There have been generations of Batman video games that have either A: barely passed for quality entertainment or B: were utter and complete tripe. It wasn’t until Batman: Arkham Asylum that a developer stood up and said, “You know what, not every Batman game needs to be licensed cow dung.” Granted, Batman has fared better over the years in comparison to his DC Comics counterpart, Superman, especially if you compare Batman: The Return of Joker to Superman 64, I still approached Batman: The Brave and the Bold with caution due to the woes the caped crusader has endured.
Luckily, Batman: The Brave and the Bold straddles the fine line of pure entertainment and a quick jolt of beat ‘em up action. It has an art style that comic book and Batman fans should get behind, so long as they aren’t coming into this expecting the brooding hero from Arkham Asylum or the Nolan film series. Instead, Batman is represented with a colorful campiness that exudes the playful nature of the 1960’s Batman TV series. Yes, it’s lighter and gamers should appreciate the different tone as Batman doesn’t always have to sulk around and use his muffled angered voice when he’s venturing forth to bring villains to justice.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold offers humor along with a wide variety of appearances from DC Comic superheroes such as Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Flash, Green Arrow, Plastic Man and many others that are able to jump in for a quick assistance with the generic baddies Batman encounters. In addition, there are four heroes that players could either opt to play as a solo affair or entice their friends to jump in cooperatively. Each one of them – Robin, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Hawkman – controls differently and must be used within the confines of the chapters they are presented in. There’s no mixing and matching here. It starts out with a bang as Robin is obviously the most compelling of the four and it only goes downhill from there as players progress to use the smart ass Blue Beetle, the old fogy Hawkman and then idiotic Guy Gardner in the end.
The storyline is all broken into individual chapters with not many crossovers or references from the previous chapter outside of Batman showing his mean mug. Players start by chasing down Catman and Catwoman with Robin and somehow magically end up trying to capture the likes of Gentelman Ghost. After that, they are left scratching their head why they are teamed up with Guy Gardner, a real mystery as no one prefers him to the more popular Hal Jordan. Back on track though, there’s no smooth transition between the chapters and it will often leave the player without much closure besides the eventual capture or downfall of the adversaries.
On the flipside, the dialogue was written well. Batman humorously interacts with his cohorts while also throwing out one-liners in the direction of his enemies. At times, there’ll be lines repeated, but it’s never to the point of aggravation. Sound effects on the other hand are weak and never went beyond the standard gunshots and explosions.
It’s here that things become even less exciting. From beginning till end, the difficulty level provides a beat ‘em up that is on training wheels. Literally, players could easily close their eyes and play through the chapters if it wasn’t for the platforming segments. While the platforming sections are never a challenge, there are too many of them to attempt the feat of playing through the title blindfolded.
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If that doesn’t make you question the time you devote to the title, then perhaps the ridiculous unlockables/upgrades will. Players are able to unlock and upgrade accessories for the Dark Knight and his allies, but good luck collecting enough coins to use the weapons in your first playthrough. Batman: The Brave and the Bold specifically wants players to return for repeat sessions, but with a lack of difficulty and lame alternate routes that don’t add much to the overall value besides the literal essence of a shortcut, there’s no reason for a second go-around.
Besides all that, the jump-in heroes often are a waste with many missing their attacks and, as was the case with long duration of Final Fantasy summons in the past, occupying too much of the player’s time as they perform their heroic action. Nobody wants to sit around while you waggle the remote to fill their remote to continue to watch the action come to a screeching halt for another 7-8 seconds. Plus, they aren’t accessible during the boss battles, so they are almost a throwaway ability if it wasn’t for the waves of common bums.
So while there are several high moments, they are few and far between. The cooperative elements are a sure-fire hit, but it’s not enough to make it a recommendation unless you are dying to have a new game to play with a partner.