Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame (Wii) Review
The Batman franchise is a bit all over the place now, and not really in a bad way either. On one hand, we’ve had the rather over the top cheesy films released throughout the early nineties. On the other, we’ve got the comics and the cartoon series still running quite strong. Then, we had a bit of a shift from the over the top kind of villains to a darker and artistic interpretation of the now famous Dark Knight. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is yet another Batman game, and thankfully it does a good job at capturing its source material’s charm and plays pretty nicely too.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is based on an episodic animated series with the same name, and follows the exploits of Batman and Robin, though it also features some of the other lesser known characters from the DC Comics universe, such as Plastic Man and Blue Beetle. Being based on a cartoon series, the game is structured in episodes which are presented in a manner similar to the cartoon. In effect, the way the game is set up makes it a perfect representation of the cartoon; it’s as if you’re actually playing it. The storylines in each of the episodes don’t really deviate too much from the typical comic book hero storyline, though they all do a great job of pushing the story along from locale to locale, so that’s always good.
The best thing about Brave and the Bold is that the developers worked quite closely with the creators and animators who work on the cartoon itself, so the cutscenes that play between the gameplay segments are quite well done, and the transition in between gameplay and cutscene is not noticeable at all. This is something I acknowledge quite a bit as being fairly hard to properly accomplish in a game, and thankfully with this amazing artistic direction and animation it works perfectly. Similarly, effects such as explosions, settling dust, blown up cash and many more all look rather appropriately comic and add to the feel of the game.
As I’ve said before, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a beautiful game to play – it’s almost as if you’re playing through a scene of the cartoon itself. The game employs a mix of sprite based characters, pre-rendered backgrounds and the occasional cel-shaded 3D model to create an artistic direction that I’ve never seen in a game before. The only real problem that I have with this artistic direction is that while the animation is well pulled off, the actual smoothness of it seems a little bit compromised for reasons unknown. Outside of that though, the characters move brilliantly, and each character has their own unique little animations that correspond with their iconic poses in the comic books and original animations.
So, as you’ve no doubt realised by now, the game looks amazing. But that’s nowhere near as important as how it plays, of course. Thankfully, Brave and the Bold plays pretty well for the genre. It takes the form of a side scrolling beat ‘em up, but with a few gadgets thrown in for good measure. Your main attacks are executed with the A button, while holding a direction on the nunchuk will affect the direction of the attack. The B trigger is used to jump, while waggling the remote is used to throw enemies and perform more heavy attacks. After every fifty hits during gameplay, your character can do a super move by shaking both the nunchuk and the remote at the same time. Surprisingly, the motion controls work quite well and don’t feel out of place, inaccurate or forced at any time.
Obviously, there’s quite a bit of concern when there’s only really one button assigned to attacking as to whether or not this game is interesting enough to be worth the price of entry and carry your interest for a while. Thankfully, with the use of the directions, your characters can slide towards enemies in an effort to keep combos going, as well as mix gadget-based attacks with melee-based attacks in order to keep combos going. And that’s quite an important thing to keep in mind, as the higher a combo when an enemy is defeated, the more cash Batman and his buddies will earn. Upon completing each level, players will be able to explore the bat cave (which is a glorified menu) as well as upgrade their gadgets and purchase new ones. This is a nice, light and manageable system that doesn’t really shove itself down your throat, the game is more than playable without it if players can’t be bothered with it. Additionally, completion of some levels unlocks “call in” characters that are one-use characters with moves that kind of act as a life-saver during more heated battles. These, of course, draw themselves from a wide range of familiar faces such as The Flash, the infamous Aqua Man, Captain Marvel and much more.
While the fighting system is simple and yet fun, Brave and the Bold does employ some pretty nice platforming sections as well, which require players to use their gadgets such as the grappling hook to get through environments on a vertical level as well as a horizontal one. Thankfully, none of the “puzzles” included, specifically the boss battles, will ever leave players stumped too much which makes it much more approachable to a younger audience. That being said, a lot of older audiences may find the game way too easy and this is quite deterring.
Thankfully, the developers at WayForward have managed to also craft a soundtrack that captures the style of this cartoon perfectly. Most brawls are fought out while cheesy, almost pseudo-noir, music plays in similar vein to an old detective movie, or, quite simply, like the original Batman series. These pieces are really well put together and they were one of the first things I noticed when first booting up the game and watching the opening cinematic. In a move that may either please or dismay fans, the voicework is also pretty cheesy too, with some hilarious awful dialogue between Batman and the criminal villains throughout the game. The Dynamic Duo have playful banter throughout the game that I quite enjoyed, though the cheesiness may put some people off.
The game itself consists of four episodes, with each episode taking between ninety minutes and two hours to complete. Despite the rather short length in the game, the added co-operative play certainly extends the appeal of the title. Combine this with a bunch of unlockable characters, both playable and “call in”, as well as the need to upgrade all gadgets and you’ve got quite a bit to do here. As I like to say in all of my reviews, this is all dependent on whether or not you’re one of those people who likes to complete games to 100%, but at the bare minimum unlocking the characters is quite fun to see how they behave in game.
Brave and the Bold also features a rather unique feature in the use of Bat-Mite, a strange being from another dimension who claims to be Batman’s biggest fan. Bat-Mite is unlocked through the linkage of the Nintendo DS version of Brave and the Bold and with this connection comes the ability for a player to control Bat-Mite using the Nintendo DS to not only drop power ups for the players, but also to wreak havoc by dropping various objects on enemies too. This feature is something I didn’t expect and a perfect and quite interesting way to utilise the cross-platform capabilities of both systems. In particular, the rather risk-free nature of this feature makes it perfect for younger children to play with their older siblings or perhaps even one of their parents.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a pretty well put-together beat ‘em up game that manages to channel the nostalgia and charm of the old school cartoon series as well as providing a very enjoyable and competent title for the Wii. It’s something that I could definitely reccomend to any fan of the franchise or the genre, although it’s rather simplistic nature could put off more mature players.
An amazing looking game with a unique artistic direction that captures the original source material very faithfully. Animations are smooth, but sometimes lacking a bit.
A rather unique yet simple beat em up with light RPG elements. Platforming segments and puzzles do a nice job at breaking up the action, but are overly simplistic. Boss battles are well thought out.
An amazing soundtrack inspired by the source material is only marred by rather cheesy voice acting. If you like the cheese, its probably worth adding another point to this score.
Theres quite a bit of content to unlock from the get-go, and co-operative mode is sure to make the game a bit more enjoyable. Peaking at between six to eight hours, the action could get a bit repetitive, though.
I had a lot more fun that I thought I would have with Brave and the Bold, in fact this is probably one of the better, more balanced beat em ups that Ive experienced in the past couple of months.