Batman: The Brave and the Bold
After the great success of Batman: Arkham Asylum, it’s nice to see the caped crusader hasn’t gotten trapped in a single mold. WayForward has now been given the reins of the franchise in order to put together a romp based on the animated series. Though it’s not quite a masterpiece, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is another respectable showing from the Dark Knight.
Whereas Arkham Asylum was a grittier tale more in line with the graphic novels of Frank Miller, The Brave and the Bold seems to take most of its inspiration from the live-action television series of the ’60s. The dialogue and gameplay are full of campy attitude, making this portable Batman a light-hearted and enjoyable trip down memory lane.
The Brave and the Bold is played out through short episodes, each one featuring a new sidekick for The Bat. The level design is such that both Batman and whomever he happens to be teamed up with will make ample use of their respective super powers. Defeated enemies drop small bat chips, which you’ll use as currency to purchase upgrades and gadgets back at the Bat Cave. It’s a really tight package with gameplay that’s varied up nicely.
When it comes to the controls, the game is deceptively deep. Combat is kept simple, but you’ll be doing quite a bit more than merely mashing on the face buttons. Batman can grapple with the left shoulder button and block with the right; he’s got light and heavy attacks, can jump, and use of gadgets is mapped to the A button. The only time you’ll make use of the touch screen is to either switch out partners or slide your utility belt to select a different gadget. It’s a clean system that feels satisfying.
Make no mistake, there’s plenty of beat-’em-up action, but it’s counterbalanced wonderfully by clever platforming. There’s enough here to keep the fisticuffs interesting without bogging players down with extraneous combo configurations. The real joy, however, comes from the inspired combinations of super powers. For instance, you can have Green Arrow shoot a suction arrow to create a makeshift platform, and then have Batman grapple the rest of the way to his destination. Granted, some partnerships are more entertaining than others, but none of the levels feel like throwaways.
My gripes are few but notable, nonetheless. There’s no collision when engaging enemies, and when Batman and a baddie overlap one another onscreen, attacks usually whiff completely. Also, you have to completely stop and block before you can perform a dodge maneuver, rather than chaining the move as part of a combo. These are pretty minor complaints, however, considering how much WayForward gets right here. The animations are stellar, and even with these little annoyances, the game’s a joy to play.
The production values are also a major part of what makes The Brave and the Bold such a sweet ride. Some of the backgrounds are a tad bland, but the character designs are just plain excellent. The character and enemy models display a wonderful attention to detail, and the developers graciously share their hard work by leaving character capsules hidden in each level. The music and sound effects are equally integral to the experience, with crispy clinks and clacks that make collecting the game’s golden bat chips an undeniably addictive affair. There’s absolutely nothing serious about the game’s themes, but the music makes for a perfect fit alongside this quirky yet accessible adventure.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold misses a few beats, but the overall composition is wholly loveable. Unfortunately, it’s also obscenely short. Once it’s over, you’ll want more, and though the unlockable challenges add a little bit of life to the experience, they don’t quite make the ends meet. I recommend that any and all Batman fans check this one; just keep in mind that the value of the package doesn’t match up well with the asking price. The game’s bold and it’s brave, but it’s also too short.