PSP Review: LEGO Batman

I played LEGO Star Wars sometime last year, and this is pretty much the same game. The object is to run around destroying as much scenery as possible so you can collect little gold LEGOs to buy extra characters and options that, in turn, increase your ability to run around destroying as much scenery as possible.

I am a big fan of this gameplay. Be incredibly destructive, then come back and be even more destructive later. Big thumbs up.

The game is structured into three episodes with five levels each where you use your special abilities to solve puzzles and disarm traps in order to reach the goal. There’s a Lost Vikings aspect to it too; often one character will be able to get through an area but your other one won’t. So you take the first guy through, only to find a barrier the second guy could bypass. Solution: first guy has to make a path for the second guy, so second guy can make a path for the first. Many if not all of the levels are designed this way, switching off between Batman and Robin, who each have a different set of ability-granting suits; Batman can glide and lay bombs, Robin can walk up walls and activate special switches. It’s good, if not deep, fun.

Once you finish an episode you unlock the ability to replay the episode from the villain’s point of view, for a total of six episodes. By that time you’ve opened every level and ability in the game, so you go back and replay all thirty levels to open up the secret areas you couldn’t reach your first time through. By this time you’re rolling in millions of LEGO studs and feeling pretty great about yourself.

A few complaints.

First, sometimes the levels are pretty obtuse. Most times you’re just looking for the next switch to pull or the next gap to glide across, but there are spots where you can get stuck wandering in circles in front of a locked door with no clear way through. I got stuck in one level because I had failed to blow up an item with a bat-bomb. Well, explodable objects are supposed to shimmer. This object didn’t shimmer, so I didn’t think to blow it up. I eventually looked up the solution on GameFAQs. I’m not sure if I was supposed to just start laying bombs everywhere and hope for a miracle, or if this particular object never had its shimmer flag switched, or if it’s a problem with the PSP port in particular. There were other similar spots that tripped me up, but that was the worst.

Combat is stupid. It’s not boring, at least not at first, but it remains stupid all the way through the game. Periodically the game will throw a dozen or so LEGO goons after you, and you hammer the attack button until they’re all dead. (They crumble into a pile of their component LEGO parts when that happens, which is pretty hilarious.) Some characters have special attacks, but you’ll never use them because hammering square works so well. You don’t even have to be facing the right direction; the square button automatically makes you attack the nearest thing in range. If you kill all the goons before you’re done hammering the button you’ll just start beating up on your partner. They never seem to mind, though.

Usually the goons are finite, but there are some areas where they just throw wave after wave at you for however long you hang around the area. If this happens to coincide with an area you haven’t solved yet, or are momentarily stuck in, you have to break off your exploration every twenty or thirty seconds to hammer square. Bad guys don’t drop studs and there is no experience or advancement system. They’re not even very challenging. It’s just busywork the game throws at you, and it never really evolves or goes anywhere.  It’s just stupid.

Loading times are pretty bad all the way through the game. The game first loads up a pseudo-level which acts as a hub world. Then, when you pick a level to go into, it loads up an unskippable dialogue screen during which the rest of the level loads. (It loads the loading screen. Heh.) Once you actually get into a level things are pretty smooth until you finish it or quit, but it can take a minute or two for the game to get that far.

I still have about 3% worth of stuff to find which I will probably take care of tonight. The game is easy and repetitive, but it helps if you REALLY like Batman. Not only do I REALLY like Batman, I also REALLY like Batman LEGOs. I had fun seeing all the Batman stuff in the game, but I had even more fun seeing all the LEGO sets in action. “Cool, the Joker copter! I have that one!” It was a neat experience.

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