Perhaps the most ambitious and original of the LEGO games at it’s release, LEGO Batman is Traveler’s Tales first LEGO game not based on a particular set of films.  In fact, the game isn’t based off of any particular medium that Batman has appeared on.  You could say that it blends a little bit from the campy 60’s series, the films, the comic book, and the animated series. The PSP version of the game surprisingly has all of its console big brother’s content, and were it not for a few design choices and graphical hitches, would be a must have title.

Like the other LEGO games the tale is told emotively through gestures, laughs, and grunts,both in-game and rendered cut-scenes. The fairly generic story follows Batman and his trusty side-kick Robin as they try to stop a motley crew of super villains who’ve broken out of Arkham Asylum to make havoc for Gotham’s citizens. There’s some laughs here and there but the original material isn’t as funny as the famous scenes found in some of the other LEGO games.

Gameplay spans 30 levels – 15 for Batman, Robin, Bat Girl, and Night Wing and 15 for the various villains including the Riddler,  The Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Bane and others.  Batman and Robin both get different suits and upgrades to their tech which makes puzzles diverse.  The puzzles themselves are usually a matter of pressing a switch or building a necessary component out of LEGO blocks.  Many of the puzzles require your AI buddy to perform an action with you simultaneously. Usually it works as planned, though on a few occasions the AI will jump off a platform instead of pressing a particular switch. The puzzles are generally not too difficult and are simply a matter of smashing enough stuff to find the solution.

Unlike many other games ported to the PSP, LEGO batman controls very well thanks to the simple controls and the lack of a rotating camera all the the game’s commands are handled through the face buttons and either the analog sick or the d-pad can be used for movement.

Combat is fairly simple and involves mashing the attack button with a few sporadic grab moves thrown in for good measure.  Almost anything can be destroyed, including your trusty sidekick, who fortunately re-spawns with no hard feelings.  Destroying various objects and villains will net you LEGO studs, the game’s currency. The only consequence death in the game is the loss some studs Ala sonic the hedgehog.

Back at the Bat Cave you can spend the studs on new characters, upgrades and costumes. In addition to studs there are other collectables needed to unlock certain upgrades, many of which are inaccessible the first time you play through a level and need to be reached with a different costume through the level’s free-play mode- unlocked after having finished the level in story mode at least once.  This adds a tremendous amount of replay value if for those who like to collect everything available.

Between the platforming and brawling in the normal levels, the game places you in driving and flying missions.  With very little steering involved these missions devolve into something more akin to Metal Slug – shoot in every which way until nothing is left to shoot.  It’s pretty fun while it lasts and is a nice break from the rest of the game.

Graphically the PSP version of the game is both incredible and somewhat disappointing at the same time.  The levels are fairly large both in the amount of things to do and the scope of the action.  The camera is pulled back further than any of the other LEGO games and consequently shows a lot of action and detail on screen.  The downside to this is that Batman and any of the other characters you might be controlling are fairly small and sometimes it’s hard to see what’s going on on the PSP’s 4.2″ screen.  In addition, the frame-rate takes a dive whenever there is a lot of action on screen at once – which is in fact quite often.  The colors and aren’t as vibrant on the PSP as they are on the consoles and have a very grainy look to them. Still the feat of compressing an entire console experience into a handheld is pretty substantial in its own right and makes these small gripes easier to look past.

Danny Elfman’s excellent soundtrack from the original 1989 Tim Burton film further adds to the game’s atmosphere, though not always for the best.  There are unfortunately only a few tracks throughout the entire game and they do tend to get a little repetitive.  the grunts and laughs are serviceable to the franchise but like the music, can get a bit dull and repetitive.

The coop mode in the console versions is entirely absent from on the PSP.  Considering the game’s $30 price tag and the large amount of single player content, the coop is probably something most PSP owners can do without.

As a 15-20 hour adventure with reason to play over multiple times, LEGO Batman is a good addition to any Batman or LEGO PSP fan who is willing to look past some of the graphical hitches and the childish exterior.

OVERALL: 8.0/10

Pros:

 – Generally good graphics and big levels

 – Long campaign with lots of replay value

 – LEGO+Batman Universe = tons of charm

Cons

 – Poor frame rate and textures

 – somewhat easy combat

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