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PSP  header logo

LEGO Batman: The videogame

For: PSP   Also on: DS, iPhone

Holy missing features, Batman!

Product: Lego Batman: The Videogame | Developer: TT Fusion | Publisher: Warner Bros. | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Lego Batman: The Videogame PSP, thumbnail 1
If you'll notice - there's a big fat '1' sitting up there in the number of players field. Anyone who's ever played a Lego game before will realise the full awful consequence of this information and what it's going to mean for this latest portable outing. If you've not played one before, and don't know the catch, then this review is going to be a bit like watching Titanic on the assumption it has a happy ending.

But first the good news: Lego games are, generally speaking, the best things in the universe. A game of a toy of a film may sound like a one way express elevator to marketing hell but somehow, against the odds (including the fact that usually developer Traveller's Tales aren't that good) they're exactly the opposite. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones games show such an endearingly obvious love for both the movies and Lego itself that it's almost impossible not to enjoy them.

In fact they're so good that they immediately shame every other kids' title ever made and prove that games aimed primarily at children should be the most inclusive, not the least. Creating a game around Batman, though, is a slightly different proposition as this is based on no specific film or even medium, with the music from Tim Burton's films, lots of visual steals from the '90s cartoon and the glorious silliness of the '60s TV show. (Oddly the two Chris Nolan films are barely hinted at.)

As usual the game is split into three separate chapters, each featuring a different supergroup of villains. You start off controlling the dynamic duo in what is essentially the same old fixed-perspective action platformer. You can now grab and throw bad guys but the best new trick is using batarangs - a hugely satisfying attack which involves moving a cursor around and locking onto multiple targets.

In the Story mode you only ever play as Batman and Robin, but variety is maintained via a series of interchangeable suits. This confers various extras such as magnetic boots, a glass-shattering sonic weapon and heat resistance. It does the job well, but the fun of constantly changing characters is primarily achieved via a separate set of three chapters as the villains.

Although they follow the same story as the hero chapters the villain levels are almost entirely different. The characters all have widely varying abilities, from super-strength and mind control to Mr Freeze's freeze gun. Oddly Batman never turns up in the villain levels, despite them providing excellent end-of-level bosses for him. The only time the two sets of characters really intermix is in the traditional Free Play levels where you can morph into different characters at will.

Even the most ardent Lego fans will be happy to admit the games have some blindingly obvious faults. They're filled with minor bugs and glitches, the fixed camera makes many jumps overly difficult and the vehicle sections aren't much fun (although they are better here than usual). None of this makes any real difference, though, because the basic gameplay is so effortlessly entertaining.

All of the above runs true for the home console versions as well as for the PSP, for this is an exact copy of the PS2 edition. Or at least as exact as the PSP can manage - the graphics seem to be constantly obscured by a strange gauze-like filter and the frame-rate is often laboriously slow. The main problem, though, is that your character or vehicle is often reduced to a tiny mess of pixels onscreen as the camera zooms out far too far for comfort. This is a problem even on a giant HDTV, but near disastrous on the PSP's portable screen.

To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park (which would make for a great Lego game!) Warner Bros. was so preoccupied with whether or not it could [knock out a quick Xerox of the PS2 game without bothering to make a proper one to suit the PSP] that it didn't stop to think if it should.

Or to put it another way, there's no co-op mode. Read any review of a Lego game on one of the home consoles and you'll see they all come with a little caveat that warns you that its claim to be the greatest invention in western civilisation is only true as long as you're playing it with a friend.

Thanks to the iffy AI, playing it alone is like going to a restaurant for a romantic dinner for two and finding out your dining companion has been replaced by one of those talking dogs that can only say the word "sausages". Given the limitations of the platform, we can't blame the PSP version for not including co-op multiplayer, but it's disappointing that Travellers' Tales hasn't provided something else to compensate for the loss.

The series' irreverent sense of humour ensures there's some fun to be had and smashing objects to collect the endless array of Lego studs is as addictive as it's ever been. But the co-operative mode has always been the raison d'être of the whole series. It was the game anyone, of any age or ability, could play together. On the PSP it's just an above-average pseudo movie tie-in.
 
LEGO Batman: The videogame
Reviewer photo
Roger Hargreaves | 14 October 2008
A clone of the PS2 version down to the last detail – except the one that actually matters
 
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