Think LEGO is done with your favourite heroes after Star Wars and Indiana Jones? Think again. The Dark Knight is now firmly in its blocky multicoloured sights... and Gotham City will never be the same again.
"It's based on a true story," jokes Peter Spencer, Senior Tester on 'Traveller's Tales' LEGO Batman: The Videogame. This is the sort of humour that's behind the latest title in the LEGO series of games which has been a massive success after the likes of Star Wars and Indiana Jones got a blocky makeover.
A Dark and stormy Knight
While DC Comics' famous Gotham City superhero is the latest to join the honoured roster of highly regarded franchises to get a videogame based on its LEGO counterpart, Batman's adventures span more than just films, with animated and live action TV series and the original comic book source material offering a rich vein of material to tap.
With all that inspiration, it's interesting to note that the main thing Telltale Games' is looking to achieve with LEGO Batman is a tone that mixes the dramatic noir styling of the character without sacrificing humour. "The atmosphere is a little bit darker, a bit more foreboding than LEGO Indiana Jones and Star Wars, as it's within the Batman universe," says Spencer. "But obviously we've managed to keep the whole family-friendly, kid oriented theme that we've had previously."
So with super successful movie, The Dark Knight, still doing the rounds in cinemas at the moment, it may please fans that LEGO Batman mixes a little of the mannerisms of the film with a larger dose of that seen from the excellent cartoons, including Danny Elfman's famous music score which originated in the 1989 Tim Burton film. Not to say there isn't room for a minute dash of the 1960s Adam West TV series which popularised a more tongue-in-cheek take on the caped crusader, as well.
"He's at home, washing his tights!"
With the story of LEGO Batman - the hero's enemies running riot around the city after an escape from Arkham Asylum - written by DC Comics, the company obviously had a large say in the game's direction, but Spencer is happy to divulge the level of freedom Telltale Games' had.
"As far as Batman goes, Warner Bros. pretty much gave us free rein with anything we came up with whatever we wanted," he says. "Obviously they'd look at it [for final approval] and make sure we don't do anything like throw in other DC characters and things like that, but as far as Batman goes the company hasn't really said no to anything."
This also allowed the developer to take a slightly alternative slant on the game compared to its previous titles. "The whole art style of the game is completely different and we've got much wider levels," explains Spencer. "It's not so much linear or straightforward levels with just the camera facing the back of the character - now it's more side-on, everything looks completely different, so we've tried to revamp the whole appearance of the game."
"Why so serious?"
Even with a refreshingly different style of LEGO adventure, this outing retains familiar gameplay elements as you traverse through Gotham in an open environment, building objects, pulling switches, solving puzzles, leaping platforms and fighting enemies across land, air and sea, also using an array of vehicles, such as the Batmobile and Batwing.
However, rather than just play as Batman and Robin (with the ability to switch in and out a second player whenever you want, Artificial Intelligence taking control in the absence of a human), there's also the chance to assume other protagonists and a large number of villains too, such as The Joker, Killer Croc, and Two-Face, each with their own abilities.
Above all else, though, LEGO Batman wants you to laugh while you enjoy it. "My favourite part of the game is probably the intro cut-scene which sets up the whole game," says Spencer. "It's certainly the funniest cutscene; it makes me laugh every time.
"But my favourite thing changes pretty much week in, week out after they add something new... The Joker's hand buzzer would be another thing, as the first time I saw that... amazing," smirks Spencer.