Grappling attacks and multi-target Batarangs have been added to the usual LEGO combat roster of punching and shooting. There's also mind control, kisses of death, electrocution, gliding and super strength to be found among the scores of playable characters and alternate costumes. Completists will find many paths and secret areas blocked by barriers that require these later-acquired skills to pass. Part of the replay value, I suppose, but at the time it bugged the crap out of me.
And speaking of playable characters, your A.I.-controlled sidekicks seems to be able to consistently bust up baddies on their own rather than simply taking up space and giving you access to whatever random tool you need to solve a particular area's puzzles. They also do a much better job of staying out of your way, marking a notable improvement from the previous games.
I suppose I should mention the vehicle levels, but they're little more than faster paced versions of the normal levels - a brawler on wheels, so to speak. Makes for a nice change of pace, though.
One of the singular aspects of the LEGO games is the simple fact that you cannot die. When your health is reduced to zero, your character breaks, and you lose a measure of studs, but then you immediately flicker back to life to continue your war on crime (or nefarious plot, depending on the mission). It's not exactly a high-pressure situation - quite the opposite, in fact. Without a set number of lives or continues constricting the player, the whole experience feels different from the usual videogame methodology, where you seek domination over some digital adversary. You play LEGO Batman in the same way you would play with LEGOs themselves, or any other toy. You can't lose when you're playing with your own action figures.
That whimsical, free-form approach to gameplay gives LEGO Batman and it's predecessors their broad appeal. It's not just the familiar subjects and locations; it's the familiar air of innocence and fun.
Bottom Line: LEGO Batman isn't breaking exciting new ground in the growing LEGO videogame dynasty but, much like each successive game before it, it does add some fun new ways of bashing baddies. And you're Batman!
Recommendation: Buy it if you can't stand not owning everything with a bat-symbol emblazoned upon it, or if you're already firmly in the sway of the LEGO series' charm. Rent it if you like simple diversions, superhero adventure or un-complex fun. Avoid it if you hate toys and take yourself too seriously.
Thaddeus Stoklasa needs a less complicated name if he's ever going to make it as a crime fighter.