As far as pop culture is concerned, there are two types of Batman. Batmen, if you will.
One is the gritty, serious Dark Knight that’s been Chris Nolan’s Hollywood blockbuster success of late and the star of Rocksteady’s excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Then there’s the silly parody of a man who is so obsessed with bats that everything around him gets a Bat-prefix, short of his butler and sidekick (then again, Bat-Robin and Bat-Alfred do have a certain ring to them).
Batman: The Brave and the Bold falls somewhere in between. Based on the Cartoon Network show of the same name, WayForward’s game captures the Dark Knight in one of his lighter moods. It’s nowhere near the cheese party of Adam West’s bizarre stint as the caped crusader, but the vibrant colours and sense of humour nod to the cult 60’s show. It’s a universe that takes Batman seriously without wandering too far into crime drama territory. It's also a universe with villains devious enough to transform most of the population into cats.
The premise of the show is to team Batman up with typically lesser-known DC heroes and square off against lesser-known villains like Catman and Gentleman Ghost. You don’t need to be intimately familiar with the show or the DC universe to appreciate the characters, but it certainly does help. Anyone who is will instantly recognise the beats this game hits. From the beginning teaser fights to the opening ripped straight out of the cartoon, WayForward did a commendable job capturing the look and feel of the show. The animation is rich and gorgeous, and the funky music is the same as that of the cartoon. Characters are even played by the same voice actors, including Paul “Pee-Wee” Reubens doing a stint as Bat-mite. It really does feel like you’re playing episodes of the show.
The game is divided into four episodes, each with eight stages and multiple boss fights. Bats teams up with a new hero each episode with their own special abilities and equipment, those heroes being Robin, Blue Beetle, Hawkman and Guy Gardner, one of the Green Lanterns. Each episode’s story is told through a mix of television-quality animated scenes, talking head-ish cutscenes and in-game dialog. The last of the three is a nice touch and feels natural, allowing character development during platforming and battle sequences — except during those few times when it’s drowned out by a concurrent fight or cut off by a cutscene.
Solo players can choose to use either character before each stage, which then assigns AI duty to the other. Unfortunately, your teammate isn’t always the sharpest tool in the shed, oftentimes doing a poor job of keeping up or pummelling the wrong enemy. Drop-in, drop-out co-op is a big help in this regard, and while you won’t have too tough a time with the AI, beat-em-ups are always best played with a buddy. There’s even a little screen at the end of each stage to see how you did compared to your partner, which provides plenty of bragging fodder.
The DS version focuses heavily on platforming, but on Wii Batman’s adventure is mostly just an all-out brawl. Combat is solid and satisfying, making use of pretty much every button on the Remote and Nunchuck. Motion controls come into play for high-powered special attacks and the pointer is used to aim certain projectiles like batarangs. It’s tight and simple, perfectly suiting the game’s younger target audience. Once the final episode is wrapped up, Bat-mite’s Challenge opens up to put your fighting skills to the test in multiple timed battles against increasingly difficult menageries of baddies.
As you pummel foes into little poofs of smoke, you collect coins to put towards equipment upgrades. Equipment is doled out to you as you go and helps Batman gain access to new areas; some areas are only accessible with equipment found later on, providing some replay incentive for earlier levels. Boosting the efficiency of your equipment is nice (why, yes, we would like to throw three batarangs at once, thank you), but sadly there are no additional attacks to unlock or learn, and with everything given to you at the outset, it might not take long for players looking for more depth to grow a little bored of just punching stuff in the same way. Repetition is inevitable in beat-em-ups and might not be an issue if you just don’t care about anything other than throwing some Hammers of Justice into some dude’s face, but those looking for a deeper take on the genre won’t find it here. While you do unlock new assistant heroes, each with their own special screen-filling attack, they all work basically the same way, thus limiting the variety they bring.
Those with a DS copy of the game can connect at any time and take control of Bat-mite, steering him around the big screen with the stylus, and can either help or hinder by throwing health or bombs. It’s a fun little addition and nice to see included, but it’s not really enough to make you want to go out and buy the DS version just to use it. Unless you’re big into griefing your fellow players, that is.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is easy for young crusaders to get into and feel like a champ while providing just enough depth for older players to get a bat-kick out of it. Clocking in at around four hours it’s not the most lengthy of adventures, but there’s enough replay incentive here to last awhile for the bat-willing. While it’s not a pusher of boundaries for its genre, it’s certainly a very fun bat-take on beat-em-ups.
4 hours... such short game length. I think the game looks solid. Brawlers go cheap pretty quick, so I will hang out for a couple of weeks and wait for it to drop to half the price.
Day 1 purchase!
Too... many... puns... D:
Holy Bat-Butt BatMan.
I just had to do it
Getting this eventually. No money or time at the moment but I love WayForward's work (currently playing A Boy and his Blob which I bought at launch but it had to wait for it's turn).
Wow, loads shorter than I would have thought, but that's not a bad thing if it's quality. Still planning a day-one purchase, but it seems that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions will be a good bookend for it.
Sounds interesting. I'd still prefer the DS version, but this does sound like something worth looking into.
Needs more explosions.
I was hoping for a higher score from WayForward, but it sounds like a fun enough game anyway. I saw it today for $30, so maybe if I wait I can get it even cheaper.
Great review Jon.
Finally, a reviewer "gets" the genre. Beat-'em-ups shouldn't be penalized for being repetative, within reason. Arguably, some repetativeness even helps the appeal of the genre.
Anyway, this is a must-get game for me, but I'll have to wait a while.
Is Static Shock in this game? I thought I saw him in a video review. If so, there is no way I can't buy it. If not, I'll get it used after it gets real cheap hopefully.
Holy Wii Batman! I don't really want to buy this game (even though as a kid I loved Batman) but I'm not knocking on anyone who does want to buy this game.
Is the Music Meister in the game? That was the best episode of the show.
This looks more fit to be a WiiWare title than anything else.
it’s certainly a very fun bat-take on beat-em-ups.
don't you mean bat-em-ups?
Way Forward is a good developer. I like their work. I guess I'll be buying this one. I just wish there was more to the DS connectivity.
Nice bat-conclusion! I'm not sure what version to get, but it looks like I'll enjoy it regardless. Still might wait for a slight price drop.
Good and funny review, Jon. Not one for me though.
Good review. Think the lad and I will enjoy it.
Gasp! I need this.
Good game, I just wish I could use the classic controller to play.
I'll deffinetly be renting this game. I'll probably buy it when its a bit cheaper to.
Short, but good.
As soon as a 2D game is made, everyone says that! Then when Sonic 4 appears everyone says "I wish it was a retail game". Developers can't win!
Anyway, I like the look of this and I liked A Boy and His Blob which was also by WayForward. I might wait til it becomes around a tenner though since it's so short.
Just ordered this waiting for it come in the mail. I do hope WayForward will make more 2D gaming goodness on the Wii.
Just picked it up new for $10. Go Power-Up Rewards Pro!
This is on my must buy list.
That was a great video game trailer haha
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