Games Review: Lego Batman 3 – Beyond Gotham (Xbox One, 2014)

The Lego series’ core gameplay loop is extremely familiar by now. You jump from character to character and smash your way through a series of levels, punching baddies and solving rather basic puzzles in order to proceed. Obsessive collecting of lego studs is rewarded with unlockable characters, vehicles and even stages. This loop has seen developer TT Games’ Lego series retain it’s enduring popularity and it is fully present and accounted for in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.

DC supervillain Braniac has come to Earth, fresh from a successful planet shrinking spree, and he’s looking to add our little blue marble to his rapidly-growing collection. The Justice League aren’t about to let him take it without a fight and and team up with their long-time nemeses, the Legion of Doom. To add to the chaos of Brainiac’s assault, he has taken control of all of the various Lantern Corps, bending Green Lantern Hal Jordan among other Lantern big guns like Atrocitus, Star Sapphire, Sinestro and Larfleeze, to his will. The adventure will take the Justice League from the Batcave to the Hall of Justice and beyond to locations as far flung, and beautifully crafted as Green Lantern homeworld Oa.

The story is strikingly similar to the events of (and features) The Bottle City of Kandor from Action Comics #242 way back in 1958 but on rather a grander scale. This cribbing from DC mythology is absolutely in keeping with the reverent tone TT Games have struck here. The developer clearly has a lot of love for the DC Comics universe because everything to do with it is lovingly rendered from the Batman ‘66-inspired level that provides a 1:1 recreation of the show’s sets to little things like in-jokes during cutscenes and the 1975 Wonder Woman TV show theme playing whenever you fly around as Diana. Rarely has there been a treasure trove of comic book history as adoring and comprehensive as this. TT Games are to be commended for their laser-focused attention to detail.

This latest outing in the series does away with the more open-world design seen in other Lego Games like Lego Batman 2 and Lego Marvel Superheroes, but seeks to offset this (in a sense) by granting player characters more abilities than they’ve ever had before. You access all your new moves through a radial Gadget Wheel by holding Y (or Triangle, if you’re on a PlayStation). What this opens up for the developer is the ability to ratchet up the difficulty of their puzzles somewhat. I mean, we’re still not talking the Piano Puzzle from Silent Hill hard but they’re a cut above what you can usually expect from most Lego titles. Pursuant to that, it’s also allowed TT Games to shake up their approach to level design for the better as well.

It’s not a completely glowing, perfect experience however. Some technical niggles still pervade the series and it feels like some of these problems should have been ironed out a long time ago. The save points in Lego Batman 3 feel like they’re further apart than they have been in previous games – is that just me? It means you have to commit to a pretty lengthy play session to get through some levels or you’ll have to do them all over again when you come back.

Also, it’s not always especially clear where you have to go to progress when you’re dropped back into the hub world. Maybe that’s just me not paying enough to attention during the dopey cutscenes but almost every time I completed a level, I was at a loss for where to go next. There’s still a few bugs that persevere and some are worsened by the save situation, while others are more minor annoyances. There seems to be a greater degree of clipping problems here than in previous entries – I’d often miss studs freed from objects in the environment because my character would get stuck on debris and gumby out until it disappeared. In the worst instance, there was one point where I failed a quick time event and it restarted the entire level. I lost an hour of play. Uncool, you guys.

There is still an awful lot to like about Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, especially if you’re a DC Comics fan. The same charm and wit are back in full measure, the drop-in, drop-out couch co-op returns in fine form and remains one of the series’ biggest highlights. There is an astounding amount of stuff to unlock for the rabid completionist as well, which will reward the dedicated with easily another 20 to 30 hours of gameplay. Kids will love this to death, and adults are going to have a pretty good time with it too.

Review Score: 7.0 out of 10

Highlights: Reverent monument to DC Comics, old school flavoured multiplayer
Lowlights: Some minor but annoying bugs mar the experience
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive
Released: November 26, 2014
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita, iOS

Reviewed on Xbox One

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David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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