Upon hearing of yet another LEGO Batman game it would be quite understandable for fans of the series to be expecting yet another gray-clad romp through the shadows of a dark, plastic brick city. Yet another trek where our bat-cowled superhero swings off to solve colorful and crooked conundrums, besting blocky baddies as he goes. But LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes its own name quite seriously, pushing the Dark Knight out of his comfort zone. Way out. As in outer space out.
Pow! Bam! What an Intergalactic Jam!
It all starts when a strange alien spacecraft, hovering outside Earth’s atmosphere, somehow summons various power-ring packing Lanterns from around the universe. Good and bad supers alike (ranging from the rage-fueled Red Lantern known as Atrocitus, to the love-focused Violet Lantern called Star Sapphire) are somehow mesmerized by the craft’s owner, the malevolent mastermind Brainiac.
In fact, Brainiac’s muddling mindblasts are so powerful that they even overcome the staunch willpower of Batman himself, who just so happens to spot the craft with his super-powerful Bat-telescope from the Batcave. After Robin helps Batman regain his temporarily short-circuited wits, it becomes clear that this new world-devouring threat—powered by the combined might of all those brightly lit Lanterns—will not only require a full-on effort from the Justice League, but probably some souped-up help from Earth’s villainous population as well. After all, when true evil threatens the universe, even plastic interconnecting block foes can fight together for a common cause.
To the Batrocket, Robin!
In spite of the extraterrestrial expansiveness of this superhero story—involving some 150 different characters as it jumps back and forth between the Batcave, the Earth-orbiting Justice League Watchtower, key cities around the globe, and the various Lanterns’ home worlds—there are still tons of familiar-feeling smash-everything-to-bits-and-build-something-new puzzles to solve. There are lots of obvious baddies to bop and reduce to their building-block basics. There are gazillions of colored studs to collect. And there’s even a welcome passel of wacky humor and tongue-in-cheek giggles to roll your eyes over. (An emotion-switching explosion, for instance, transforms the Joker into Batsy’s bubbly best friend and turns Flash into a greedy head case for a series of scene-stealing hijinks.)
There are special powered up suits for Batman and Robin and several other characters such as Cyborg and the Joker to find and use in their world-hopping travels. Batman’s Arctic suit can put out plastic LEGO fires and freeze up baddies, for instance, and Cyborg’s Stealth suit lets him turn into a washing machine with a gold-melting laser eye. (Boy, how often have you needed one of those?!)
A Tough-as-Nails Softy
At least this E10-rated game won’t melt your eyes or your ears. Thumping super battles result in nothing more severe or scary than flurries of movement, hard impacts and scattered blocks of plastic. Exclamations and interjections are no worse than they were on TV back in the Adam West-as-Batman heyday. (We hear “heck,” “darn” and “oh shoot.”)
And speaking of Adam West, Beyond Gotham playfully winks at the many incarnations of Batman’s tale over the years, giving us a fun mission that recreates a version of the campy 1960s TV show. Better yet, we play right along as throngs of block party heroes and villains all put aside their long-standing differences to save the universe. Even the stoic “I don’t need anyone” Caped Crusader himself has to admit that friendship—coming from a sidekick or a super pal—is a pretty precious gift to have when the bat-chips are down.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.