Warner Bros. Surprises with Scribblenauts, Awes with Arkham Asylum

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Thanks to a giant Warner Bros water tower and a genuine, on-site Batmobile, there was really no missing Warner Bros.’ movie-themed booth at this year’s E3. But we’ll call that fortunate, since WB had a fine (and expansive) set of wares for this year’s show that we’re glad we caught.

Batman Arkham Asylum, which has seen a major PR and advertising blitz at this show, delivers on the hype as a highly polished action brawler. Eidos did an exemplary job getting across the raw power and grittiness of Batman as a character: This is a combat game that makes it truly feel as if you’re kicking butt, not just controlling tiny figures on a screen and knocking some down. Batman’s punches land with satisfyingly brutal sound effects, and a camera that automatically zooms in and slows down time helps ramp up the perception of raw oomf in each hit. Combine that with some of the best graphics we’ve ever seen from a movie game, including impeccable detail in all of the characters, right down to the flow in Batman’s cape, and you have a game that’s as pretty to watch as it is fun to play.

The team from 2007’s Drawn to Life was back with yet another creative title for the Nintendo DS this year, Scribblenauts, which, despite the low-key approach, was by far our favorite game at WB. In it, players control a 2D character known as Maxwell, who must navigate his way through different challenges using items that you, the player, can call into life simply by typing them in. That’s right: Pretty much anything you can imagine, you can use in the game. Type “jetpack” and you have a jetpack, type “walrus” and you have a walrus. Amazingly, we were unable to stump the game’s library with an item it didn’t have, which makes sense given that it contains thousands and thousands of items. The fewer you use, the better your score, and there are 200 different levels to complete. For those of us who haven’t yet sprung for a DS, this might be the game that necessitates it.

Lego Rock Band, while a completely shameless abuse of the Lego name on some levels, makes sense after a little explaining. Harmonix has basically used the Lego theme to build a kiddie version of Rock Band, meaning easier levels, colorful Lego-themed graphics, and songs with no profanity. So while older audiences may be content with the plethora of other Rock Bands out there, and especially the new Beatles version, we’re not altogether appalled to see the Lego name make an appearance so they can peddle it to kids.