to figure out how to conquer a Lego game puzzle.
This is made even more frustrating due to a few mission ending glitches I came across. One in particular literally had me on the floor of my man cave pleading with the video game Gods to favor my LB3 quest like a mental patient to help me figure out a solution to what seemed like an obvious puzzle to beat. After going nearly insane I looked up the mission on Youtube only to find out that one key part of the puzzle glitched for me, so I had to reload a prior save that not only wasted all of the time I spent trying to figure the glitch out, but also all of the previous parts of the mission had to be replayed, which really burns my ass when something like this happens in any game. Replaying long sections of content because of a game issue is nearly inexcusable, though luckily for LB3 its intriguing story and the allure of watching more hilarious cutscenes kept me going and I did manage to complete the proper campaign.
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes its title and runs with it thanks to an out of this world campaign story, which is easily one of the best in the time honored tradition of Lego branded video games. Everything from the voice acting to the cutscenes nail the dynamics of the DC comic universe and its colorful cast of heroes and villains. Visually the game won’t stand out amongst pure current-gen console titles, but the animated flare still looks great and doesn’t detract from the gameplay whatsoever. The gameplay itself is a bit stale and very repetitive at this point, but it still makes for a fun gaming experience with the whole family or with friends seeking a casual gameplay experience. The control issues from other Lego games are still present in LB3, but it’s the random puzzle glitches that knock this title’s overall fun factor down. With that being said it’s still a great homage to the world of Batman and the many characters that inhabit it, and the story is well worth experiencing for both old and new fans of the DC universe. TT Games has once again shown why it’s the go-to studio for taking existing pop culture properties and changing them into the zany Lego titles we have come to know and love over the past nine years.
Feel free to check out a few Let’s Sorta Plays of Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham’s early missions!
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Review Statement: The author of this review was sent a PS4 retail copy of the game from the publisher for the purposes of this review.