Reviewed: January 9, 2009
Released: December 19, 2008
App Store Price: $5.99
I’m a huge fan of anything LEGO including the actual plastic building blocks that kept me entertained well into my teens…at least until I discovered the joys of video gaming. Those colorful blocks continued to follow me with great LEGO inspired titles like Star Wars, Bionicle, Indiana Jones, and most recently, Batman.
LEGO Batman has already taken the console gaming world by storm and is being universally heralded as one of the best LEGO games ever made, and now Warner Bros. is bringing the caped crusader to iPhones and iPod Touch mobile devices in a brand new game designed exclusively for these innovative platforms.
LEGO Batman: Gotham City Games was developed by TT Games, the same studio behind the critically-acclaimed console title. Players put their skills to the test through 16 classic, stylized mini games that lead them deep within Wayne Manor. Along the way, players pilot the LEGO Batwing and solve some of The Riddler’s most mind-bending puzzles. Each challenge is linked together by a brand new story, shown through stunning, hand rendered cutscenes, backed by a full orchestral soundtrack.
From the main menu you can dive right into the Story mode that will have Batman and Robin going up against all of your favorite Gotham villains. You can also jump into the Free Play mode which will pull up a huge 3D map of Gotham that allows you to scroll around and access various areas of the city and replay all of the games you have already unlocked in the Story mode.
While there is no traditional 3D gameplay that you might expect from the other LEGO games, Gotham City Games offers a large and exciting assortment of challenging activities that will keep you entertained for hours on end. These games make the most of the iPhone technology having you rotate the phone for some widescreen games or spinning it back for some tall-screen challenges. Some games require precise use of the touchscreen while others make the most of the tilting motion sensor. You can really tell this was a game designed for the iPhone from the ground up.
Some of the games sound silly at first like the old Shell Game, but once you see them in stunning Batman-style visuals you’ll change your mind. In fact, everything has a fantastic Bat-flavor about it. The Penguin Pinball table is one of my favorite looking games while Croc’s Plug the Leak is one of my favorites from a gameplay design aspect. In this game you are trying to plug all these sprouting leaks in a maze of pipes. You literally have to put your fingertips over the holes in the pipes, so it quickly turns into this portable game of twister. There is a Boxing game that plays like the pattern-matching Simon and you have some incredible arcade-style shootings including a vertical Batwing mission and a side-scrolling Bat-Copter mission. There is even a cool (literally) Frozen Bowling game.
As you play each of these games and try to win by whatever rules and conditions are placed upon you, you will also be collecting various colored LEGO bits. You’ll want to collect as many of these as possible to fill the LEGO bar and earn the True Hero or True Villain status to unlock even more bonus content.
I can comment highly enough about the graphics, starting with the gorgeous hand drawn, cel-shaded comic book pages that tell the story between the missions, but once the actual gameplay starts your jaw will hit the floor. This is easily the best-looking iPhone game in my entire collection.
The audio presentation is also console quality with a full orchestral soundtrack that mirrors the quality of music from the films. The word “epic” comes to mind. While there is no actual speech you still get all the fun sound effects and non-vocal effects used in place of actual speech. Expect a bunch of creepy laughter from the Joker and other sinister sounds from the rogues’ gallery.
In addition to competing for high scores, once players master the game to become a True Hero or True Villain, they unlock bonus content including never before seen artwork, trailers and wallpapers. The wallpapers can then be saved into the player’s iPhone or iPod Touch picture library and used to identify callers or to spruce up the background of their phone.
It only takes and hour or two to complete the Story mode but it will take you days or weeks to finish all the various game modes, earn the high scores, and unlock all the bonus content. And even then, the games are so much fun you won’t mind going back again and again trying to best your previous efforts.
LEGO Batman: Gotham City Games was a huge surprise. I was expecting a stripped down port of the console game but what I got was something totally original, totally unique, and some totally built for the innovative features of the iPhone (or iPod Touch). When it comes to game design and best use of a license, this is mobile gaming at its best. Kudos to TT Games and Warner Bros. for making a game that won’t be coming off my iPhone anytime in the near future.