The box-fresh, smash-hit Cartoon Network series Batman: The Brave And The Bold could have been devised with a co-op videogame in mind from its very inception. The angle of the show – aside from bringing a wee bit of the garish, camp flavour of the 1960’s TV show back into play – involves Batman perpetually teaming up with other characters from the DC Comics universe. It gives some much-needed breathing space to some of DC’s lesser-known characters like Sinestro, Jonah Hex and Kid Flash, but also finds room for the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Scooby Doo and Skeets – an egg-shaped AI robot from the future.
If all of this sounds a bit off the wall, we can absolutely assure you that it most definitely is, but it’s also infused with so much charm and energy that the show has been both a cult hit – much discussed and admired by the hardcore DC fanboys – and a genuine mainstream success. It’s also a program that plays just as well to adults as it does to children, and the new Wii videogame adaptation is likely to have just as wide an appeal. Fans are going to be so enamoured by the game’s mere existence that they’d probably forgive it almost anything, and it’s a huge testament to the development team, Wayforward Technologies, that they never once get lazy or appear to take the property for granted.
Batman: The Brave And The Bold shows its hand almost immediately by offering you the option of taking a combat tutorial. This isn’t mandatory by any stretch, as the game has clearly been designed with the express intention of alienating nobody; enabling younger players to keep everything as simple as they like. But the revelation of the surprising depth of the core gameplay will win over older, more experienced players in a few short minutes. Put simply, the combat is only as complex as you want it to be, but it allows for the hardcore genre fans – who forever obsess over sky-high combos – to tackle it in a completely different fashion.
Your instructor for the tutorials is Wildcat, voiced here (as in the TV show) by the much imitated – but rarely matched – big-screen legend R. Lee Ermey. You’re shown how to jump, punch, kick, back-flip, stomp, lunge, sweep, uppercut, grapple, grab, and throw. You can also pull-off a charged punch attack, you can use your Batarang as a projectile, and can utilise two special moves; a ‘Hammer Of Justice’ that damages the health of everyone on your screen when you trigger it; and a ‘Jump-In’ move, at which point a previously off-screen DC companion appears to assist you through a particularly taxing screen.
Every single button of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck is utilised, but the game never forces you to use any more than a couple. Younger gamers can plough through the entire game using little more than the punch and grapple buttons, but older players are going to want to infuse every situation with a bit of acrobatic flair. Although it could never accurately be described as a tough game – extra continues are easily bought with coins and a generous save system ensures that reckless players aren’t penalised too heavily – but the appeal of racking up ridiculous combo scores is as furiously addictive here as it is in some of the classic, hardcore Japanese shoot ‘em ups.
Every enemy that you dispatch leaves a batch of gold coins behind when they perish, and the higher your combo score, the more coins you’ll get; and this currency can be used to purchase upgrades for all of your weapons and gadgets. There are also a few hidden areas littered around the game that can only be entered with the aid of a specific gadget (a very pleasant puzzle-game addition that never intrudes on the rest of the experience) and when the Story Mode is done and dusted, you’ll unlock a Survival Challenge Mode that’s almost as compelling as the main event.
With a witty script, a series of consistently neat boss battles and a very inventive TV episode-style structure, Batman: The Brave And The Bold truly deserves to find itself a wide and varied audience. It may shine at its brightest when adults and children play it together, but both parties are sure to return to it off their own backs afterwards too. It’s addictive and extremely well made, and even if you aren’t a fan of Batman or old-school scrolling beat ‘em ups, you really shouldn’t hesitate to get hold of it. It’s that good.
Watch the trailer for Batman: The Brave And The Bold here: