Why so tedious?
Published in The Student, University of Edinburgh’s oldest student newspaper
Lego Batman is the latest in a series of movie-based Lego platform games following in the footsteps of Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones. The comedic parodies of iconic scenes and simple, innocent fun have charmed me from the beginning, making me giggle like a nerdy man-child regardless of the recommended age. However, this just isn’t the case with the stony-faced Batman.
The Lego formula remains unchanged once again: take two characters through Lego-themed levels, clobbering enemies, solving simple puzzles, smashing up the environment and earning hundreds of thousands of Lego studs while laughing all the way. Though retaining its predecessors’ faults, this new game suffers from an extra set of problems. Since the only change is the inclusion of Batman, the reason is painfully obvious to me.
Batman is dull. He always has been and always will be. Due to numerous rebirths over the decades, there is neither a definitive Batman nor definitive iconic scenes to parody. Lego Batman continues this trend for reinvention with a series of six original stories sort-of-but-not-really inspired by the Joel Schumacher movies. The lacklustre plots reduce the scenes to pure visual gags alone, in which Batman is always the straight man (expect Robin to fall over a lot). It may not sound like a problem, but the charm and wit of the previous Lego games provided much needed relief and incentive to keep playing, ultimately saving the games from their own glaring flaws.
Mr Unclear Objective and Miss Unreliable Controls make their annual visit bringing with them the usual frustrations as you fall, drown and combust navigating through the predominantly grey-brown levels. Not that dying comes with any real punishment. After a terminal discharge of studs, you will promptly be regenerated back into the same quantum state of confusion. This does mean that you can hurl yourself off the side of a cliff in the vain hope that you will respawn slightly further ahead, but that probably is not how the designers hoped you would play.
Once these irritations have been overcome however, Lego Batman provides a kind of therapeutic treatment like a gaming aromatherapy session. Played lying down with some music in the background, you are not going to be mentally challenged or physically exerted by daft Wii gestures; a gentle point of the Wii Remote targets enemies with the Batarang, and that’s pretty much it. Somehow the millions of lambent Lego studs and their promise of new characters and unlockables make most of the inherent problems melt away. It’s simple, dumb fun.
After playing through each story as Batman, the option to play from the other side as the villains can and should be taken. The roster of evildoers and their special abilities is extensive. Whether wielding The Joker’s exploding handshake or The Riddler’s mind control cane, it’s entirely more interesting and exciting to play the bad guy rather than The Batdork.
Lego Batman is not devoid of charisma, just outclassed by its older and funnier siblings. Of course, the usual Lego rules apply and it is far more enjoyable to play with a friend than an atrocious computer-controlled sidekick. Now, do you want to know how I got these scars?