Gotham City is under assault. Batman's rogues gallery has escaped from Arkham Asylum and they're tearing up the town brick by brick. Only the caped crusader and his team of Gotham Knights stand against the dark tide of villainy and cuteness?
This is not your typical Batman title. Not surprisingly, the Dark Knight mentality is absent in the latest game featuring the popular crime-fighting detective. Instead, the game borrows more from the 1960s, Adam West sensibility.
Lego Batman plays much like its popular predecessors. Players control plastic-block versions of characters in a simple action-platform game. Teamwork is required as Batman and Robin or the Joker and Harley fight their ways through the title's many themed levels.
The formula failed a bit in the recent Indiana Jones outing because of a lack of truly colorful characters, but it feels right at home in the DC Comics universe.
Batman, Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl team up throughout the game, and each has special skills that must be used in concert to overcome the many puzzles. Playing through the game's basic story unlocks free play, and obsessive players who have to collect every last Lego piece will find hours and hours of replay fun.
Lego Batman also allows players to unlock and play through much of the game from the perspective of the bad guys. The Joker, the Riddler, Clayface, Bane -- much of the Batman freak parade is present and accounted for. But this is a family title at heart, so you'll find few of the maniacal activities you might expect from the bunch. Even something like Bane cracking Batman's spine and leaving him paralyzed -- which happened in the comics -- is glossed over with fun and humor here.
Fans of the Lego Star Wars games will find this one a bit more puzzle-oriented, and a little more difficult. But since there's really no death penalty and the game constantly encourages players to continue, there's no harm done.
The only real failing players may find with Lego Batman is that it's not too different from Lego's other video game titles. The formula established with Star Wars is applied here, and there's not a lot more to it. The setting is what sells this game, and the cooperative fun of teaming up in Gotham to punch thugs and collect Lego pieces cannot be understated.