Batman: Brave And The Bold
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an excellent example of two concepts marrying almost perfectly. The DC animated series is a homage to the comics publisher’s noble past of ‘teaming up’ some of its famous characters, and this is, basically, what the videogame is all about, making a neat little platform game based on this symbiosis.
So in each given level, Batman is aided in his side-scrolling platform fighting adventures by a unique DC hero, and gameplay revolves around chopping and changing between the two in order to overcome all manner of complications.
Green Lantern, for example, can spawn solid translucent blocks of power, erm…stuff that he can use to reach inaccessible areas (or even, cleverly, block falling objects from hitting him), while Green Arrow can fire a multitude of cool arrows, including exploding ones and even plungers to help him, in what we hope is a wonderful nod to aged Megadrive platformer Quackshot, climb up walls.
The visual look and feel of the title is a real winner, with minaturised interpretations of comic favourites bringing the DC world to life, and some entertaining, even occasionally genuinely inspired, platform level design going on. The game succeeds in exploiting each support character’s powers throughout a level, meaning lots of high jumps for Plastic Man’s springy bounds, plenty of bottomless caverns for Green Lantern to traverse with his energy cubes… it’s witty and pacey throughout.
It’s fortunate Batman is joined by these chums, though, because on his own he’s more than a little bit rubbish. Though he’s got a fairly respectable compliment of moves – two kinds of punches, a zip line for fast vertical climbs and even an M. Bison-style two-footed drop kick – he lacks range and speed. Presumably, though, his limits are intentional, as various extra powers can be added to his repetoire via a handy shop in the between-level Batcave hub area. It just means that, wherever possible, you’ll probably stick to the backup character whenever possible, as they tend to move quicker and have meatier special moves.
Batman’s upgradeable nature will also, inevitably, tip the difficulty balance of the game a little too far to the ‘easy’ side too; we managed to give him infinitely regenerating health after only the first level of the game by spending accumulated points, and winning a level also nets him a free powerup on top of this.
Ultimately, it’s the game’s rather contracted length (around 3 hours for a full playthrough) which has probably led to design decisions like this; there’s a feeling that everything must be crammed in as quickly as possible, when we wouldn’t be adverse to a bit of replay or grinding to earn the points to buy the powers. Still, for what could probably be happily considered a game aimed at the younger end of the gaming market, Batman’s sense of progress bereft of frustration, cute and knowing visuals and almost SNES-style simplicity forces us to recommend it.
As a handheld title, it’s a fine slice of quickburst, no-nonsense entertainment, with genuine replay value in its well-designed levels and extra challenge modes. There’s just not a lot more to it, despite the imaginative central premise having a few more bags of potential than has perhaps been carried through to the finished product.