Review: Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogameby Gabriel Franco 1 day ago, 1,094 views
Proof that Batman doesn't always have to be dark to remain cool
Superhero games are tricky. Almost anyone who knows a bit about the videogame world can quickly enumerate a list of epic hits and monumental misses based on comic book characters. So, when I approached the latest DS iteration of a Batman game, I did it with well justified caution. Batman had just very recently had a major franchise-defining hit in the dark and deliciously complex Batman: Arkham Asylum for the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Basing the follow-up titles for both the Wii and the DS on a kid’s show seemed like a risky move at best. Luckily for us, they pulled it off very well. Of course, Batman: the Brave and the Bold DS is a very light, simplistic, kid-friendly game. But that does not mean that it isn’t a load of fun to play.
The title is essentially a mix of the beat-'em-up and platformer genres. Although it shares the same title as the Wii version, the DS counterpart is actually a different experience altogether. The game is divided into several independent episodes that the player can approach in whichever order he or she pleases. In each episode Batman is aided by a fellow superhero ally who remains in reserve, ready to replace him when the need arises. The playable character (be it Batman or the sidekick) moves from left to right through the screen, negotiating terrain obstacles and knocking down wave after wave of opponents as he strives to reach the final boss of each episode. Although the approach is simple, the game adds just enough variety from episode to episode to keep it from feeling overly repetitive.
The line-up of sidekicks and opponents in Batman: The Brave and The Bold DS is impressive; it sports even more characters than its larger Wii-based sibling title. Among the superheroes, one encounters heavyweights such as Green Lantern and Green Arrow, as well as second-stringers such as Plastic Man and Red Tornado. Each of these characters has unique moves and powers intrinsically geared to aid in the storyline where they co-star. In this scheme, switching between Batman and the sidekick isn’t simply a cosmetic change, but an actual strategic need. You will often have to change from one playable character to the other in order to advance. The boss gallery is also very varied, and includes classic opponents such as the Joker, Bane, and Scarecrow, along with lesser known villains such as Morgan Le Fey and Babyface. Aside from the main foe, some episodes include a second, and sometimes even a third boss in the same level, each with particular attacks and weaknesses.
Each playable character has the same categories of moves, although in practice the particulars of each superhero’s attack are very different. The A button is used to launch a light attack (usually a punch), the B button is used to jump, the Y is used to release a special move, and the X to launch a heavy punch. The R button is used to cover against attacks. The L button is used by Batman alone to fire his rope gun. How these attacks are expressed depends on the character. For instance, for Batman, using the A will result in a Batarang throw, while the same button for Plastic Man will unleash a hammering blow.
The touch screen is also integral to the control scheme, since it is used to shift superheroes and to release a special, joint uber-attack that activates after you’ve landed a certain amount of punches on your opponents. These joint attacks vary visually depending on the sidekick (with Green Arrow it is a joint barrage of arrows and batarangs, while with Aquaman it’s a joint ride plowing through foes on top of a whale), however the overall effect on opponents is the same. The touch screen is also used to shift the weapon cycled in the A button for Batman (for instance, switching it from Batarang to Force Field).
At the end of each mission our protagonist returns to the Batcave, which serves as a sort of hub to conduct all game related business. Here you can exchange the coins collected during the game for improved weapons or armor, or review the new weapons automatically added to Batman’s arsenal as a result of completing the last mission. It is also in the Batcave where you can enable or disable the Bat-mite’s assistance (more on this later), reset the game and erase all achievements from memory, or simply check out your collection of hologram projections of DC Universe characters picked during the missions.
The game is actually rather short and the main episodes can be completed in less than 4 hours by a decent player. There are only eight short missions in the main game. Once an episode is completed you can opt to revisit the level with a few variants added such as having only one of the superheroes available or having to fight several additional bosses during the mission. There is also a very trying challenge mode available once you complete the main missions. Furthermore, there is ‘Bat-mite Assistance’, which grants a limitless life-bar and adds extra Bat-mite shaped platforms, bridging the most trying gaps to produce the ultimate kid-friendly experience. However, even in spite of all these options, one has to admit that the game really doesn’t have much replay value.
On the technical side of things, Batman: The Brave and the Bold DS captures magnificently the TV show's visual style and breezy upbeat feel. The sound couples in well to complement the visuals, with a background tune in good sync with the game’s vibe. There really isn’t all that much voice acting, but the background noises of machinery, robots, dinosaurs and thugs all feel convincing and enrich the gaming experience. The control scheme, although extensive (virtually every button plus the DS screen is used), feels just right and is easy to get used to.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that ought to be criticized. First, although the developers took pains to make the episodes unique, they did little effort to vary the assortment of lower level opponents you find within each mission. For instance, in Gotham you fight exact replicas of fist-fighters and machine-gun armed gangsters ad nauseum, while in Atlantis the same armor-wielding sharks and gorillas appear again and again non-stop. Another criticism is that once you’ve purchased most of the optional improvements, Batman starts to feel blatantly overpowered and the level of difficulty plunges. Finally, one can’t help noticing that there really isn’t much of a plot to the episodes. The premise is invariably simple; a bad guy took over something for no apparent reason and Batman will plow through the villain’s minions to thwart him.
However, when you balance out the pros and cons of this game, you realize there's far more on the positive than on the negative side. Batman: the Brave and the Bold DS is an enjoyable game for all ages, filled with adventure and with a slightly retro feel to it. This DS version is different enough from the Wii version to not feel like a simplified rehash. So, if you are a Batman fan and like to explore a less dark, but also enjoyable, portrayal of Gotham’s favorite caped crusader, then you will enjoy Batman: The Brave and the Bold DS.
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Presentation - 7.5
Gameplay - 8.0
Value: - 5.0