After Traveller’s Tales released the well-paced, delightfully funny Lego Indiana Jones earlier this year, it seemed like it had finally gotten a handle on how to shrink iconic action heroes into the diminutive Lego universe. With a cast of diabolical, memorable characters and more gadgets than you can shake a batarang at, Lego Batman was poised to be the best entry yet for the family-friendly, block-building franchise. Unfortunately, it’s a huge step back in the series. The perpetually bewildered AI and repetitive combat that have haunted the Lego games since the beginning are on full, frustrating display again, along with a smattering of baffling puzzles and agonizing vehicle sections that will make you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut by Bane. When the stud-collecting, puzzle-solving gameplay is able to rise above the problems, Lego Batman is an eminently enjoyable cooperative romp. It just won’t make you want to do the Batdance.
Storytelling has always been one of the series’ strengths. Parodying famous scenes with silent Lego characters has provided consistent laughs, serving as a worthwhile reward for overcoming a particularly cheap puzzle or boss fight. Lego Batman doesn’t offer up any such reward. The story does elicit a few smirks, but the jokes more often than not fall completely flat. Robin serves as the expected punch line whenever he’s onscreen, repeatedly displaying his cowardice in the face of danger, but the joke quickly gets beaten into the ground. The reason for the lackluster laughs is that the story doesn’t have anything specific to parody. The plot is based on the comic book characters, and though it does have some nods towards the movies, it doesn’t make fun of any well-known scenes, so the humor relies on predictable slapstick instead of spoofing moments ingrained in popular culture.