Throughout the years, Gotham’s Caped Crusader has been put in many awkward and dangerous situations, and has managed to always save the day without taking a life in the process. He’s the class act superhero; one who loves his city and will do almost anything to save it, except for killing someone. And going the extra mile is something he’s forced to do once again in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, the latest in the long line of LEGO-themed video games from Traveller’s Tales.
Although its subtitle makes you think otherwise, Beyond Gotham does manage to put its titular city in danger. That said, it’s just one of many of evildoer Brainiac’s planned targets – a list that includes every major city on our planet, and even the space rock itself. Needless to say, the green-skinned and pink-spotted evildoer is looking to make his evil mark, and all of humanity is in the crossfire, which forces Batman, his friends and even his enemies into action.
What begins with Batman and the Boy Wonder racing through Gotham’s sewers in an attempt to stop Killer Croc, quickly escalates into much, much more after the giant lizard takes up arms with the Joker, Solomon Grundy and Lex Luthor, himself. Together, the team has big plans, including setting Superman’s bald arch-enemy up in the United States’ Oval Office. Yes, all fear President Luthor.
The small-scale plans of Earth’s most devious criminals is only a stop-gap to larger things, though, and it’s not long before fear of extinction turns enemies into frenemies. Not without a catch, though, because although Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and company decide to work with their foes, they keep them on a rather tight leash and always accompany them into battle. It makes sense, and sets up the mixed parties that are regularly featured in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
Brainiac is a dominant force within this game’s storyline, and he’s got a major trick up his sleeve; that being a shrink ray that can turn not only cities into bottled miniatures, but almost the Earth itself. His goal is to put our planet in his pocket, so to speak, and he’s well on his way of doing so before our heroes and villains step in to save the day. They’re not alone, though, as the Lantern Corps. also plays a large role in Beyond Gotham‘s campaign, though they’re in brainwashed captivity at its onset.
Throughout the eight (or so) hour-long narrative — which features fifteen individual levels and multiple hubs — gamers will find themselves travelling from planet to planet in galactic fashion. In doing so, they’ll face all that Brainiac throws at them and will get to enjoy pivotal planets from Green Lantern’s lore. It won’t be easy, though, as Sinestro and company won’t take your trespassing lightly, and will send their armies out to defeat your block-based self.
Of course, as is expected, the gameplay is nearly identical to what you will find in any other LEGO video game. You simply traverse different levels, looking for objects to break, switches to pull and puzzles to solve. TT Games really has it down to a formula these days, which isn’t a great thing, because both variety and creativity are sorely lacking from the franchise. The result is a game that is somewhat entertaining but suffers from lots of tedium, at the hands of forgettable level design, poorly explained mechanics and an overabundance of puzzle solving.
That’s not to say that LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham isn’t ever fun, because it has its moments. It’s just predictable and unspectacular, not to mention a bit dull at times. That’s especially true in the first half of its campaign, which starts off at a snail’s pace and doesn’t open up for quite a while. You can only walk around the same dark labs and space stations before it gets to be a bit much, even when there are multiple suits and abilities at your disposal.
Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I wasn’t a big fan of the last LEGO Batman game, and still consider the first iteration to be the sub-series’ best. Although it had large, open-world gameplay — something that isn’t a big focus here — LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes was incredibly repetitive and lost me quickly. Why? Well, it had the same issue as this one does: Too many bland levels based in sewers, workshops and laboratories, which all melted together after a short while. Thankfully, Beyond Gotham eventually sheds that shell, although it takes far too long for it to do so.
Going forward, I hope that TT can find a way to improve upon the base formula that it’s relied so heavily upon, because it’s become far too much of a crutch, especially with this particular series. I think that it’s time to evolve the gameplay some, and lessen the focus on having to continually swap characters and change their clothing in order to solve puzzles and move forward.
That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are a couple of varied sections, where Bats and company fly around space in bullet Hell fashion. However, while those stages are short diversions and present a slight change of pace, they’re ultimately flawed and somewhat forgettable. The hit detection isn’t great, it’s hard to differentiate enemies from their bullets, and the screen becomes too cluttered.
Where LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham does shine, though, is with its 1960s-inspired bonus stage. As you’d expect, it harkens back to the glory days of televised Batman, where Adam West (who can be saved from peril in every stage in this game) and Burt Ward were broadcast to homes at the “same bat time” and on the “same bat channel.” If the entire game had been like that, it would’ve been much more enjoyable, as there’s a great amount of personality to be found in just that one stage.
It’s likely that Beyond Gotham‘s six downloadable levels — all of which are locked behind its fifteen-dollar Season Pass pay wall — offer the same kind of escapism, but I can’t personally comment. We’ve yet to take them for a spin, and only focused on the main game for this review.
Technically-speaking, this particular release is marred by some technological follies. At least on the Xbox One, where a few users have referenced save corruption issues. I never experienced those myself, but did have the game crash on me once, while making a loud and grating sound. Otherwise, it ran pretty well, other than a couple of frame rate hiccups here and there.
Going further, its sound design is fine, although the humour is lacking this time around. That is, despite the addition of both Conan O’Brien and Adam West, who tend to say the same things over and over again. It’s a missed opportunity, to say the least.
In conclusion, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a fine and completely serviceable game, but one that could’ve been quite a bit better. Still, those who love the franchise and the DC Universe itself will likely enjoy their time with it.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were supplied with.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a prime example of TT Games' overuse of its basic formula. Bland stages, and a storyline that starts off slowly, hamper what could've been a much better game. That said, superhero fanatics will still appreciate the premise, locations and inside jokes.