The combination of the combat and the puzzles should get monotonous yet it doesn’t, partly because both aspects of the gameplay are so well refined by now, and partly because these are the best, most dynamically paced levels we’ve seen in any TT Lego game; more varied than those in Lego Star Wars, but not as sprawling and repetitive as some of those in Lego Indiana Jones. Lego Batman is so good that even the boss battles are enjoyable – and I’m a man who regularly moans about such things. More amazingly, while the vehicle based levels that dragged Lego Star Wars down a bit are back, they’re actually short and sweet this time around.
And just when you complete your first chapter, thinking it can’t get much better, another treat arrives. In Lego Batman the Batcave stands in for The Cantina in Lego Star Wars or the college in Lego Indiana Jones, acting as a mission hub and an area in which to buy new characters or upgrades with the Lego pieces you’ve collected. Finish a storyline, however, and a new option appears: to switch to Arkham Asylum. In doing so you can play through another set of missions, running parallel to the Batman and Robin missions in the chapter you’ve just completed. Here you play as the villains, and I think this could be the key to the game’s long term popularity. Each villain, whether Clayface, The Joker, Mr Freeze or Catwoman, has his or her own tricks to complement Batman and Robins’ suits. Strong characters can lift or pull heavy objects, Mr Freeze can freeze hostile guards or areas of liquid, and The Riddler can use mind control on hapless saps and get them to do his dirty work.
Each mission, therefore, gives you a slightly different variation on the established gameplay formula, and while elements of the level will be familiar from the Batman and Robin missions, each still feels different enough for you not to mind. Completing these villain missions also unlocks that character for other missions in Freeplay mode and as Lego Batman – as with all TT Lego games – is chock full of hidden sections, Lego pieces to collect and concealed Lego parts to find, there’s a certain appeal to returning to already completed missions with a new character just because you’re sure there’s something you missed last time that you can unlock this time around.