Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is the latest in TT Games' iterative series of Lego games focusing on various media properties. Batman leads the Justice League against the machinations of Lex Luthor, the Joker, and other DC villains, only for the game to go galaxy-spanning with the entry of Superman villain Brainiac.
At its core, Lego Batman 3 is simply another game in the long Lego lineup. One or two players tromp across various locales in a basic beat-em-up, smashing objects, defeating foes, collecting Lego bits, building objects, and solving puzzles. Combat doesn't require too much from players and dying doesn't have many major penalties, making this a great game for parents to playing with younger kids.
Every puzzle requires the use of a specific character, as each character plays host to a number of different abilities. You may need Superman's flight or Flash's speed to surpass obstacles. Specific to the Lego Batman series is the increased focus on the costume system, with certain characters having various costumes to impart specific abilities. Characters like Batman, Cyborg, or Lex Luthor can switch between costumes on the fly, allowing them to pull objects in with the Magnet Suit or light up the darkness with the Illumination Suit.
The problem is the costume system adds complexity to the basic idea of using heroes' powers to move forward. There's a lack of clarity compared to previous Lego games like Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Lego The Movie, or Lego The Hobbit; puzzling out whether something is a job for the Sonar or Magnet Suit is harder than it should be, since they share the same light blue location markers. Lego Batman 3 is certainly not difficult, but there's more moments of "What am I supposed to be doing?" in the title than TT Games' previous work. Add in fuzzy button prompts and buttons doing double duty and it can get annoying at times.
Like its direct predecessor, Lego Batman 3 isn't really a "Batman" game. It's the third in the Lego Batman series, but the name sells the game short. It's a Lego Justice League game that pushes Batman to the forefront at times before the entire thing shifts its focus to the Green Lantern mythos and the various colored Lantern Corps. The game's attempts in the latter half to center around Batman seems forced. It causes Lego Batman 3 to come across as a bit disjointed in its shifting focus, but most of the target age group probably won't care.
Like Lego Marvel, it heads to different areas of the DC Universe, but its hub world is a mix of different areas instead of one grand area. You can explore the Batcave, the Hall of Justice, the Hall of Doom, the Watchtower, and the various Lantern worlds. Every area looks great and TT Games' level designerss did some great work in the Lantern worlds, but together they feel smaller than Lego Batman 2's Gotham, Lego Marvel's New York, or Lego The Hobbit's Middle-Earth. Many players will have less of an emotional connection to the Lantern worlds than than say Metropolis or Starling City, making them a decent story or design choice, but not necessarily a popular fan choice. (That's before getting into tiny Lego Paris.)
There's also the question of the content that went into the game and the inconsistent tone that it causes. If you're a hardcore DC Comics fan, you may feel jarred by this specific mix. It's not pulled from any one take on the DC Universe, instead drawing on various continuities.
Batman leans toward a more serious take on the character, but Robin is a joke character who seemingly isn't Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, or Damien Wayne. The music draws heavily on Batman themes used in the Tim Burton films and Batman: The Animated Series. Superman and Wonder Woman are their New 52 version in costumes and relationship status, but activating certain abilities bring up the musical themes from the Richard Donner films and 70's television show respectively. Martian Manhunter is on the Justice League in his pre-New 52 look and temperament, but so is Cyborg, who took his Justice League spot in the New 52. Lex Luthor is voiced by Clancy Brown, who played in the character in Superman: The Animated Series, but none of the other characters share their DCAU voice actors. Green Arrow is voiced by Arrow's Stephen Amell. The lead members of colored Lantern Corps are here, but again pulled from various points in DC history instead of reflecting one point in continuity.
Batman seems needlessly dour, but Cyborg and Flash are a great comedic duo. Robin falls flat, while some of the Lantern Corps leaders are spot-on. The humor, seriousness, and reverence are just all over the board here and it doesn't come together as well as Lego Marvel's lighter tone.
There's still a lot of love, with characters like Detective Chimp, Composite Superman, Ambush Bug, Bat-Mite, Ace the Bat-Hound, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, Dex-Starr (yay, Ragecat!), Kid Flash, and Vibe filling out the playable character roster. Sadly, a number of various costumes from the DC Universe, Azrael Batman for example, are DLC-only. This was one of my favorite parts of Lego Marvel, so having it shuffled aside here was disappointing. Lego Batman 3 a weird mix of everything DC Universe... and then they went farther.
There's a number of extra cameos, the biggest of which is talk show host Conan O'Brien who inhabits a number of areas in the free play roaming sections of the game. I was fine with this early on, but if you work on collecting all of the 150 characters, you'll have to tromp through these areas multiple times and O'Brien's jokes never change. It gets grating. There's also Adam West (taking over the "save me" role Stan Lee had in Lego Marvel), Kevin Smith, Daffy Duck (as Green Loontern), and DC executives Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. I could've done with a few less Warner Bros' cameos and a bit more DC Universe.
All told, Lego Batman 3 isn't bad, it just doesn't come together all that well. You'll still get that family-friendly Lego gameplay, a 10-15 hour story campaign, and a ton of characters/items to collect before you can say you truly finished the game. There's a lot to do and some of the characters are endearing, but Lego Batman 3 ultimately feels like a few different games crammed into one package (the Resogun-style shooting sequences don't help this feeling). It's worth a purchase if you need your Lego DC fix, but you're better off picking up Lego Marvel Super Heroes if you missed that title. That was great, this is just good.
Lego Batman 3 is one of the better looking Lego games, and the set pieces get rather grand at times.
You'll be treated to a host of musical themes from Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman's past.
The interface does its job.
There's still a ton to explore and collect. You'll be playing for a while if you want to find everything.
Lego Batman 3, like other Lego games before, explores a wealth of characters and locales from the universe it focuses on. Unfortunately, it doesn't come together as well as it could have. The tone is inconsistent, certain levels won't hit fans emotionally, and the inclusion of celebrity cameo characters detracts for the experience at times. It's good, not great.