LEGO Batman: the best Batman game yet?

LEGO Batman: The Videogame

Rock out with your blocks out

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The gameplay structure of LEGO Star Wars has been overhauled for Batman as well. The best element of the LEGO games is the opportunity to play as a wide variety of characters. But Traveler's Tales is, of course, beset with just two heroes -- Batman and Robin. They've tackled this problem in two ways. First, our heroes play up their James Bond side with a wide variety of costume upgrades that grant special abilities. Batman's demo suit, for example, includes explosive charges that can destroy certain obstacles, while his glider suit facilitates travel across long distances. Robin's tech suit allows him to access computer terminals, and his magnet boots let you clomp your way up and over metal obstacles. Not bad, not bad. But it gets better.

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Classic villains include The Riddler, The Penguin, and of course, The Joker. Backing them up are some 20 lesser villains, including Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, and Harley Quinn.

"Robin's vacuum suit is one of the coolest upgrades in the game," says Doyle. "It can suck up LEGOs in the environment... then you reach a station where you can unload all of the bricks and build a new object, like a door or a platform. You don't know what it's going to be until you get there." You'll access these new costumes at certain quick-change stations in each level. Plus, as in LEGO Star Wars, you can replay already completed levels with the new suits in order to access hidden locations. Far more exciting than the costume changes, however, is that LEGO Batman will allow you to play through the story from both sides of the law: Between each of the 36 levels, the storyline alternates from the perspective of Batman and Robin to their nemeses. There will even be separate "hub" areas: the heroes will operate out of the Batcave, while the villains will launch their do-baddery from the sinister Arkham Asylum.

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Although story details are shielded under a heavy shroud of secrecy, we do know that Joker launches a plot to kidnap Commissioner Gordon and sets a trap for Batman and the Boy Wonder in an abandoned amusement park. These scenes seamlessly mix logic puzzles with dexterity challenges, such as leaping across the tracks of a decaying rollercoaster. Once the action switches over to the dark side, you'll control The Joker and Harley Quinn as they dodge the police en route to a major showdown with the fuzz-a boss battle where you must use a crane to drop explosive teddy bears on the pigs' paddywagons. Another, more acrobatic battle is set across the dark rooftops of Gotham. In it, Batman clashes with Catwoman after she swipes a sparkling LEGO diamond. In a charming cutscene, Catwoman distracts Batman with a kiss (to the utter disgust of youngster Robin), only to lose the diamond over the edge of the roof. But who swoops in to snatch it up? None other than the Penguin, who makes off with the goods on the draft of his flying umbrella. This scene seemed to be heavily inspired by Batman Returns, right down to the set design and lighting. Rumor has it that the Riddler's caper involves a daring break-in at Fort Blox, the LEGO equivalent of Fort Knox. Sounds like a job for Batman!

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Batman can swap costumes mid-level to access new abilities, such as explosives and gliding.

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The Riddler befuddles a security guard.

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