Batman: The Brave and the Bold (DS) review
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an action/beat-em-up title that features the Dark Knight and a cast of quirky DC Comics characters from the Cartoon Network series. There are some hits and misses amongst the Caped Crusader’s crime-fighting companions – particularly if you are unfamiliar with the cartoon show or DC Comics. Still, the tight combat controls and the comedic nature of the plot are factors that lead to a satisfying (but short) handheld title.
The Brave and the Bold is all about its comedic overtones; most of the interactions between characters are filled with more humor than aggression. Batman and his foes trade their dry, cheesy puns as often as punches. It obviously helps to have an understanding of the characters featured in the game; my lack of DC Comics knowledge made it difficult to make sense of certain references, but most of the one-liners are nonetheless cheeky and silly in a very good way.
Each level starts with Batman and one of his various partners engaging in a mission to stop one of DC’s main villains, like Scarecrow, Bane, Gentleman Ghost, and Catwoman. The support characters include the Green Arrow, Aquaman, Red Tornado, Plastic Man, and Blue Beetle. You can swap between the backups and Batman at any time, or you can unleash hell with powerful tag-team full-screen attacks. Playing through most of the game is as simple as beating up everyone in your way, so it makes me happy to say that the combat is absolutely the best part of The Brave and the Bold.
Although the basic combo attacks and special moves are nothing new to the genre, the fluidity of the action makes this particular Batman game work better than many of its predecessors. Although each support character feels unique, the fundamental punches and kicks are handled similarly, so learning a new set of moves is hardly a problem. Some of their special moves are pretty cool - for example, Plastic Man's anvil attack destroys weak platforms (and anything else) below him. Some of the grapple attacks seem to be very powerful, but blowing through the opposition is never too difficult anyway. The platforming elements of the game also make use of the different powers of each hero, like Green Arrow's suction arrows, but some are more effective and useful than others. The only problem with the gameplay is the lack of collision detection when your character stumbles into an enemy; in fact, it makes many of your punches and kicks pass harmlessly through your foes.
Fallen enemies drop bat-shaped credits that can be used to purchase upgrades and new tools in the Batcave. Evading attacks and chaining together combos reward you with more credits, so having some finesse in combat goes a long way. Buying upgrades for your support characters is not nearly as important as buying Batman’s gear, since he is always in on the action. Not only that, but with the best gadgets and upgrades, Batman is clearly the most over-powered character in the game. He even gains the power to regenerate his health, which takes away almost any remaining challenge in the title.
Beefing up your characters is a great way to extend the replay value of the game, especially because the short episodes are clearly intended to be played multiple times. The sad truth is the simplicity and short length of The Brave and the Bold make it difficult to justify the extra time and effort.The main game can be completed in a couple of hours. There are additional challenges that can be completed to earn more credits, but they are often pretty difficult and feel like more of the same from the standard levels.
Those who enjoy the cartoon series will definitely appreciate the video game’s authenticity. Even on the Nintendo DS, the visuals scream “Saturday morning”. It is obvious that WayForward worked closely with the show’s animators to perfectly recreate the artistic style. The result: bright, colorful graphics, highly-detailed character models, and some of the smoothest combat animation on the DS. At its best, The Brave and the Bold looks like an animated, playable episode of Batman on a handheld. To top it off, the voice acting is perfect for the silly jokes and the oddball cast of characters.
Overall, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a little too short and simplistic to guarantee any mass appeal, but I got a kick out of its family-friendly approach to Batman and his DC brethren. The slick presentation and intuitive combat controls make this one of the more surprising Batman titles of the last few years; I just wish there was more content to play around with and the game design was more complex in general.