Review: Batman: The Brave and the Bold (DS)

A bold bat platformer

Batman is certainly no stranger to the world of video games, seeing releases on just about every console imaginable over the years, so it's no real surprise to see yet another developer trying their hand at the caped crusader. Developer WayForward has created two brand new Batman titles, this as well as its Wii counterpart, based on the hit animated TV series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And while both share a common theme, this DS release places far more emphasis on the platforming aspects of the game rather than the beat ‘em up mechanics found in the Wii version.

The main adventure is where you'll spend the majority of your time, and it's laid out in fairly trademark platforming fashion. At the beginning of each area, you'll be introduced to the villain you'll be tracking down and ultimately facing off against in a boss fight. You'll then meet up with a fellow crime fighting superhero who you'll be able to utilise at any given time throughout the level simply by clicking the character you want to switch to on the DS touch screen. Each of these alternate heroes feature their own move sets, which makes them extremely useful for times when Batman just can't get it done. Much of the challenge will be figuring out which character to use in various situations, although if you're having trouble with this, the game can give you hints as you go along.

While navigating the tricky platforming sections of each level provides the wealth of the gameplay, there's still quite a bit of beat 'em up action as well. Each character has several buttons to make use of that range from two regular attacks to a special power move, which you can substitute with a special gadget that's been purchased in the Bat Cave armoury. You'll find that varying between the two attack buttons can make for some very effective combos, but sometimes you will need to pull out the special move for times when you're getting overwhelmed by enemies or during a rather difficult boss fight. There's certainly not nearly as much fighting action as found in the Wii release, but it's a nice diversion from all of the platforming you'll find yourself undertaking.

As well-built as the main quest itself is, there was obviously still room for more fun, so the developers have included a few extra twists to hopefully keep players coming back for more. The first bonus is in the challenges that the game offers up, each of which is unlocked as you complete sections of the main adventure. These range from boss rush modes to going back and attempting to complete a level using an alternate character. While this might seem like more of the same, it does offer a nice twist on many of the original levels, not to mention a higher degree of challenge for those who found the first run through a bit too easy. Another bonus feature is the ability to connect to the Wii version of the game and play as Bat-Mite using the DS touch screen. While this feels a bit tacked on, it can still be a fun way to get another player involved in the action.

If there's one aspect that's integral to a good platformer it's responsive controls and thankfully, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is solid in this department. Sure, some characters control a bit better than others, but it's tough to find anything to complain about since most of the challenge comes in learning when and how to make use of their individual moves. Toss in some extremely well-designed levels, not to mention a plethora of bonus challenges to go back and tackle and the fairly short main quest doesn't seem quite so short anymore for those willing to give them a try.

If there's one thing you can always count on from WayForward it's an impressive visual performance, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold doesn't disappoint. Not only does the game feature some absolutely gorgeous 2D sprite work, but the special effects strung throughout each level make it all the more stunning. The developers have also managed to not only give each of the characters and enemies a solid level of detail but also some rather silky smooth animation to go along with it. All in all, it's one of the more impressive 2D efforts for the DS and shows what can be accomplished on the system when the proper time and effort are put into it.

If you've watched the animated series, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a musical standpoint. All of the tunes are perfectly befitting with the action that takes place onscreen, not to mention the area in which they're featured. The same can be said of the sound effects as they're all well implemented, and even though it would have been nice to have had more voiced dialog, what is included adds a nice layer of realism and personality to the package.

Conclusion

It should be made known that this DS version of Batman: The Brave and the Bold is definitely not some stripped down version of its Wii counterpart in any shape or form. While the game's increased emphasis on platforming does set it apart from the full scale beat 'em up gameplay of the Wii release, it's every bit as much fun to play and, in some ways, even more smoothly playable. The game's lower level of difficulty and rather short main quest might turn off some gamers looking for a bit more meat on the bone, but for those who just want a fun platforming ride with plenty of action and some amazing boss fights, look no further than this rather entertaining DS adventure.