Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lego Batman Is Better Than You

Lego Batman: Better Than People

A month ago I had one of my regular bouts of nostalgia for my lost, wasted youth. These periods follow the same pattern - mild existential angst, the recollection that a certain video game once solved all my problems, a search for and download of that game, and hours of playing it in a kind of trance. In short, a very specific form of bliss.

The game I fixated on this time was Knights of the Old Republic, a game so superlative it will get its own blog post one day. To play it and its sequel I ideally needed an Xbox, since my laptop doesn't do games very well. I found someone selling an Xbox 360 with games and snapped it up.

Most of the games were modern shoot-em-ups of staggering visual quality. Games like Call of Duty, where you really feel like you're in a war, and can summon devastating air strikes to rain death on your enemy while using a sniper rifle to give them a third nostril. While amazing, these games aren't much fun for me. I grew up with one-button joysticks, and now find myself looking down at the Xbox's 38-button controller yelling "Flee! Flee! Which one is flee?!" while it vibrates frantically because I'm being crushed by a tank, doused in flamethrower death, and not keeping up with my squad.

Fortunately, the games included Lego Batman. I will now explain why I prefer playing Lego Batman to going out and meeting people.

Lego Batman: Gorgeous                 You: Not so much

1. Lego Batman is visually appealing

Chances are, you're either a dude or ugly (the chance of being both is almost 50%). Even if you're an attractive woman, you're probably not really my type. Even if you're my type, you've probably got a cold and look terrible. And if you're really totally perfect, going out with you carries the risk of me having to look at your male friends or ugly female friends.

Whereas Lego Batman is pure eye candy.

2. When Lego Batman has a problem, I'm allowed to solve it

It's really okay for you to tell me your problems. They're normally quite easy to solve. But you don't actually want to hear the solution as it involves doing the one thing you don't want to do. You just want to tell me the problem. This makes you feel better and me feel worse.

But Lego Batman is all about problem-solving. Example: there's a platform you want to get to. It's not immediately obvious how to get there. You have to look around for something in the environment you can manipulate, or use one of the special powers Batman and Robin have. When you solve the problem, the game rewards you with noises and shiny things. It doesn't call you insensitive.
Typical puzzle - smash the bricks, build a car, drive over toxic sludge

3. Lego Batman doesn't give me stress

People are hard work. I should know - I am one. Traveling anywhere means being bombarded with rude and annoying behaviour. One in twelve people cut their toenails on public transport, and for one in five bus-dwellers, endlessly cycling through ringtones will be the highest point in their cultural existence.

In Lego Batman, if you die, you just re-spawn near where it happened and try again. So there's no stress. Just fun!

4. Lego Batman is a consequence-free environment

When I make some minuscule social faux-pas, like suggesting a 33-year old woman looks 34, or forgetting how many brothers someone has, or asking someone more than once if they've seen Ghostbusters, or really just anything that shows that my counterparty isn't the centre of the universe, they go MENTAL.

In contrast, in Lego Batman I can do what I want. Sometimes I get Batman to slap Robin in the face. Robin just stands there, still ready to help his friend. Sometimes I just smash up the whole damn place. It's all made of lego, see? Not only is this rampant vandalism fun, but sometimes you actually have to do it to solve a puzzle. So you don't even feel guilty!

5. Lego Batman surprises me and keeps me interested

You know the way you do the same things every week with zero deviation?

Lego Batman always gives you something new. First, you get different bat-suits for Batman and Robin to wear. Batman has a cool Glide Suit that lets him float across gaps. And Robin has some of the most ludicrous and therefore best costumes ever devised - a Magno Suit that allows him to noisily clunk up vertical metal surfaces, and an Attract Suit that acts like a hoover, sucking up stray pieces of lego to create mission-critical objects. As you suck up the bricks, the controller vibrates a little, and the pieces tremble before shooting into the machine. If real hoovers were that satisfying, my floor would be spotless. (They aren't. It isn't.) 

Then when you start getting bored of Batman and Robin, the game lets you play as the baddies! With just as much care and attention to their stories as to Batman's. And the villains have different powers so you have to approach puzzles in a whole new way.
The Riddler can control minds and Clayface is super-strong and can jump really high. Can you?

6. Lego Batman is charming and funny - all the time

There's a thing in the human brain that predicts what people will say next, and anything predictable is ignored. That's why we like people who are surprising and that's where humour comes from. Regrettably, my brains deletes almost everything you say before you've even finished saying it. That is not true for Lego Batman.

Example. In one in-game sequence, wantonly destroying some scenery gives Batman the bricks to create a coin-operated children's ride in the shape of a swan. I sent Batman to ride it, wondering what possible use it could have. It played some childish music and rocked Batman back and forth, and then some coins came out of it. And that was it! There was no point beyond making me make Batman ride a swan. I laughed at the brilliant purposeless of it. 

In yet another moment of sublime ridiculousness, I used some of my in-game money to unlock a special feature called 'disguises'. I wondered if this would allow me to sneak past guards and so forth. At first, it seemed nothing was different. I still had to fight the guards. But then I noticed what the disguise was. Batman and Robin were simply wearing Groucho Marx-style false noses, which had zero effect on the gameplay. 

I want to meet the designers and shake them by the hand. I really do. 

7. Lego Batman has better taste in music than you

This is the music you get when you're playing. Not on an endless loop, obviously. But music with this kind of epic quality. Imagine if there was an orchestra following you around playing this. How much more awesome and productive would you be?


So in summary, I'm not going out tonight.

Coming soon - Assassin's Creed 2 : Better Than Sex.


  1. Cécile11:38 AM

    The above comment is not from me. I wouldn't ever write my name without an accent. And I am certainly hotter than lego batman. I know that.

  2. lol. just found the disguises :)

  3. I may be hotter than Batman but I do give Andrew more stress than Batman. So I guess he's right to avoid me. I'll try to be a better person in future. I think that's what I've learned from this article.

    Also it was hilarious.

  4. Cécile, la seule, la vraie, l'unique7:33 PM

    Stress is good for you, it keeps you alive and makes you get out of your Xbox trance. The article was funny, yes, but only thanks to my help and feedback ;-p


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