Battle criminals in ''Lego Batman'' and Nazis in ''Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway.'' Plus: Plenty of big-air tricks in the ATV-racing game ''Pure''
(Warner Bros. Interactive; multi-platform; Everyone/10+)
Rising above the stigma that justifiably haunts tie-in games, the Traveller's Tales development studio created a winning formula that's melded the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises into fun and accessible romps through reimagined Legolands. This time, it's the Dark Knight's darkly deco stomping grounds that get the breakaway-brick treatment, as the Dynamic Duo battles the chaos that ensues when Gotham's most notorious villains break out of Arkham Asylum. In the story mode, you'll only be able to play as Batman and Robin. If you're looking to play as other characters, then you'll be wanting the free play mode, in which you can unlock a pretty darn impressive roster of familiar (and unfamiliar) faces. Here's your chance to battle crime as a briefcase-wielding Bruce Wayne, his butler Alfred, Batgirl, or Nightwing (the grown-up identity of the first Robin, Dick Grayson). If being bad's more your thing, LB's the first Lego game to let you get your villain on. You'll be able to cause all kinds of mischief as Mr. Freeze, strongman Bane, sultry (in a PG-way) eco-villainess Poison Ivy, or the Clown Prince of Crime, the (non-Heath Ledger version) Joker.
The gameplay doesn't add many new wrinkles to the established Lego game formula. It's still a frothy mix of beat-'em-up and puzzle solving, with benign toy-on-toy violence. Lego Batman does draw from the mythos of its title character, dispersing all kinds of specialized outfits, including Robin's technology suit or Batman's detonator suit throughout the levels. You and a buddy can play through the game's action, but only if you're in the same room since co-op play is offline only.
WHAT WE LIKE:
• The silent comedy that's become a hallmark of the Lego videogames
• The excellent use of Batman's rich history of allies, enemies, and gadgets to keep things from getting stale
WHAT WE DON'T LIKE:
• The lack of online play
BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL'S HIGHWAY
(UbiSoft; PS 3 and Xbox 360; Mature)
When you mix World War II with the ''violent'' medium that is the videogame, the results aren't terribly hard to predict: Historical accuracy will, more often than not, take a backseat to pretty explosions and thrill-a-second frag-fests. Previous titles in the Brothers in Arms series did, however, maintain some semblance of reality and the third installment (and first on the next-gen consoles) continues to prove that in between all the gunfire, there's still time to tell a thoughtful story. Hell's Highway plays less like a first-person shooter that happens to take place during WWII, and more like a WWII tale that happens to be a first-person shooter. It takes place during Operation Market Garden, a calamitous series of battles that resulted in massive casualties for the Allies. The loss of human life weighs heavily on the game's angst-ridden protagonist, Sgt. Matt Baker, who finds himself tormented by the deaths of various soldiers under his command.
As Baker, you need pull it together and lead small teams of soldiers across enemy-occupied farmland and towns. You can't rewrite history the Nazis achieve victory no matter what you do but the game starts at the beginning of the operation and challenges you to win various skirmishes leading up the inevitable conclusion. Running and gunning in Hell's Highway usually gets you nowhere. It's imperative to shoot from behind cover, namely walls, cement barriers, and other pieces of hard concealment. Objects like wooden crates only serve as temporary shields because they quickly disintegrate when hit by bullets. You also need to employ suppressing and flanking strategies. Typically, this involves moving an assault team to one position and ordering them to fire upon the enemy while you and another team advance to another area. (You'll quickly learn to love Private Jasper, if only for his bazooka).
All of this ducking, suppressing, and flanking moves the game along at a very deliberate pace, one that's a welcome change to other WWII titles. Hell's Highway also benefits from slow-motion ''Action Camera'' moments that turn certain kills and explosions into cinematic sequences. While it's clear that the gameplay isn't as polished as the competition's CPU-controlled team members will run right into the line of fire if you're not meticulous in telling them where to move and the fire-contol system is a bit clumsy the moving story line more than compensates for these shortcomings and should give even the casual player a very compelling reason to suit up for another mission.
WHAT WE LIKE:
• Thoughtful story line makes you actually care about a videogame character
• Suppressing and flanking is slower but more interesting than running and gunning
• Blowing up the bad guys with bazookas, then watching them fly though the air with the slow-motion Action Camera
WHAT WE DON'T LIKE:
• Use of weapons isn't as polished as in other shooters
• Computer-controlled characters sometimes behave erratically
Gary Eng Walk
NEXT PAGE: Pure is strangely familiar