As if the Batman media juggernaut wasn’t already strong enough with critically and commercially successful comics, movies, and television shows, you can now add video games into the mix. With the more mature hit Batman: Arkham Asylum receiving a sequel on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 early next year, this year Warner Bros. Interactive turned their attention to the Nintendo Wii. Whether you think the label is unfair or not, the Wii is a decidedly more kid-friendly system, which makes it the perfect home for a video game based on the hugely entertaining Batman: The Brave and The Bold animated series. Providing the perfect amount of challenge teamed with solid gameplay and graphics, this Batman game is one for the ages. All of them.
Taking place over four different chapters, the various stories in Brave and the Bold play out just like episodes of the incredibly popular cartoon. Whether you’re teaming with Batman’s traditional sidekick Robin, the young upstart Blue Beetle, the hard-nosed Hawkman, or the cocksure Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, the adventure is always worth taking. You’ll travel the globe and beyond, taking on familiar foes like Catwoman, Copperhead, Gentleman Ghost, Two-Face, Clock King, and Gorilla Grodd. Occasional animated cut-scenes break up the action, and though the game never takes itself too seriously, it always knows just when to move on to the next chapter. Each of the episodes will take around an hour for more experienced players, while the younger audience the game is geared for will find just enough difficulty on every board that it could take around eight to ten hours to complete.
No matter what your age bracket, there’s no denying how easy to understand the game’s controls are. If you’ve never played a side-scrolling beat ‘em up before, there’s a nice tutorial featuring iconic DC hero Wildcat. There’s not a lot of depth to the combat controls, but you’ll be surprised by the amount of moves at your disposal. While a great deal of your time will be spent simply running from left to right, punching people as you go, there is a small amount of exploration involved. By defeating enemies, you’ll earn currency used to level up your gadgets like batarangs, smoke bombs. In addition, you could use that money to purchase different Green Lantern projections, weapons for Robin, armaments for Hawkman, and suit modifications for Blue Beetle. Those currency stashes are also hidden around the level in some very well hidden locations. Upgrading your equipment helps a bit, but is in no way necessary to complete the game. You’ll also be able to call upon a third hero during any given level. A meter tracks how often you’re able to call down additional friends like Plastic Man, Black Canary, Aquaman, Black Lightning, or Green Arrow, to name but a few. It’s a shame more of these characters weren’t actually playable, but their inclusion at all is most welcome.
Following suit of the animated series it’s based on, Batman: The Brave and the Bold looks like you’re playing an episode of the show. The 2D sprites on the screen are wonderfully rendered, as are the many varied backgrounds. Though you will find the occasional 3D object in your path, the game is largely presented in this flatter format. It’s not a complaint at all, as it suits the game very well, but I wonder how this game would have looked with cel-shaded three-dimensional graphics. Diedrich Bader and the rest of the animated voice cast lend their talents to the game, and it pays off wonderfully. Bader’s Batman is a much less intense Dark Knight than we’re used to, which is refreshing, and seeing his version translated to a video game speaks to the man’s talents. Perhaps the best part about the game is the character design, though that compliment is due just as much to the creators working on the animated series. Many of the characters are represented with simplified versions of their 50s-60s attire, providing a much more basic, but vibrant, color palette for the game. As much as I love Catwoman’s current costume, and Green Arrow’s current hooded look, the way they, and the rest of their counterparts, are presented in the game not only pays tribute to the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, but shows that characters don’t need overly complex costumes to stand out.
It could be incredibly easy to write Batman: The Brave and the Bold off as unimportant because it’s been made for a younger audience. If you did that, you’d be missing out on a pretty solid title that’s worthy of your time and attention. Kids will absolutely love getting to play as the characters they’ve been watching every weekend, and parents can join in on the action to spend some quality time enjoying the simple pleasures of a well constructed side-scroller. Batman: The Brave and the Bold may not be the definitive Batman game of this generation, but it gets the job done, and more importantly, it’s fun to play.