If you're a cynic, you're probably thinking LEGO Batman will just be LEGO Star Wars with less lightsabers and more capes. If you're a LEGO Star Wars fan, you're probably hoping that's the case. Well, there are certainly similarities - expect lots of running and jumping, puzzle solving, collecting and LEGO construction. But as producer Loz Doyle was keen to point out when Warner Bros. showed off the game recently, there's new stuff here too.
There's a whole new game mode, for example. As with the previous LEGO titles, you can replay all the levels in the game as any character you like. However, the new Villain mode also lets you experience the storyline from an alternative perspective. The villains play a big part in LEGO Batman, and there are plenty of them; Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman all make an appearance, along with less well-known characters like Killer Croc and Scarecrow.
The story goes they've all broken out of Arkham Asylum ("As always seems to happen in Batman," observes Doyle. "I don't know why they don't get a better security system.") Playing as Batman and Robin, you must take them all on and put an end to the chaos being caused in Gotham.
So far, so what, but the Villain mode adds a new twist. Although the storyline is the same as the main game (or Hero mode, as it's being termed), you play as the relevant villain in each level and explore a different part of the environment. "We were having a meeting and we were talking about the villains and what they could do," Doyle says. "We thought, everyone loves playing as the villains, so why don't we have a Villain mode? It's a lot more work but no one disagreed, because the villains in Batman are so cool. We just had to do it."
To demonstrate, Doyle shows us a level set on an old wooden rollercoaster, where Joker and Harley are trying to make their way to Commissioner Gordon so they can kidnap him. Just as when you're playing as Batman and Robin, you must make the two characters work together to progress. For example, Joker uses his taser to operate switches that remove obstacles in Harley's path as she traverses the upper level of the coaster. Next he builds a LEGO rollercoaster car and sends it smashing through a doorway to open up a new path.
Another level sees Killer Croc and Penguin making their way through a network of sewers. They build a giant crocodile-shaped vehicle out of half a dozen piles of bricks - "We think this is the biggest build we've ever done," says Doyle. On completion it starts zooming round the sewer, huge jaws snapping up any enemies in its path. Looks like fun.
The sewer level offers a good example of the visual style Traveller's Tales appears to be going for with LEGO Batman. The comics, TV shows, cartoon series and films have been quite different in their approaches, so which offered the most significant inspiration? "It's a mix of everything. We didn't look at one particular style and say, 'Let's do it like this,'" says Doyle. "It's got its own LEGO Batman style to it..
"When you look at the game you can see some elements of the Burton films. There are some elements of the comics in the environments and stuff like that. But the mini-figures and the LEGO bricks just give it another style all of its own."
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