Review: LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

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At least once a year a new LEGO title comes out either exploring a new licensed franchise or expanding upon a previous title. The latest release, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, falls into the sequel category, and once again I have found myself tumbling down that rabbit hole of exploding bricks and collectible minifigs.

The last LEGO Batman, DC Super Heroes, was the first to add voices to the DC lineup. This time around, as the title suggests, the story moves outside of the confines of Gotham City and visits cities around the world as well as the home planets of the various Lantern Corps members, all spurred on by the overwhelming mental superiority of the alien known as Brainiac, who enslaves the powers of the Lantern Corps to create a shrink ray powerful enough to downsize Earth for his collection. Of course, the members of the Justice League, including Gotham’s own Caped Crusader, join forces with a rogues gallery of DC super villains in order to put a stop to the Brainiac’s madness.

Similar to how LEGO Marvel‘s game offered up mini side quests in the hub world, Beyond Gotham offers players a chance to play through the story missions, free play, and a whole slew of hub missions. Based in the Hall of Justice, The Batcave, The Watchtower as well as each of the home planets of the Lantern Corp members, Beyond Gotham is packed with content. The downside to all that content? It’s very repetitive. Sure, the rewards are new unlockable characters (there are 150, which is nuts), but playing it all in just a few sessions feels like a daunting task. Yet I can’t complain. There is a unique charm and humor that TT Games manages to infuse into all of their games that brings a smile even after countless hours of gameplay that involves repeating the same basic mechanics over and over. I think part of what helps with the charm this time around is the inclusion of Adam West and Kevin Smith.

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Obviously Adam West is a clear choice for adding character nuance to a Batman game since he was the ’66 Caped Crusader, which was the introduction to many people back during the original run and syndication reruns since then. But Adam West has also embraced the caricature of campy Adam West as a character himself, which allowed TT Games to replace Stan Lee from the Marvel game as the character in peril found throughout every level (and the various hub world encounters) in this DC Universe outing. Even though Stan Lee created many of the characters played in the Marvel game, Adam West’s delivery of gratification for rescue adds just as much warm love that Stan provides for his own universe of characters.

Love him or hate him, Kevin Smith is a comic book nerd at heart and has such a reverence for Batman that seeing his exuberance play out in LEGO form is definitely endearing. His own form of self deprecating humor allows for mocking of both himself as well as some of the more ridiculous heroes and villains from the DC Universe without coming off as mean or hypocritical. (Please, TT Games, lock in Kevin Smith as a cameo for the inevitable LEGO Star Wars games based on the upcoming trilogy!)

Beyond Gotham also gives several additional nods to the legacy of Batman (both in the main game as well as the DLC). Deep within the Batcave an extra level can be found which highlights several of the villains (and the overall campy aesthetic) of the ’66 TV show. One of the other charming unlockable features is the option to have comic balloon exclamations like POW, BAM, and ZONK appear as enemies and various blocks are destroyed.

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Beyond Gotham does not stray from the standard formula, which isn’t a bad thing. TT Games has managed to fill out a huge story campaign with plenty of content that requires a second or third (or fifth in my case) playthrough in order to collect everything, as well as provide some fun mini quests in the hub worlds to add to the characterization of so many of the iconic heroes and villains of the DC Universe.

However, there is one addition to the package that I’m not overly fond of, but within the context of the game I can let slide. I’m referring to new VR Missions which pit a computer avatar (without any powers or abilities) in a variety of platforming and combat challenges. The VR Missions are stark black with color wire framing blocks which raise and lower to change the landscape of the level. Some VR Mission objectives simply require attacking 10 enemies or moving to a finish point in a different area of the level. Others are more interesting, such as avoiding being caught by enemies which have a cone of vision that can be clearly seen on the black backdrop of the level. Aside from adding another method for collecting more characters or gold bricks, these VR Missions offer very little to the overall game and thankfully are only found in one or two small snippets of main story levels or otherwise relegated to a section in the hub worlds (which aren’t necessary unless you want to 100% the game).

It probably goes without saying at this point after so many installments, but fans of TT Games’ LEGO series will once again have a blast playing Beyond Gotham. Fans of the DC Universe will also find plenty of charm and interesting uses of their favorite heroes and villains throughout the game. While there aren’t a whole lot of new ideas put into the game (why break a winning formula?), there are enough subtle touches and new stories to explore, that the game feels mostly fresh and certainly is still loads of LEGO fun.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Nananananananana Batman
+ Tons of content for replay value
+ Humorous voice work for pretty much all of the characters
+ Great cameos from Adam West, Kevin Smith, Conan O’Brien, and many more

Cons:
– Freeplay missions can feel overly tricky
– VR missions don’t feel like a good fit

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS4, also on 3DS, PC, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Developer: TT Games
Release Date: 11/11/2014
Genre: Action/Adventure
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2
Source: Game purchased by reviewer

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.