I think it's pretty safe to say that we're all eagerly anticipating the release of Arkham Knight this fall, but for some of us, October is way too long to wait for the thrill of Batman punching people right in the face. Sure, you could play through the first two games again, but why bother? There's an overlooked classic out there that will provide you with all the bat-punching you need: Batman: The Brave and the Bold for Nintendo DS.
And here's the best part: It'll only cost you about $10.
Wait, no. The actual best part is that there is a level that is literally nothing but Batman punching dinosaurs in the face. But after that, the part where you can get it cheap is a pretty major selling point.
B:TBATB was originally released back in 2010 to go along with the Wii game of the same name. In fact, the biggest selling point for the DS version was that you could link it up to the Wii and use the DS to fly around as Bat-Mite, damaging enemies. That always struck me as a little weird – it's not like the Wii version is particularly difficult, and my major complaint when I played it then was that it was an otherwise-solid beat-'em-up that would occasionally move you past a section if it thought you were having a little too much trouble. Since all the ads focused on the idea that it made an easy game even easier, I never bothered to pick it up until I found it on the cheap.
As it turns out, that was selling the game pretty short. I'll tell you right up front that it's not a difficult or challenging game at all – it's pretty much the exact opposite of challenging, and there's even a “Bat-Mite Mode” version that makes Batman functionally immortal and covers up all the pitfalls in every level. That might be expected when you consider that it's, you know, made for six year-olds, but still. It's enough to make me start shaking my fist at the youth of today and start talking about how we had to start over after being touched by a single koopa troopa, dagnabbit. So no, challenge is not something that this game has to offer.
What it does have is fun.
That's not a huge surprise when you consider it was developed by WayForward, the same people responsible for Contra 4 and the truly fantastic Double Dragon Neon, but they did a pretty great job with this one. The goal for the Wii version seemed to be recreating the show, complete with a full voice cast. But with this one, the focus seems to be entirely on bombarding the player with as many weird, wild ideas as they possibly can.
And I know this, because in addition to the dinosaurs, there is a level where Batman turns into a gorilla and runs around using Aquaman as a baseball bat to trounce enemies.
Now, I realize that some people have an idea of Batman that does not include, "occasionally transforms into a gorilla," and who prefer the grittier, more brutal approach of the Arkham games. That's fine. I like those too. And there's certainly enough Batman out there for all of us to enjoy. If, however, your complaints about Batman turning into a gorilla involve the idea that it's not "realistic," then as the World's Foremost Batmanologist, I'd say you should probably take into account that you're talking about a billionaire ninja in a bat costume who drives around in a tank battling immortals, shape-shifting monsters and a murderous clown, and maybe adjust your expectations accordingly.
Anyway, here's how it plays: Batman himself fights crime with a utility belt full of gadgets like batarangs, smoke bombs and laser swords -- you know, the usual stuff -- but, after an introductory sequence on Cape Carmine, you get to the guest stars. In each of the six levels, you can switch back and forth between Batman and whoever the hero assigned to that level is, all of whom have unique abilities that help you get through it. Gotham City has Plastic Man, who can turn himself into a spring to jump really high, and attacks by turning his hands into giant hammers. The Space Station has Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), who has an air dash and the ability make platforms for jumping around. For Atlantis, obviously, it's Aquaman, who can swim and, hilariously, summon fish from all corners of the screen to slap the enemies upside the head. On the amazingly named Science Island, you get Blue Beetle, who can shoot his Mega Man style arm-cannons. In London, it's Green Arrow, who has multi-directional attacks, and finally, Dinosaur Island pairs you up with Red Tornado.
That was actually the part that I was worried about when I loaded up the level. There is nothing that is more enticing to me than the idea of Batman waging his one-man war on crime in a place called "Dinosaur Island," and there is nothing that kills my excitement faster than finding out that I have to do it alongside Red Tornado.
For those of you who don't spend all your time reading comic books, I'll explain: Red Tornado is a robot that cries. Seriously, that is the only thing that he does, and he does it all the damn time. He is the worst, to the point where even the show can't make him fun.
And yet, the game does it. That is the magic of punching dinosaurs, my friends.
Even though the game's ridiculously easy -- and there are always on-screen prompts to let you know what you need to do whenever you come across an obstacle -- WayForward made it really fun to actually use all the different characters. Personally, I liked Green Arrow an awful lot, both because it's pretty fun to stand two feet in front of bad guys while rapidly shooting them in the face with arrows, and because most of the bad guys in that level were actual ghosts.
As much as I liked the game, I am glad that I waited until it was ten bucks to pick it up. There are bonus stages and challenge levels, but honestly, you can knock the entire game out in a slow night. What is there to do is still pretty cool, though: Each level has these weird little eggs that you can pick up, which add to a gallery of sprites that includes everyone in the game, plus a bunch of other DC characters too.
It's a pretty neat touch, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't also a little frustrating. I mean, really, they went through all the trouble of making a sprite for Jonah Hex, showed it to you, and then did not include a level where Batman travels back to the old west to stop Ra's al-Ghul from, I dunno, global terrorism through cattle rustling.
Aside from that, it's a solid brawler with enough fun stuff in it that it has a pretty good shot at being the best Batman game of all time. That might sound like a dubious claim, but look, I made you a chart:
That's an almost-perfect score. Charts don't lie, people. It's well worth the ten bucks.