I’m not sure how to feel about LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. In many ways it manages to capture the charm and accessibility of Traveller’s Tales’ acclaimed LEGO games, and at its core on that level this is still a very good game. But the experience often felt restricted in scope, lacking that liberating open-world drive that made its predecessor so great. Still, at its best it allows you play through a wonderful ensemble of DC characters, and there’s also a stack of content value here.
Following on from LEGO Batman 2, Braniac is up to no good, and Batman and the Justice League team up with the Legion of Doom to take him down. There’s a rambling plot here, lost in the mindless fun of the LEGO game experience. It’s a backwards step from the structured plot of the previous game, although I’m not sure that matters here: it has the turbulent action and pacing of both Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel, and even with a conflicting narrative that often lacks coherence, I still had a blast playing this game. I’m not sure that DC diehards will feel the same way, but is anyone really playing LEGO games for the plot? There’s enough love here for the source material to let this one slide, even if it doesn’t really add much to the universe.
As with all games in TT’s LEGO series, LEGO Batman 3 is stacked with content. I love that the Free Play feature lets you drop into missions at specific checkpoints, which makes searching for the many collectibles and secrets in the game that little bit easier. This helps to limit repetition when you return to missions to find stuff, and alongside the many different playable characters, there’s a nice structure here that keeps the content and broader experience feeling fresh. Most checkpoints throw in two different characters, so you’ll shift between the lineup pretty quickly, which helps mix the experience up a bit. You’ll get to experience the best of what DC has to offer over only a handful of missions, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way: it’ll be hard to go back to a LEGO game that doesn’t change up the characters you’re in control of as frequently.
Another way the game manages to change things up is by giving certain characters the ability to change their suit on the fly (once unlocked) without having to find a specific station to change the wardrobe. In this case it eliminates a lot of the tedious back peddling whenever you’d want to change a character’s suit in previous games. Robin, Batman, Joker, Lex and Cyborg all have access to these suits, which can access different abilities via the Gadget Wheel. I certainly feel that with the animations and abilities of each character there’s a passion for the source material here, but we probably shouldn’t expect any less from the franchise. There’s the stock standard mockery of the material, sure, but this is really a love letter to DC, even if it’s probably the weakest story of the three LEGO Batman games. Maybe it’s fallen victim to the Plague of the Threequel: Daffy Duck as “Green Loontern” felt to me like the series’ “jumping the shark” moment.
My biggest gripe with the experience proper is the world design. There’s something about it that makes it feel tight, even for a LEGO game. I’m not expecting an expansive open-world metropolis here, but I felt like I was just going back and forth between two locations for the most of the time. I never really got the urge to go out and explore like I did in previous entries, which is a shame. I feel that there’s more side content here than previously which almost makes up for the lacking world, and visiting the Hall of Doom was very cool, as was visiting some of the Lantern planets (and having to following an annoying and lisping Daffy Duck along the way).
The Final Verdict
You really couldn’t ask much more of a LEGO game. There’s so much content here, a great DC lineup, and plenty of action to keep you entertained for around 10 hours. The open-world lacks the liberating feel of past games, and the story was too scattered to really care about, but I still had a lot of fun playing this. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it keeps it moving along the road at a steady pace. Fans of the series and LEGO games in general will certainly enjoy this.