The LEGO Batman game franchise will soon reach a milestone that only one other LEGO video game has ever reached: a third installment. Yes,"LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham" will give LEGO Batman the second-largest number of games in a LEGO franchise, second only to LEGO Star Wars -- and there's certainly a lot to love about TT Games' latest endeavor into the DC Universe.
"'LEGO Batman 3' for us is iterating the entire Batman experience," director Arthur Parsons said during a special press roundtable at Comic-Con International. "For us, it's all about adding things -- some things we've had in the other franchises and brought them into 'LEGO Batman,' but taking things from 'LEGO Batman 1' and '2' that we really wanted to tell but couldn't necessarily do. Being able to do things like fly to the Lantern worlds, being able to do '60s mode. If you look at the whole cast of 'LEGO Batman 1' and '2,' we've never gone this big before. 'LEGO Batman 3' is over 150 [characters]. We switched up some things as well. We've done away with suit signals. The previous Batman games were all about Batman and Robin. This game is about playing as the whole Justice League and the whole Legion of Doom, together. You're going to have parties out there where you have Solomon Grundy with Wonder Woman with Flash, maybe. It's the wider reaches."
Part of the draw for Parsons in returning for his third LEGO Batman game was to continue upping the ante, including a wish list of features with his team at the beginning of development to help up the ante even further than TT Games has done in the past.
"With this one, I think we've hit pretty much everything in there," he said. "The icing on the cake was getting the whole '60s mode. That was the first thing on my list, Mr. Adam West and the 1960s Batmobile."
Indeed, theres quite a lot to enjoy about the new "LEGO Batman 3" experience. During the show, we had the opportunity to go hands-on with the game -- and while it's very similar to the installments that have come before it, featuring the now-classic LEGO gameplay, there are also plenty of new features as well. A new mini game within a level is a twin-stick space shooter, and the characters and their powers are far more streamlined than in the past. The game even draws from more recent LEGO games for the mechanics. The Flash, for example, has a power very similar to that of the Master Builders from "The LEGO Movie Video Game." However, one of the standout aspects of the game is the attention to detail payed to each and every character shown.
"We really wanted to make sure every character felt as it should," Parsons said. "We have Billy Batson in the game. At any point in the game, you can press a button, he'll shout 'Shazam!' and he'll turn into Shazam. He can fly around, shoot lightning bolts, and you can turn back into Billy Batson and run around. We had Clark Kent in the last game, but we never had the instant transformation. This time around, you hold a button, a telephone box drops down, you run in and he runs out as Superman. It's bringing that sort of personality to the table. Each character has got abilities and powers. Plastic Man can double jump and he turns into a biplane. Press another button, and he turns into a hippity-hop. It's about personality ... When we're designing this stuff, we go to the team and we pitch it to them, and thankfully, they buy into it. They run with it."
Part of the draw of "LEGO Batman 3" are the many returning voice actors from "LEGO Batman 2," including Troy Baker as Batman, Travis Willingham as Superman and Laura Bradley as Wonder Woman. Josh Keaton returns to his "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" role as Green Lantern and Scott Porter has joined the cast as Aquaman.
"In any other universe, you get compared to other people. With this, because LEGO does parody of everything so well, we get to own it," Baker said of voicing the iconic LEGO hero. "I get to pull from '66, and from '89, and from the graphic novels, put it in there and just own it. Fortunately, we've got writers that know how to do that in such a way that it's going to get a laugh from the kids and the adults. That's a tricky gig to be able to do that. I love being Batman."
In terms of the interaction between members of the Justice League, Baker was very excited to share that his role is somewhat of the straight man amongst a very talented and humorous voice cast.
"I'm like the Dean Martin of this group and everybody else is the Jerry Lewis," he said. "I do the setup and they do the fall. It's so great -- Travis Willingham slays me. His Superman is so spot-on and I love the relationship between Batman and Superman in this, which is going to be way fun to see in Zack Snyder's movie -- but we did it first! Charlie Schlatter playing Robin, I love that Josh Keaton is back playing Green Lantern. Scott as Aquaman -- we've got an amazing cast. All I have to do is sigh in desperation. I'm exasperated the entire time, but I love that. I love that I get to watch all these people that are insanely talented around me whizzing jokes and one-liners past me."
For Willingham, returning to Superman wasn't the only challenge -- he also took on Hawkman and Booster Gold. And while he hadn't yet played the game, he was excited about the prospect of bringing the whole of the DCU into LEGO Batman.
"I think it's the ultimate superhero game," Willingham said. "It's got an incredible amount of playable characters, and you get to see all these different skins on characters, characters you haven't seen in video games before."
"It crosses the genre between adult games and games for kids," Bailey said in agreement. "It's something that an entire family can play together because there's so much comedy and it's a way for adults that are fans of the DC Universe to introduce their children into it."
Keaton is no stranger to Hal Jordan, having voiced the character for the fan-favorite "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" -- but this isn't exactly the same Hal fans will be used to hearing him voice.
"I love coming back to play Hal. I love that it's in the LEGO game because it's heightened to the Nth degree," Keaton said. "This is totally hammed-up Hal. I love that. I think there's definitely an aspect of that to his personality and in really serious situations, it's hard for that to come out. But this is LEGO, so anything goes! I like that he has a bigger role in this game than he's had in previous LEGO games. Brainiac is trying to use all of the Lantern spectrum to [take over], and who better to tell you how to fight against all of this than a Green Lantern? He definitely has more to do in this game."
The veteran voice actor also mentioned that "LEGO Batman 3" was somewhat unique from a voice acting perspective, because it combined the usual isolation of voice acting for games and the ensemble effect of animated series.
"This was a hybrid. For a lot of the smaller incidental sounds, we did record alone, but for a lot of the story-based things, we recorded in groups," he said. "Granted, there's a lot of story-based things that split the group, but you're still recording in a group, you have a lot of that energy, a lot of that dynamic."
Scott Porter, who has had many different roles throughout his career, seemed to have had a lot of fun voicing both Aquaman and Superboy -- who he referred to as "a little bit Keanu" to gel with Supergirl's slight valley girl attitude. However, the King of Atlantis -- in true LEGO fashion -- was played just as over-the-top.
"Aquaman is pompous without knowing he's pompous," said Porter. "There's this scene where he's just reprimanding Black Canary, who's lost her voice, and he's telling her the ocean remedies for when you've got a hoarse throat. He's sending the player on this quest to get what he thinks are the best -- and she's so disgusted by all of it! He's just telling the player, 'Don't listen to her! Aquaman knows best!' and sending them on this quest. It was so much fun."
Fun really does seem to be the name of the game when it comes to "LEGO Batman 3." While there was only one level shown off during Comic-Con, it contained all the hallmarks of the best LEGO games: a vast roster of fan-favorite characters, the ability to use different powers to unlock secrets and progress in the level, and blowing stuff up to collect LEGO studs. And with no sign of a release date for the third installment, the team at TT Games isn't quite ready to state whether they're ready to take on "LEGO Batman 4" just yet.
"As a game director, you have to focus on one thing at a time," Parsons said. "We're pouring stuff into this, and there comes a cutoff where we have to do the nitty gritty to make sure everything runs properly, make it as perfect as it can be for the end consumer. It's at that point where we stop, take a breath, and think about the next one. I didn't even know I'd be coming back to the LEGO Batman franchise. I worked on 'LEGO Batman 1,' had a ball and thought that would be the end of it. Then, we did '2,' same thing, and now we're doing '3.' Okay, let's run with it. After we finish it, who knows? We just want to make sure it's as good as it can be."