Licensed titles, especially those based on Super-hero franchises, have a history of being somewhat uneven. For every decent game you have a dozen Superman 64s; titles so appalling they deserve to be sealed in a titanium box and launched into the sun.
Perhaps the character that best personifies this phenomena is Batman. Great games such as The Adventures of Batman and Robin on the Super Nintendo and the 2009 newbreview Game of the Year winner, Batman Arkham Asylum, have been offset by mediocre titles like Batman Vengeance on Playstation 2 and Batman Gotham City Racer on Playstation 1. So it is with some trepidation that I approach the latest Batman game Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a side scrolling 2.5D beat ‘em up based on the current Batman cartoon of the same name. Rather than featuring a dark and gritty version of the caped crusader the game takes a more light-hearted, slightly camp, take on the character. It is not quite as campy as the 1960’s Adam West starring TV series, but it does not take itself too seriously at all.The game is made up of four episodes, each broken up in to about half a dozen levels. As with the cartoon, Batman is the main star with a different hero acting as the co-op partner in each episode. Each player can also choose an assist character, such as Aquaman and Captain Marvel, to be summoned to perform a single devastating attack.
Each episode opens with a battle against a notable villain, such as Two-Face or The Flash’s Rogues, that sets up the story for the rest of the episode. As with the cartoon, upon defeating the boss the episode’s title sequence runs, which contributes to the feeling of authenticity.
The controls are incredibly simple, with only one button to perform basic punches and kicks, and a separate button to use weapons. Each co-op character has at least four weapons to choose from, while Batman has eight, including batarangs, explosives, and a laser sword. As well as punching your way through wave after wave of foes there are some basic puzzles and platforming sections. The game has an incredibly generous respawn system – so long as one of the heroes is still alive you will be able to respawn without penalty. Should both of you die then you simply restart from the last checkpoint.
Defeated enemies leave behind coins that you can collect and spend on upgrades for your weapons. Coins are also hidden in secret areas of each level, which encourages a certain amount of exploration. Certain secret areas cannot be reached until you have unlocked specific weapons which also could offer incentive to keep you playing.
Being a Wii title, you would expect there to be some sort of motion control in the game. Motion controls are limited to aiming your Batarangs and, once you have landed enough hits, shaking the remote to activate a deadly combo attack. It is refreshing to see a Wii game that actually puts some thought in to how to use the motion controls, and not just shoehorning in generic waggle controls.
Whilst the game is entirely co-operative there is a certain element of competition between players. At the end of each level your performances are compared. The categories that are compared are the number of coins collected, number of deaths, longest combo, number of blows landed and most enemies defeated. This brings a fun sub game in which you try to hinder your co-op partner’s performance by stealing as many coins as you can, or attempting to ruin their combo.
One of the real highlights of this game is the authentic script, complete with great performances by the voice actors from the cartoon. The way the characters talk to each other as you progress through the level, even mid-battle, is worthy of particular praise, and acts as a way of furthering the episode’s narrative, rather than just a repetitive stream of quips.
One feature that I have not been able to test is the cross compatibility with the Nintendo DS version of the game. Should you be fortunate enough to have access to both the Wii and DS versions of the game then an extra player can take control of the 4th Dimension mega bat-fan Bat-Mite. As Bat-Mite you can drop bombs on enemies and health packs for Batman on your DS, which will magically appear in the Wii version of the game.
Bat-Mite makes several appearances throughout the game as the in-game tutorial, explaining each of the new features as they crop up. Completing the game also unlocks a survival mode in which Bat-Mite challenges you to prove your skill against wave after wave of progressively more challenging enemies.
Graphics: 4/5 The graphical style is modelled on the visual styling of the cartoon. Cut scenes look as if they have been ripped straight from an episode of the cartoon.
Sound: 5/5 Music and sound effects are exactly what you would expect from a game based on The Brave and the Bold. Likewise the voice acting is of an equally high standard, thanks in no small part to vocal director Andrea Romano’s involvement.
Gameplay: 3/5 There’s a nice variety in the game’s controls, from simple button presses to well implemented motion controls. The actual gameplay itself is a little monotonous but still fairly satisfying.
Longevity: 3/5 With only four episodes, each lasting about 45 minutes to an hour, this is a short game. Completing the game unlocks a wave based survival mode, and there are dozens of upgrades to purchase. However, once you have beaten the game for the first time there is not a great deal of incentive to return.
Overall 4 out of 5
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a fun, if somewhat repetitive, co-op game that is ideal for Batman fans of all ages. A lot of the game’s success can be attributed to the developers going out of their way to make it an as authentic Batman experience as possible. If you are a fan of Batman: The Brave and the Bold then there really is no excuse for not playing this game.