Bam! Boff! Kapow! Batman makes his triumphant return to the Vita in LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and he’s brought all of his DC super hero friends with him. I feel confident in saying, without hesitation mind you, that LEGO Batman 3 is the best LEGO Batman game since LEGO Batman 2. OK, so that’s a bit cheap, I know. I also feel very confident in saying that LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is probably the best LEGO game to date on the Vita. How’s that for a bold assertion?
It’s nice to see that TT Fusion has abandoned the formula that has been used in the last few LEGO games and have returned to the style of gameplay that made Batman 2 such a success. It returns to the same style that made the LEGO games popular in the first place, and it’s a complete breath of fresh air.
One of the most important changes is that the story is actually good. Well, good is subjective, so let’s just say it’s comprehensible. A full story is told throughout the game and you’re not just getting glimpses and snippets from a much larger story. After coming off LEGO games like Ninjago: Nindroids and LEGO Marvel (where if you did not know the story already, you were not going to figure it out in the game), having a fully fleshed out plot is definitely a win.
The game tells the story of Brainiac who has captured various members of the Lantern Corps in order to harness the power of their rings to shrink the Earth and add it to his collection. Batman, Robin, and the rest of the Justice League must team up once again in order to stop him and set the world right again.
There’s also a nice sub-plot about Robin’s over-use of emotions and how he’d be better off if he learned to suppress his feelings to be more like the stoic Batman. This whole theme of how emotions effect a hero’s behavior is woven really well throughout the story. It also creates a nice twist when the emotions of the different heroes get mixed up and suddenly the Joker is a caring and compassionate clown and Cyborg becomes the galaxy’s largest coward.
It’s also a bit of a misnomer to call this a “Batman” game. Yes, it has Batman and his Batcave, but you spend almost as much time playing as one of the many other characters. It could just as well been a Martian Manhunter game for as much time as you spend with that character, but it is a good blend of gameplay with all the DC heroes. It’s also nice that you get to play as the villains throughout much of the game as they have to team up with their adversaries to defeat Brainiac.
Like previous LEGO games, there is a hub world you can explore after you’ve completed all the main story missions. This is also where you can purchase more characters for free play and go back to replay the different missions again. Beyond Gotham actually features two separate and sizable hub worlds that you can switch between. Each provides a good number of collectibles to find and items to unlock.
The story missions each feature a number of objectives for you to complete as well with many collectibles to find. Gone is the timer from the previous LEGO games that made you speed run each level and things have returned to a game that pushes exploration and puzzle solving. The puzzles are never too complicated, but there are a number of items that are rather tricky to locate. And as is the case with all the LEGO games, you won’t be able to find everything on your first playthrough. You will need to return to each level and play as various characters in order to find everything. Fortunately the levels are short enough to not make this a chore and yet are long enough to provide a lot of fun.
And the humor is spot on. I laughed out loud a number of times with jokes that ranged from well timed puns to visual gags that were often hilarious (just picture Lex Luthor dressed as Wonder Woman and try not to laugh).
The controls are standard for a LEGO game and easy to master. You have the ability to jump, punch, and interact with objects. Triangle is once again used to switch control between your two onscreen characters while the shoulder buttons will bring in new heroes or switch your character’s power suit. A nice bonus this time around is that if you come across a puzzle which requires a specific character to solve, a prompt will appear with that character’s face and all you have to do is tap the Left Shoulder button to bring him onscreen. This saves a lot of time and is super handy.
Visually the game is very impressive and a step up from the last outing. The cut scenes have been noticeably improved and feature high resolution textures. The main game also features a very nice visual layout that isn’t drastically improved over previous LEGO games, but it does provide the perfect atmosphere for the game. For me, I was most impressed with the space combat levels which really put things over the top visually. Not only do things look good, but there is so much going on that it almost becomes overwhelming. Almost, but not quite.
As far as the sound goes, once again it just isn’t as good as it should be. The music, the voice acting, and the sound effects are all really well done, but the quality of the sound is often very poor. The audio often times sounds dulled and highly compressed. It’s not as noticeable if you’re just using the Vita’s speakers, but if you play the game with a pair of headphones, it immediately sticks out. Fortunately though it does little to ruin the fun, and having the classic scores from Danny Elfman and John Williams helps to really set the superhero tone of the game.
LEGO Batman 3 is not a long game if you’re just looking to play through the main story. The 45 different levels can be completed in just a few hours, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t go back to replay the levels in Free Play mode. The LEGO games have fun puzzles and some cute combat, but they are really games of hide and seek. Finding the collectibles in each level add a layer of replayability and a reason to return to the game. They also provide fun news ways to play, such as the 1966 Mode red brick which adds the “POW!” and “BOOF!” signs every time you get in a fight (accompanied with the familiar horn blast). It was by far my favorite way to play.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a standout hit for the series on the Vita and elevates the bar for LEGO games in the future. It’s not as grand in scale as the versions for more traditional consoles, but it is a perfect fit for the Vita. The story allows you to gallivant across the globe and galaxy as any one of dozens of different super heroes, and the large number of collectibles will have you hunting for hours. If you’re a fan of the LEGO games, you should not miss this one.