Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Batman: The Brave and the Bold on Nintendo Wii and DS is a throwback to the retro days of less twisted and demented villains with deadpan humor remeniscent of Adam West!
In older days, Batman wasn't always the grim and brooding vigilante that most of us have become familiar with. Unlike the violent and occasionally demented protagonist that we've seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum -- and by greater extension, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight -- The Brave and the Bold is a deliberate throwback to the retro days of the Caped Crusader. Instead of cracking skulls, this version of Batman is more apt to crack jokes with the same wit and deadpan delivery that made Adam West famous in the franchise's 1970s TV show.
- Flashy combat, extremely forgiving gameplay, excellent voice acting and music, each level feels like an episode of the actual show
- Extremely repetitive action gets old very quickly, not much variety in combat system, game is very short, brain-numbingly simple, lacks consistent challenge
An entertaining if simplistic side-scrolling beat-em-up, Batman: The Brave and the Bold expertly captures the campy tone of the animated series, but suffers from a lack of variety and a surprisingly short play life.
As a video game, Brave and the Bold does a lot of things incredibly well. Each level is presented exactly like an episode of the cartoon show of the same name, with animated cut-scenes and mid-mission dialogue sequences fleshing out the narrative. As such, there's a fairly extensive cast of characters here, from the familiar Robin and Catwoman to lesser known heroes and villains like Guy Gardner and Clock King. Another element that makes Brave and the Bold even more entertaining is the vocal work behind the game that carries all the quality of the TV series. Several actors from the show lend their talents to the game, and while the campy writing comes with copious amounts of dramatic cheese, it's incredibly faithful to the source material.
However, even if you're an older gamer who likes the show, there's no bones about the fact that Batman: The Brave and the Bold is definitely meant for kids. From start to finish the gameplay is an above-average beat-em-up adventure, with a new character tagging alongside Batman in each area. Motion controls are thrown into a simple combat system, with straightforward wags of the Wii Remote used to deliver power punches and charge special attacks. Still, whether you're playing as Robin, Blue Beetle, Hawkman, or Guy Gardner, you'll get by just fine as long as you keep hitting the "A" button over and over. If you're looking to jazz things up, you can upgrade your heroes' weaponry (batarangs, laser swords, etc.) with the in-game currency, each of which requires a unique application of the Wii's control scheme -- but the novelty of each new gadget wears off fairly quick.
Batman: The Brave and Bold is heavily structured with co-op gameplay in mind, and if you're playing solo, the game's A.I. will control your other character. Since there's little penalty for dying -- you'll either lose money or simply respawn -- frustration at an incompetent partner (A.I. or human) never really comes into play. At the end of each area, you'll actually be scored on how well you fought through the level, so there's good potential for some healthy competition. When playing alone, though, the game's not nearly as fun, but your A.I. partner still does a decent job of pulling their own weight.
Amusingly enough, even the game itself seems aware of the repetition at work here: a notable exchange between the Blue Beetle and Batman very obviously references how each area in an early level is essentially a gauntlet of bad guys leading up to a puzzle or boss battle. As true as it may be, the overall presentation keeps things mildly interesting -- the jazzy music and constantly changing scenery provides plenty of decent atmosphere, and I personally just ploughed through each level for the cut-scenes. Sure, it's fun in small doses, but I really could've done with some kind of a deeper challenge. If you're looking for a top-notch punch-a-thon, you'll probably find better offerings from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shank, or Castle Crashers.
Speaking of which, that leads into the only other problem I have with Batman: The Brave and the Bold -- it just doesn't feel like a full game. True, it's budget priced at 40 dollars, but you can finish this game inside an afternoon, and there's not much replay value to be had, aside from replaying levels with unlocked weapons and "jump-in" assist allies like Plastic Man, Green Lantern, and Black Canary. Personally, I wouldn't think twice about buying this game if it was released as a DLC title with shorter levels and better pacing.
Although it's by no means the deepest gaming experience you'll have on the Wii, The Brave and the Bold is still worth checking out, even if it's just a rental. While it could've done with some more technical polish and gameplay variety, the overall presentation is still a good effort from WayForward Technologies. Moreover, it's a family friendly take on the Dark Knight that's perfect for parents sensible enough to shield their children from the decidedly more mature Arkham Asylum iteration.
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