You are likely going to want to spin some dope tracks while you read this review as Will Arnett’s Lego Batman is back in black. And yellow. And black. And yellow. Going straight from the big screen to the small screen on your TV screens, or monitors. We don’t judge here. The Lego Batman Movie serves as a Lego Dimensions add on adapted from the feature film of the same name, giving us the toys based on the game based on the movie adapted from the comics from an original idea by Bob Kane but simultaneously also the sequel to another movie. The Lego Batman movie makes for the third story pack in the Lego Dimensions series overall, after Ghostbusters and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Story Packs are kind of full sized expansions of the Lego Dimensions game, where other packs may only sometimes add characters, levels and sometimes, story quests, story packs are more or less full romps through the cinematic universe that shares the game’s namesake.
In your Lego Batman Movie story pack you’ll find parts for two minifigs, Batgirl and Robin, the Bat ‘puter to replace your lego ‘gateway’ if you so wish, and the Batwing vehicle that can transform into a fairly sweet take on the 90s era Batmobiles. While you do get plenty of fresh goodies, the Lego Batman Movie is Traveler’s Tales first attempt at a new type of Lego Dimensions interface they’ve promised will be utilized in future packs. This story pack demands that you play as Batman, however it doesn’t come with a Batman minifig. Instead you’ll be asked to use the default Batman that came packaged with the core Lego Dimensions set. From there the game will transform Batman from Troy Baker’s more serious take on the Dark Lego Knight, to Will Arnett’s beat boxing narcissistic ninja dad.
It’s not just a cosmetic makeover and a change of voice that Batman gets, however. While you play inside the Lego Batman Movie’s world, Batman will have a near full new set of skills. Including a merchandise gun he can use to deck out enemies in sick Bat gear, and a Detective Mode ™ he can utilize to hunt for clues and solve puzzles. The latter is a skill Batgirl can also make use of, and it plays out much how it did in the Arkham games and Telltale chapters. Your world goes all fluorescent blue or green as you hunt down important context sensitive clues. Be prepared for Batman to astound you with wondrous breakthroughs only the world’s greatest detective is capable of: “Conveyor belt controls? These must be the controls… To the conveyor belt!”
Robin is also along for the ride, and while not as initially useful as Batgirl or Batman, he is able to transform into Nightwing with the hold of a button and kick serious butt. The Batwing, vehicle du jour of the Lego Batman Movie, plays exactly like every single other vehicle and thus my one constant problem with Lego Dimensions remains, while characters are remarkably good at carrying different and exciting skill sets, vehicles reek of ‘played one, played them all.’ Really only the nostalgia of flying around in the Batwing or driving around in an older model Batmobile will be the only draw to slotting this vehicle on your toy pad.
As for the story itself? Well, it maintains a lot of that Traveler’s Tales fluctuating quality from one pack to the next. Sometimes you get a pack, team, fun, story or otherwise that is content rich and presents some engaging quests and a compelling story. The Portal 2 level pack for example feels much less like a Lego Dimensions add on, and more like a (fleeting) Portal 3. Other times these packs can be a bit lazy. Sadly The Lego Batman Movie fits into the latter category. Now don’t get me wrong, there are far worse efforts in the Lego Dimensions universe than Lego Batman, but the game does feel a bit thin and rushed. The Lego Batman Movie, the actual movie, was an incredibly frenetic and dense experience, high energy, balls to the wall action, every frame packed tightly with characters, vehicles and sets. The Lego Dimensions adaptation is missing that very raw feel of the movie. Sure we can blame software and hardware limitations, but even then it doesn’t feel much effort was made to capture the spirit of the film as much as say, The A-Team pack captured the TV show or Mission Impossible served as a faithful adaptation.
Story wise the game skips over a ton of emotional beats, while also inventing entirely new plotlines altogether. Maybe this was to avoid spoilers, and while I don’t need a 100% faithful adaptation to have fun, Lego Dimensions created a brand serving up the truest if goofiest version of WB’s IPs possible. It’s also nice to have a real Gotham City as Lego Batman Movie’s hubworld, versus the default composite Gotham/Metropolis you get with the core game, but once more it doesn’t feel quite as rich or detailed as some of the hubs before it. Stranger still, while some of the Lego Batman Movie voices are straight from the movie, Batman is played by Will Arnett and Rosario Dawson returns for Batgirl, others such as Robin and Joker are very clearly not played by their Hollywood counterparts. I suppose we just chalk this one up to conflict in scheduling and contracts. Overall it’s a bit disappointing that Lego Batman Movie seems to be in such a rush to skip over all the warm, ooey gooey parts of its cinematic counterparts to get to the next boss fight simply because they felt game needed to happen. Though on the plus side it’s not every day you get to take on Billy Dee’s Two-Face, or that Condiment King serves as your main nemesis.
While I found the story and even some of the bosses a bit lackluster, the puzzle gameplay made up for it. After all the main draw of most Traveler’s Lego titles is the puzzles. I spent a decent sized amount of time in each level using Detective Mode and Batman’s crazy ninja skills to rip apart chunks of a level before using his master build ability to construct brand new lego parts. The Lego Batman Movie also introduces a brand new toy pad ability named ‘Phase’, which allows you to tether an item from another universe into the Lego Batman Movie world using a single character as the ‘anchor.’ Whichever character the item is tethered to, they’re the only one allowed to solve the puzzle. It was a fresh new utilization of the toy pad’s real world board game type play while also serving up a strong in game mechanic. This was quite a pleasant surprise, as while I’m used to getting new characters, vehicles and levels from these packs, Toy Pad functionality is unexpected and brand new.
The Lego Batman Movie is a bit of an odd bird in that it offers up some new and exciting things while also completely phoning it in on a few Lego Dimensions’ staples. If you’re looking to extend your Lego Dimensions experience, then The Lego Batman Movie is the first ‘big’ offering of Traveler’s Tales phase 3 and is a decent taste of things to come. However there’s still that $50 price tag to consider, while Lego Dimensions has always been on the pricier end, it’s worth considering that for Lego Batman’s rushed experience you could get a far more robust full video game for the same price, and it’s up to you if you think those extra dollars are worth the physical Lego sets you get. While I like the Bat ‘Puter and classic Batmobile, they’re not exactly the highest quality Lego sets ever. It’s a shame because some of the goodies in the Lego Batman Movie are really worth loving, and between rushed cutscenes and wrong sounding Bat-characters there are some of the genuinely charming laugh out loud moments and engaging puzzle gameplay I’ve come to expect of the greater Lego franchise, but as a pure Lego Dimensions offering it simply drops the Bat-ball one times too many.