E3 2014: Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Makes Space Feel Cramped
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My hands-on demo with Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham made a point of highlighting its new setting by starting with a section that played more like Resogun than a traditional Traveller's Tales Lego adventure. Flying on a 2D plane in Batman's spaceship (the bat-ship?), I sped around the edges of a cylindrical level, shooting down enemies that entered from the left and right of the screen. Powerups that resembled those of Resogun--such as multi-directional cannons and powerful beam weapons--were scattered around the cylinder. I had to pick up missiles and fire them at The Joker's rocket to damage his ship and make it crash into a nearby space station.
Every character has multiple suits they can instantly switch into at any time.
Control then shifted to Batman himself as he, The Flash, and Cyborg advanced along the outer hull of the space station. Here, the new suit mechanics came into play. Every character has multiple suits they can instantly switch into at any time. Each suit comes with different attacks and abilities, which are often used to solve environmental puzzles. One of Batman's suits allowed him to fire a laser which melted gold Lego pieces; I had to do this to take down certain larger obstacles. Cyborg has a suit that comes with a magnet gun, allowing him to detach pieces of the environment and open new passages. The most fun to use was Batman's space suit, which let him fly around the level as long as I had topped up at a fuel station.
I took down the space station's shield generator and entered its interior. There, I encountered the same problem that I have been experiencing with all of the more recent Lego games: an overload of detail. So much of the environment was active and in motion, and so many Lego blocks were popping up from fallen enemies and destructible objects, that I could not see what was going on. Additionally, I had difficulty differentiating interactive objects, or things that I needed to activate to progress, from incidental level details. The nested complexity of individual player characters--over 150 of them from the DC universe--with their own set of suits, each with individual powers, means that signposting when each power needs to be used is crucial. On multiple occasions I had to scroll through each suit to just see what worked and what didn't on certain parts of the level.
There is a lot of detail in Beyond Gotham, and the new space setting has allowed Traveller's Tales to craft sections, such as the Resogun-like opening of my demo, that are fun, self-contained experiences themselves. But the standard Lego game formula is getting stale for me, and I'm not sure that piling more layers of detail and additional mechanics behind that detail is an elegant solution.