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Batman: The Brave and the Bold review: the lighter side of the Dark Knight

Andrew Hayward

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From the moment the campaign kicks off, it's patently obvious that Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame hails from an entirely different lineage than Arkham Asylum. That's not a knock on the game, nor even a reference to the cartoon-stylized visuals; rather, the game's tone is much sillier than the dark and serious approach of last year's smash. By the end of the first chapter, both Batman and Robin have been transformed into housecats, and before the game concludes, Batman's floating in space, blasting a giant starfish with an endless supply of batarangs in a simple shoot-em-up ('rang-em-up?) sequence.

It's weird, no doubt, and though The Brave and the Bold suffers due to kid-friendly gameplay mechanics and a total lack of challenge, it maintains a slight winning edge with its total adherence to this playful demeanor.

Gallery: Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Wii) | 16 Photos

Careful craftsmanship goes a long way to salvage the less exciting elements of The Brave and the Bold, and in the hands of a lesser studio, it's doubtful the game would have been anything more than another mediocre adaptation. WayForward has proven itself adept at tackling existing properties in recent years, notably with A Boy and His Blob on Wii and Contra 4 for DS, and a similar level of care is evident in The Brave and the Bold, which takes its name and likeness from the most recent Batman animated series.

Skilled players will soon find they could make do without all the help.

As a show less focused on Bats himself than his interactions with other heroes and sidekicks, the game has ample opportunity to introduce a wide variety of familiar faces from the DC Universe, and it makes great use of it.

Each of the game's four chapters unfolds like an episode of the show (complete with intro) and each pairs Batman with a distinct partner, whether it's Robin, Blue Beetle, Hawkman, or Guy Gardner (Green Lantern). Playing solo, you can choose either character in any chapter (with the A.I. controlling the other), or you can recruit a local pal to jump in at any time during a mission. And beyond the sidekicks, yet another 10 heroes like Aquaman, Green Arrow, or Plastic Man can be called on for a quick attack.

However, skilled players will soon find they could make do without all the help. The Brave and the Bold takes clear inspiration from the 16-bit era's licensed brawlers, albeit with a lot more presentational gloss and snappy dialogue to fill the mid-mission gaps. While the classic feel and the license will no doubt draw adult admirers, it is -- much like the animated series -- intended for a much younger audience.

Platforms and attack opportunities are highlighted on the screen and arrows or icons indicate places to climb or attach your grappling hook. Exploration and discovery are marginalized as a result, and while there are power-ups and extra coins to find off the beaten path, the game almost has an on-rails feel to it. You're essentially offered an unlimited number of immediate continues, so dying holds little consequence aside from losing a small amount of coins.

It's sort of a shame, as the action is solidly executed, if generally mindless. Batman and his cohorts each have standard and heavy attacks, plus aerial assaults and super moves, and each character has an array of upgradeable weapons and abilities that are used to pummel foes and unlock doors. Offering a more advanced difficulty option and a Classic Controller Pro control scheme (the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo is less than ideal) would have made The Brave and the Bold more than just a good pick for kids and families. As it is, this six-hour adventure won't pack much of a punch for seasoned players.

But as an otherwise entertaining take on a quirky new version of the Caped Crusader and pals, Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame succeeds at being more than just typical, haphazard licensed fare. Genuine laughs and amusing scenarios await within, and if you can keep in mind that you're probably several times older than the target audience, it's a pretty solid option for co-op with your kid sibling -- or a drinking buddy, for that matter.

This review is based on the Wii retail version of Batman: The Brave and the Bold provided by WBIE.

About the author: Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based freelance journalist and critic focused on the subjects of video games and technology.

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