The core gameplay of a Lego title is a well-known entity at this point: swap between characters and optionally co-op your way through levels bashing baddies and solving simple puzzles. Collect studs to unlock extra characters who possess new abilities, then replay levels to complete extra puzzles to unlock more stuff.
It’s a loop that has served the plethora of Lego games well, and it’s one we see again in Lego Batman 3. Here, the player will delve back into levels to find parts for minikits including the ‘60s Batmobile, and even to save Adam West.
The game eschews the open world level design of Lego Batman 2, but grants each character many more abilities that are accessible via a new Gadget Wheel. This allows puzzles to be tougher this time, with multiple characters possessing up to eight different abilities. This has resulted in some more interesting level design, too.
Defeating a boss or even simply completing a level now requires a number of steps closer to those needed for secret area puzzles in older games in the series, but everything is still designed with younger players in mind.
There are also a couple of new mini-games. The first is a sweet Resogun-inspired shooter, where you fly around the Justice League’s Watchtower space station taking out the Joker’s fleet. It works really well, and is over far too soon.
The second minigame is similar to Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions, and does an adequate job of breaking up the monotony elsewhere, but these sections ultimately feel out of place.
This time, the story takes players beyond Gotham City and Metropolis to Paris, London, Pisa, and even into space to visit Lantern planets, with the central landmarks of these cities lovingly recreated just like their actual Lego models. It’s all moderately entertaining, but Lego Batman 3 is still predominately a title for kids.
It’s those landmarks players will be defending, as super villain Braniac is no longer content with miniaturising cities – he now wants worlds, and Earth is first on the list. The twist is that traditional enemies the Justice League and the Legion of Doom are working together against this common threat.
To help keep adults interested, there are numerous references to old superhero shows that will probably go unrecognised by kids. For example: Wonder Woman’s flying ability activates the theme to her old TV series, and every level contains a puzzle wherein you rescue Adam West.
Although it offers up entertaining brawls, beautiful destructible environments, and a nostalgia gland massage, Lego Batman 3 isn’t fault-free. The game only lets you save at certain points during levels, and these can be few and far between, necessitating a long session just to get to the next one.
With most games auto-saving every five steps, this feels like a huge oversight, and means progression can’t be made by kids in the short time window between homework completion and dinner. This peculiarity amplifies the frustration of a couple of bugs too, the worst of which requires that a level be completely restarted if a is QTE failed, costing the player up to an hour of gameplay.
Ultimately though, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham has all the trademark Lego charm that has kept the franchise playable even after 20-odd titles. It’s a massive game, the dozens upon dozens of unlockable characters keep it fresh and encourage multiple playthroughs, and the franchise's beautiful blocky aesthetic gets a touch more polish every time out. Just remember the Lego video game mantra: if it looks like Lego, it’s probably breakable.