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Batman: The Brave and the Bold Wii is the flipside to the successful Arkham games, a cartoon 2D platformer that's colourful, funny and charming.
If ever there was any doubt that Batman is one of the most flexible characters in fiction, it should be dispelled by the ease with which the Batman: The Brave and the Bold Wii - based on the popular Batman Cartoon Series - co-exists with RockSteady's hugely popular Arkham games.
While the Batman in Arkham City is a brooding, heavily armoured figure who inhabits a threatening world of serial killers and maniacs, The Brave and the Bold's Batman is an avuncular - albeit straight-laced - character in a bright blue cape who hangs around with equally brightly coloured superheroes fighting robot scarabs and super-intelligent monkeys.
(It should be noted here that, although their audiences may seem years apart, PEGI considers Brave and the Bold's violence - in this case cartoon fisticuffs - serious enough to warrant a 12 rating, only three years younger than the 15 rating given to Arkham's bone-crunching interrogations and mutilated murder victims. Really, PEGI, are you seriously saying this game isn't suitable for a seven year old because it has punching in it?)
The thing is, while the games may seem leagues apart in terms of audience and worldview, they're still both absolutely true to Batman. Beneath the presentation, the essence of the character remains intact - the determination of Bruce Wayne, orphaned billionaire, to fight crime with his own fighting prowess, intelligence and belt full of gadgets.
Arkham's Kevin Conroy and Brave and the Bold's Diedrich Bader aren't hugely different in terms of vocal performance - Bader is a little warmer and a bit more tongue in cheek, more the descendant of Adam West than Conroy's straighter intepretation - and this is clearly the same character. The stoicism and dry humour of Batman is present in both games.
Deep authenticity runs through Brave and the Bold.
There are even technical similarities, with both games being combat based, combat earning XP that allows the player to obtain and upgrade Batman's suite of gadgets, which in turn can be used to beat down baddies even harder.
Where the games fundamentally differ, beneath the wildly different aesthetics, is where they're positioned within the narrative of videogames. The Arkham titles are very much of the now in gaming terms, aimed squarely at that core gamer demographic of young adult (or nearly adult) males) with an open world, dozens of side-missions and a very polished, contemporary look.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold takes a different approach, orienting itself towards younger players who like the cartoon while also drawing heavily on an approach to the licensed superhero game that older gamers will find very familiar. Brave and the Bold is a side-scrolling 2D platform game and beat em up, the kind of game that used to be made for every superhero licence in the 8 and 16-bit eras.
For gamers of a certain age seeing Batman in such a context will bring back memories of the tie-in game to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie or, more obscurely, Batman: The Caped Crusader.
Things have changed since then, however. While those old platformers were uncompromising in their insta-deaths and limited numbers of lives, Brave and the Bold is considerably more generous, with instant respawns and a much lower difficulty level in general. While this leads to a slightly-too-smooth playing experience, one which lacks any real challenge, it is pleasantly lacking in frustration.
Smoothness characterises the whole experience, really. The animation is absolutely excellent, bold and bright characters moving with great fluidity, and the game as a whole looks gorgeous while completely capturing the look and feel of the cartoon.
Authenticity doesn't harm the gameplay, in fact it fits well with a combat system that is highly accessible.
Deep authenticity runs through Brave and the Bold, with fully animated cut scenes and pre-title boss battles for each of the game's four episodes that are separate from each episode's main plot, just like in the show. The banter between Batman and his various partners is constant, and as sharp as you'd expect, with dialogue playing out during gameplay as well as in cutaway conversations. It really feels like you're playing the cartoon.
That authenticity doesn't harm the gameplay, in fact it fits well with a combat system that is highly accessible but, thanks to special moves and upgradeable gadgets, allows for a certain amount of depth. Just like the cartoon, Brave and the Bold is smarter than its kid-friendly surface may at first suggest. (Ed: Not to mention the novel DS Connectivity Mutliplayer options).
Batman: The Brave and the Bold may be a very different Batman game to the big AAA Arkham games, but it's an equally valid interpretation of the Caped Crusader and his world, and a fine game in its own right. Recommended, especially for the younger bat-fan.
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