E3 2008: Lego Batman
Richard Earl, the producer of Lego Batman, is confident that TT Games’ latest will be the best Lego game yet. Every developer at E3 always says how awesome their games will be, but Richard actually provides a legitimate reason: freedom. This Lego installment is just as linear as the others, so the freedom doesn’t lie with the gamer. Instead, the freedom is in the hands of the developers.
Unlike in Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars , the team is no longer restricted by the events of a movie. “This is the first time the source material hasn’t dictated what’s going to happen,” Richard said. “A lot of the people…reviewing Lego Indy thought the game was good but the source material was limited.” With Lego Batman, TT Games have taken familiar characters and created their own world. Each stage has been made to their liking without having to worry about corresponding it to a movie.
Lego Batman isn’t based on any of the movies, although the rousing Danny Elfman score from the first two Batman films is used throughout the game. Instead, inspiration was taken from the comics. The storyline involves all the villains from Arkham Asylum busting out and causing all sorts of mischief around Gotham. Batman and Robin (and an unlockable Nightwing) are tasked with cleaning up the city. The game can be played co-operatively or all by your lonesome while switching between the characters.
The first stage that Richard displayed was a seedy Gotham back alley. Nameless thugs would try to take out Batman and Robin, but Richard held them off with Batman’s fighting prowess. The combat system looked revamped compared to the previous games. Batman could punch and kick in a flurry of combos, or he could lift up his enemy and watch them plead for their life. At this point Batman could throw them off a ledge or simply punch and kick them some more. The two could also change suits to conquer new obstacles. In the stage we saw Batman had a gliding suit while Robin had a magnetized suit that allowed him to climb upside down on objects (like Link in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
There are 15 stages with the Masked Avenger and Boy Wonder, and another 15 where notorious villains are controlled. One of these stages had The Joker and Harley Quinn dispatching cops in an abandoned fun house. While Batman has his Batarang, Joker has an electric hand shocker and a gun. Instead of walking, The Joker moves in a mischievous sneak that sums up his character perfectly. Another stage had Mr. Freeze and The Riddler teaming up inside an ice-cream factory. Some puzzles had to be solved by The Riddler using mind control. With the poor police officers under control, they can be manipulated to press a switch to advance the villains the next area. The victim moved around like some drunkard after a Saturday night bender. It was all very amusing.
Richard Earl stressed how helpful DC had been with their flagship character, but “some friendly back and forth” between the comic publishers and the game developers occurred. In one scene, DC took exception to the fact that Bruce Wayne was carrying a suit case. Their reasoning was that Bruce Wayne is so rich that he would have somebody else carry his belongings. In the end, TT Games won the minor disagreement.
In the demonstration, the core gameplay of the Lego series remains unchanged. There are lots of destructible objects and collectible items, but the main game can be played through fairly quickly if these are ignored. Richard Earl admitted to not being a particularly hardcore gamer. What he likes about the Lego series is that even one of his old roommates, who he said was a totally inept gamer, was still able to play co-op on the Lego games. Lego Batman won’t diverge from this successful forumla. The version we saw was for the Xbox 360. Look for it on that system in addition to the PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PC, PSP and DS in early September.