Based on a cartoon that was broadcast between 2008-2011, Batman: The Brave and the Bold (which released in 2010) takes the show’s concept of featuring a different super hero team up in each episode and turns it into a fun, straightforward platformer with a few neat touches.
The cartoon series was excellent; many episodes featured a pre-credits scene which quickly wrapped up an adventure (also featuring Batman teaming up with another hero), before we’re whisked away into the main story with a different hero for Batman to work with. There was a bold, bright, deliberately campy tone to the show, with the character choices, music and general visual design all playing their part brilliantly. The heroes and villains were often more obscure or unusual than the standard team ups viewers were used to and things even got very meta with the introduction of Bat-Mite, a fourth wall breaking Batman superfan (voiced brilliantly by Paul ‘Pee-Wee Herman’ Reubens). Even Scooby Doo made an appearance!
The DS game is incredibly faithful to the cartoon’s overall look and feel. It’s just as colourful and stylised, with each level also featuring a section that takes place entirely in silhouette. It’s very well done.
The main game mechanics are simple platforming, with Batman having simple beat ‘em up style attacks, but also having access to a number of gadgets to either aid with combat or traversal through the levels – such as a grappling gun, batarangs and even a bulletproof cape. With each level featuring a different ally, there are often level-specific obstacles in place to make use of each hero’s abilities. Switching between heroes is accomplished simply by tapping them on the touchscreen; their extra abilities are needed to get through each stage – such as Plastic Man being able to bash through walls, Green Arrow having the ability to fire arrows that create platforms (and thus reach otherwise inaccessible areas) and Green Lantern being able to create objects to be used as platforms or to block level elements that would otherwise crush him. There are moments in which you can call upon both heroes at once to perform a devastating super move, which is very bright and satisfyingly powerful.
The Batcave acts as a hub in which you can access levels, check out your collectables, upgrade Batman and take on unlocked challenges. The level settings are massively varied, with levels taking place in urban areas, in space, underwater and in a sort-of pseudo Victorian London, each with their own setting-appropriate villain. There are some excellent boss battles, as well as some mid-level bosses (Bane is a highlight and makes multiple appearances in one of the levels, with one fight taking place on the wings of a plane).
Enemies and objects drop bat symbols, which can be used to purchase power ups; it’s very easy to rack these up and power Batman up in no time at all; it’s very satisfying to get through the first few levels and increase Batman’s strength and add other abilities.
There are character capsules to collect in every level, with some of them very deviously hidden (in places that look fatal to drop down into, for example), but there’s an item detector that can be purchased which will help you to collect every one of these. It’s easy to see where you’re missing them from your collection too, as each level’s opening screen shows you how many you’ve collected and where the gaps are.
I’ve covered this in another article, but there’s also a nice bit of synergy between the DS game and its Wii counterpart – Bat-Mite (that previously mentioned meta-pest) can be brought into the Wii game to assist the Wii player, being controlled by the player with the DS. It’s basic and gives the Wii’s Batman a little too much of a helping hand, but it’s a pretty magical touch and demonstrates that great care went into the creation of both games.
The biggest issue I have with Batman: The Brave and the Bold for DS is its difficulty. Or rather, complete lack of it. Most levels I played through were completed first time; the majority of the bosses faced were also more battles of attrition than any serious challenge. It only gets easier as you progress, too – given that you can power Batman up to a pretty high level once you’ve purchased all of the power ups (which you’ll be able to do before getting to the final stages). Even if you want to collect all of the capsules dotted throughout the game, having the detector makes that incredibly easy too – and there’s only the odd one that’s a headache to collect.
Remember, this is a game aimed at kids who’ve enjoyed the cartoon series it’s based on – so I can’t really fault it for pitching the difficulty at a level that won’t deter or frustrate younger players. The level design, style and overall feel of the game are all very satisfyingly well done – it’s just a shame there’s not more of it; though with the caveat that I’m a more experienced gamer than this is aimed at, it’s probably the quickest I’ve ever been able to get 100% completion in a game. However, the value of owning the game definitely increases if you also have the Wii version and the control of Bat-Mite is another touch that’ll appeal to kids who may not quite be able to grasp the slightly more complex control scheme on the Wii.
So it’s a definite recommendation for younger players and even older fans of the series or of the lighter Batman stories in general, as long as you don’t mind a shorter play time than you may be used to. I’d also recommend checking out the Brave and the Bold cartoon if you haven’t already; there’s some serious fun to be had in those episodes with some excellent use of under-utilised and obscure DC characters, both heroic and villainous.
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