Like the first two games in the series, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham begins with the terrestrial adventures of Batman and Robin. It's a slow start, but then comes a moment when it all comes together and the game kicks into high gear.
It's not an easy moment to pinpoint, but after much soul-searching and replaying the first few levels of the game when I should have been continuing story mode, I think I've narrowed it down to one perfect moment.
The LEGO Batman series thrives on music from past incarnations of its heroes, from the Superman theme from the Richard Donner movie to Danny Elfman's score for the original Batman films, which is honestly starting to get a little old after three game's worth of it.
But this — this will never get old.
That right there is Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel's theme song from the 1975 live-action Wonder Woman television show, starring Lynda Carter as young boy's confusion. At least that's the role I remember her playing from watching the show in syndication as a lad.
The first time I made Wonder Woman fly in LEGO Batman 3 was definitely the turning point for me. The game instantly transformed from formulaic LEGO adventure to nostalgic romp. This was definitely that moment.
Oh wait, no... maybe it was this.
A rocket ride to the besieged Watchtower, orbital base of the Justice League, suddenly transformers into a circular side-scrolling shoot 'em up starring Batman.
Here is a LEGO Batman game that's not afraid to push the limits of what LEGO Batman is. It's this sort of daring variety I was expecting in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, a game that didn't live up to its promise as well as it could have.
It also backs up my theory that the best Batman video games are already proven games that just happen to have Batman in them now. Resogun with Batman? Greatest Batman game ever.
This was that moment. As soon as this multi-wave space shooter kicked in, I knew this was going to be a great game.
Although, there was that other moment... nah, most of you wouldn't get it. Ah, screw it.
One of my biggest worries about LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is that it would learn nothing from The LEGO Movie Video Game, my favorite LEGO game release so far. I was afraid this latest LEGO adventure would ignore advances made in the movie tie-in entirely. Turns out that was a silly fear.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes the Master Builder mechanic from the movie game and uses it as a way to represent characters with super speed — Flash, Superman, Not Slow Man and the like. Standing one of these characters on a special platform, the player selects a trio of scenery bits and then sits back as they're transformed into something cool at ludicrous speed.
As I watched the Flash whip up a massive water cannon out of things the game just had lying around I was overjoyed. That was the moment I realized this game was more than just an extension of the LEGO Batman franchise, but rather the LEGO video game franchise as a whole. It was the best moment in the game so far.
Well, there was that other one.
LEGO Batman 2 took forever to introduce its full cast of DC Comics characters, and it felt like as soon as the gang was all accounted for, the game ended. Not so with LEGO Batman 3. The game kicks off with a Batman and Robin adventure, but soon we're wandering all over the world with some of DC's finest.
Here we have the holy trinity of DC Super Heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman — together at last in a tiny LEGO version of Paris. Superman is larger-than-life (literally, in this case). Wonder Woman is obviously annoyed that Batman's along for the ride. And the caped crusader himself?
Je suis Batman. Yes you are.
Not only is this a significant moment in LEGO Batman casting, it's also a showcase for a very clever use of LEGO micro-builds. Superman villain Braniac has harnessed the power of the various colored Lanterns (Green, Red, Yellow, Tartan, Clear) to enhance the power of his shrink ray. Instead of his normal practice of collecting miniaturized cities, he's upgrading to whole planets, and Earth is first on his cosmic geek checklist.
Micro-builds utilize smaller LEGO pieces as an economic way to recreate scenes and objects that would be far too massive at standard minifigure scale. Despite the downsizing, the right builder can really bring out subtle architectural features with a micro-build. It's an ingenious way to depict a shrinking world, one that had me reaching for my LEGO reserves with an eye on recreation.
This moment was when I really knew LEGO Batman 3 was more than just a good game. I wanted a title that focused on the best aspects of both the DC Universe and LEGO building, and this is that exactly.
Truth is the more I play LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, the more moments of greatness I come across. If the trend continues as I finish the game, pinpointing a singular moment will be nigh impossible. I guess I'll just have to settle for the next best thing.
Every time Conan O'Brien opens his stupid blocky mouth.