As far as the Lego Batman games go, it’s difficult to call Batman the star of the show anymore. Gradually, his compatriots have taken over to provide comic relief and an “epic” feeling to the franchise that work well, but also tend to rob the games of the feeling that they’re actually centered around Batman and his universe — that is to say, Gotham and the baddies and crazies within. Just the very name of Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham gives away the fact that this is no longer the case, but it’s a bit of a bittersweet departure, especially as developer Traveller’s Tales opts to put the spotlight on other members of the DC comic book universe. So while it’s still an excellent Lego title at its core, it’s most certainly not the adventure that follows Batman that most players will be expecting.
In fact, you hang out with Batman and his Boy Wonder Robin for all of about a half an hour before the story spirals into something much bigger, one that involves the Justice League, the Lantern Corps, and a smattering of villains who have decided to temporarily offer a helping hand to Batman and his ilk for varying reasons to combat a common threat: Brainiac. While it’s not a particularly fresh-baked plot to follow, it still provides an enjoyable playground in which to romp around with Batman’s super-powered brethren.
And they are, in fact, what make the game so enjoyable at times, with interesting dialogue exchanges and great comedic timing that works extremely well. Funnily enough, TV’s Conan O’Brien is your guide via several segments of the game, including the Watchtower, where you’re assigned missions in the large hub world area. Kevin Smith and Adam West also make appearances, which is a welcome sight given their inclusion in the world of Batman. They do get some interesting dialogue and cameos as well, with some pretty fun missions to come of it.
While Lego Batman 2 had an open world, Lego Batman 3 takes the hub world approach, where you’re given several different areas to explore in order to advance the story. There are plenty of recognizable places to explore as well, like the Hall of Justice (meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice!) that fans will immediately recognize, though many of them are rife with puzzles and frustrating obstacles that you’ll need to contend with if you want to make any progress. Fortunately, they’re never that serious of a hindrance, especially given the fact that in many instances you can absolutely tell that this game was made with children in mind. That means that a good portion of the puzzles themselves are generally quite easy to solve, so you won’t have to worry about being stuck that often.
As far as the game itself goes, you’re still running around completing miniature objectives while collecting droves of Lego pieces and other collectibles while checking out plenty of awesome DC Universe setpieces. There’s a lot to do, but it doesn’t truly innovate when compared to the rest of the entries in the series. For instance, there are still pretty frustrating mechanics in the game that are in dire need of revamping, such as some pretty repetitive combat, slower loading times, and the overall feeling that the game could be offering much more, but it just isn’t.
On the flip side, there’s a staggering amount of characters to choose from and unlock, hilarious moments that longtime fans and newcomers can appreciate equally, and a wealth of special areas that comic fans will simply eat up and delight in being able to explore. For both the console and handheld versions, there’s so much to see that raises the replayability factor up exponentially, and that’s absolutely something to be proud of. While obviously the handheld version is going to be devoid of some of the content its big brother sports, it’s still a competent and engaging release that’s worthy of being added to your library, even if you decide to go with the next-gen versions.
But, let’s face it. Regardless of platform, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a solid, if recycled game, with plenty of additional content to keep things interesting, even if it’s not exactly fresh in the conventional sense of the word. There’s nothing wrong with going beyond Gotham, but the franchise could learn a thing or two about going above and beyond previously established convention if the Lego games are ever to change and evolve into something even better.