There is a season for all things, so they say. A season to plant, a season to reap; a season for growth and a season for recession. Judging from Hollywood’s latest antics there’s also a season for the true comic book adaptation and the kind-of re-imagining of some classic heroes.
Sin City, 300 and, of course, Batman. There’s also Superman Returns, but I think we’re all of the opinion that that film was generally a bit pants after the bit on the aeroplane.
With Batman currently right in the thick of his grungy, Miller-based makeover it would be a great time for Warner Bros. to release a new Batman game, right? Something like a cross between Splinter Cell and Burnout?
This isn’t that though, obviously. This is another one of those Lego games from Traveller’s Tales. It doesn’t even share the same plot as the Dark Knight films, or a close bastardisation of them. That’s probably a good thing. Heath Ledger’s fantastic performance would have lost some of its tragic, poignant edge if Warner Bros. had tried to equalise it with a virtual block of plastic.
The story of Lego Batman then is something wholly new, though not wholly original. In fact, it’s pretty much the same plot as all the comics fans will have seen before.
So, yes, the Joker has organised another prison break from Arkham Asylum and all of Batman’s most evil, demented and blocky enemies are back out and on the streets – ready to do some Bad Things.
One thing that’s immediately obvious though, other than the fact that Arkham Asylum really needs to renovate its security set-up and maybe move out of that old Gothic Castle in favour of something more secure and less Rocky Horror-alike, is that DC’s Rogues Gallery is actually quite weak. The Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy and Catwoman – these are villains we know, love and respect.
Hell, even Mr Freeze has managed to survive the appalling Arnie-portrayal and become a decent villain in the comic books.
The rest of the baddies in the line-up though are less imaginative and more hopelessly, insultingly gimmicked. Foes like Clayface just don’t feel enjoyable or rewarding to defeat thanks to their boring design. The Mad Hatter for example has no super-powers, just a Lewis Carroll-inspired wardrobe and a penchant for failed bank robberies. In the comics he might be able to survive thanks to good writing, but as a mute character he feels like unenjoyable filler that won’t be recognised by most gamers.
Not all of this is the game's fault of course – these baddies are DC's, not theirs. Then again, Traveller’s Tales didn’t have to use all of them in the game. There are plenty of decent arch-nemeses to foil, so why the crowd has to be diluted like this is beyond us.
Gripes aside, the game sees both the evil and plain annoying wings of the Batman baddies dividing themselves up into three groups and trying to go about their evil ways. The Riddler, Penguin and Joker lead each of the teams on their various bank heists and rogueries and it’s up to Batman and Robin to restore safety and order to the city of Gotham.