"If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely," Liam Neeson instructs Christian Bale's Batman-in-training in the film Batman Begins. A character in a standard-issue-but-relatively-entertaining licensed video game probably wasn't the "something else" he had in mind. But for those timid about taking to the night and doing some costumed crime-fighting, the Batman Begins game offers a chance to participate in the Batman legend from a distance.
In a Gotham City where oil drums and disused cranes allow easy access to rooftops, and the bad guys disappear after some well-placed punches, you guide Batman through a series of adventures that closely mirror the plot of the Christopher Nolan film. But more than the story seems familiar: Anyone who's played an action-adventure game from Tomb Raider to the present will have little trouble getting their bearings. As Batman, you must walk through dim surroundings, punch the occasional bad guy, figure out some pretty simple puzzles, learn to work some new gadgets, and sit back and enjoy cut scenes featuring the original cast members.
A few original touches do keep it interesting. Never mind the body armor: This Batman is about as bulletproof as a pillow, meaning you must learn to avoid direct confrontation. Instead, players have to figure out ways to use the environment both for stealth attacks and to frighten an army of hired goons. A superstitious, cowardly lot to an almost absurd degree, the many thugs Batman encounters instinctively drop their weapons at the first loud crash they hear. This seems like bad henchmanship, but hey, it's a stressful job.
Beyond the gameplay: The backgrounds and environment capture the film's richly detailed look. Take time to savor them. Also worth savoring: Michael Caine's witty line readings confirm he's incapable of giving a lazy performance, whether it's in Alfie, a forgettable Jaws sequel, or a soon-to-be-forgotten video game.
Worth playing for: Some levels require you to drive the film's tank-like Batmobile, smashing enemies at high speeds that turn into slow motion on impact, allowing the camera to capture every bit of flying debris. This is rarely challenging, but also rarely less than awesome.
Frustration sets in when: You encounter yet another control panel that requires you to bust out the "Electro-hack," a device that requires you to spend 10 seconds mindlessly pressing buttonser, "electro-hacking"before the action continues. It's pure busywork.
Final judgment: No surprises here, but it's still a pretty handsome souvenir of the movie, combining some well-worn but effective bits of business from platform games, combat adventures, and destruction-heavy racing games. Call it Batman's Acceptable-tastic Video-Game Adventure.