Lego Batman: Extras and Secrets Revisited

By now, it’s abundantly clear to me that the Traveler’s Tales Lego games are fundamentally meant not just to be won, but to be 100%ed. The secrets aren’t all that hard to find, and involve many of the games’ best tricks, things you don’t want to miss out on. But I didn’t fully appreciate this when I was writing about Lego Star Wars back in 2007. In one post, I mentioned how one of the upgrades I had not yet purchased was a 10x multiplier on lego stud intake, which seems like it would be a great way to afford the really expensive purchasable upgrades and characters, until you notice that the 10x upgrade costs more than everything else put together. Saving up for that hardly seemed worth it.

However, that’s not all there is to it. In all of the games from Lego Star Wars 2 onward, there are in fact other, cheaper score multiplier upgrades — I just happened to find the most expensive one first. See, before you can purchase upgrades, you have to physically locate the lego blocks containing them. (In Lego Indiana Jones, you also have to find or assemble a mailbox so you can send it back to Barnett College.) Before you do this, you don’t even know what upgrades are available. The customary progression seems to be a 2x multiplier in the first few levels, then 4x, 6x, 8x, and finally 10x, scattered throughout the run, interspersed with other upgrades. Furthermore, the multipliers stack — and not in the half-hearted additive way usually seen in bonus multipliers in games: if you activate the 2x, 4x, 6x, and 8x bonuses all at once, the result is not 20x, but 384x. This makes the 10x multiplier trivially affordable, along with everything else in the game. It’s still pointless, but it’s no longer pointless and difficult.

Lego Batman adds a neat twist to all this: it makes the multipliers the exclusive province of the Villain levels. In fact, instead of spacing them out over the course of the game, the upgrades in the first five levels of the Villain campaign are simply the five multipliers, followed by the “stud magnet” upgrade. It seems appropriate, associating villain play with both avarice and borderline cheating. Except I don’t really feel like using the multipliers gained this way is cheating — it would be cheating to unlock them with a cheat code, but if you solved an in-game puzzle to obtain it, that means you earned it.

What upgrades does the Hero campaign provide while this is going on? It seems to be entirely about “suit upgrades”: things that specifically affect the functions of the various Batman and Robin costumes. More batarang targets, faster grappling, immunity to bullets, that sort of thing. Somehow this feels like it goes against the hero/villain dynamic: the villain upgrades generously benefit everyone, the hero upgrades selfishly only benefit the heroes. But that’s the superhero ethic, I suppose. I remember a review of Warren Ellis’s Planetary, a comic whose main villains are plainly modeled after the Fantastic Four, that pointed out that it isn’t even a matter of “What if the Fantastic Four were evil”, but that, by hoarding potentially transformative technologies for their exclusive use, the canon Fantastic Four are already evil as judged by Planetary‘s values.

Still, that’s a bit of a stretch here, in a game where the putative heroes and villains fight side by side all the time in Free Play mode, united by their shared obsession with gratuitous property damage.

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