CCI: WayForward Joins The Brave and the Bold

Since debuting in late 2008, the animated series "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" has been very popular with both television critics and fans of the Caped Crusader. Inspired by "The Brave and the Bold" comic series, each episode of the animated show features Batman teaming-up with other heroes from the DC Universe. The show features both well and lesser-known characters, ranging from the Flash to Plastic Man to Gentleman Ghost. The show recently received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, for the acclaimed "Mayhem of the Music Meister" episode.

This September, the animated series is making the jump to console games, courtesy of developer WayForward Technologies ("A Boy and His Blob," "Contra 4"). "Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame" will be released for the Nintendo's Wii and DS consoles, and WayForward is doing something unique with the game that will leverage the connectivity between the Wii and DS. The game is being shown off at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week, and CBR spoke with WayForward's Adam Tierney and Sean Velasco, (Directors of the Wii and DS versions, respectively) to get some additional details.

CBR News: Over the course of your history as a developer, WayForward has a great resume of all-ages games, including recent titles like "A Boy and His Blob" and "Looney Tunes Duck Amuck." What makes "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" such a good fit for WayForward as a project?

Adam Tierney (WayForward, Director of Wii game): I love that you call them "all-ages" games and not "kids' games," because that's a major component of what we're interested in here at WayForward. We try to make games that appeal to the (typically) younger target audiences, but also games that older gamers, and definitely fans of the source material, can fall in love with. In regard to the games you mentioned, each of those was also an opportunity to try our hand at a new animation style, which is one of the attributes that I think helps WayForward stand out in the games industry. We're one of the only developers (maybe the only one?) using traditional, hand-illustrated, frame-by-frame 2D animation. This project was a blast, because the animation style on "Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame" is so strong.

Sean Velasco (WayForward, Director of DS game): With regards to the handheld version, "The Brave and the Bold" universe is great because it lets us run wild. Want to punch velociraptors in the face? Great. Want to showcase some obscure DC Comics characters? Go for it! In this universe, anything could happen, so it took our cuffs off from a design perspective.

This isn't your first time working with DC's heroes, as you've created games involving Flash ("Justice League Heroes: Flash") and Batman ("Multiply, Divide and Conquer") in the past. What do you take away from working on those games that you can apply to "Batman: Brave and the Bold"?

Tierney: What's so great about doing a game based on a comics franchise is how well the world is already developed for you. As opposed to adapting a standalone movie, where you're really stretching to find things like enemies and bosses, with comic books you typically have decades worth of stories and characters to play with. And oftentimes, it's the lesser-known aspects of a comic that really make the difference.

In the Flash game you mentioned, we brought in the Black Flash (which, for those who don't know, is how speedsters see death coming for them). If you slow time in the game just as The Flash is dying, you see the Black Flash shuffling onscreen and can defeat him for a second chance at life. It's a little different from the comics (where touching him meant death), but the idea allowed us to create something completely unique for the game that also drives comics fans wild because it's pulled straight from that world. We always try to find a balance that will engage the target audience, the hardcore gamers and the comics fans. On this project, everything was of course taken to the next level, since Batman can team up or fight with literally anyone from the DC Universe.

What can we expect from the gameplay? Will this be a straightforward brawler?

Tierney: Just like the TV show is a mix of all things Batman, we wanted to mold a similar sense of nostalgia with the gameplay in the Wii game. The end result is a brawler-fighter-platformer hybrid with light puzzle elements. The basic combat owes a lot to games like "Double Dragon" and "Final Fight," where you're assaulting enemies with a variety of attacks, grabbing and hurling them into one another. On top of that, we wanted each enemy encounter to feel epic on its own, so when you get an enemy in a hold or knock them into the air, there's a variety of juggling and special attacks reminiscent of fighters like "Street Fighter."

You can't ignore how amazing "Batman: Arkham Asylum" was. It's unquestionably the best superhero game ever (sorry "Punisher: The Arcade Game"). There are definitely bits of inspiration we took from other Batman games. The end result is hopefully one that people can immediately get into, that's very accessible, but has enough depth and mastery for the hardcore gamers to train into. Young kids can look badass dashing and button-mashing between enemies, but the expert gamers that really take the time to master the air combat and gadgets can utterly decimate their foes. And the points you earn, which increase based on how well you fight, can be spent on new gadgets and gadget upgrades, which apply to subsequent playthroughs.

Velasco: The DS game, while its own beast, shares a lot of the same DNA with the Wii game. It's about teaming up and kicking butt. We have crazy situations, huge bosses, and balls-to-the-wall action game play. Think about your favorite pixelated action games and you're on the right track.

Tierney: Our first goal with this project was to create an experience where the players could "play the cartoon." So, in the Wii game, we have episodes rather than worlds. Each episode starts with the cold opening teaser battle (just like the TV show), followed by the TV show intro, and then a full adventure (right down to the moral at the end).

In the TV show, Batman and his partners (or even enemies) are also constantly chatting, and we followed that example here. You don't get that typical videogame structure of chatty, non-interactive cutscenes followed by wordless action sequences. So we worked with WB animation to create a pretty monstrous script, where the heroes and villains have actual, extended conversations that play out during the gameplay. We worked with all the actors from the TV series, and I think the dialogue total is equivalent to about four feature-length film scripts.

More than that, the heroes are finding things out, having realizations and even bickering during the adventure. Anyone that's seen the TV show knows that it's most fun when Batman teams up with someone he'd rather not be with. So in the Wii game, you have Batman forced to help Guy Gardner clean up an intergalactic mess (Guy's fault), and Batman could not be more annoyed at the situation. Humor is a major part of the game, although we've got some pretty sentimental bits in there as well.

Velasco: On "Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame" for DS, we still have VO clips featuring the voice actors from the show, which is really cool. Our game is structured as episodes, much like the Wii version, but it's built for shorter, burst-style gameplay that you would expect from a game that you are playing on the go. Overall, the DS game focuses on the action over the story, but still delivers a fun and funny storyline. The ending is especially ridiculous!

So far we've seen Batman, Robin, Green Lantern and Blue Beetle mentioned as playable characters. How big is the cast of the game, and will there be any other playable heroes announced?

Tierney: And we're not just talking about any Green Lantern here, we're talking about Guy freakin' Gardner, the greatest Green Lantern that's ever lived! (Well, he is to me, at least.) We've also got Hal Jordan in there for people who like their Lanterns a bit more traditional.

We haven't revealed everyone in the two games yet, so I can't make any announcements here, unfortunately, but I believe our producer did a count of prominent DC Comics characters that appear in the DS or Wii games, and it was well over 60. And that doesn't include easter eggs and subtle nods.

One of the best things about the TV show is that, like the comic it's named after, Batman can team up with and fight pretty much anyone in the DC Universe. So as DC Comics fans, this was a smörgåsbord for us. We pulled in characters from the TV show, but also characters from the comics that are making their "Brave and Bold" animated debut in this game. One of my favorite additions was having The Rogues as a boss encounter (that's one of the bosses we have announced). And when I say Rogues, I don't mean a few of The Flash's villains hanging out. These are the full-on, Geoff Johns-styled, organized, brutal Rogues, led by Captain Cold!

We took influence from the comics wherever possible in this game, in addition to pulling from the TV show. So Guy Gardner's persona is based not just on his appearances in the cartoon, but also on Peter Tomasi's writing in Green Lantern Corps, which paints Guy as a hothead, sure, but also one of the most faithful and dedicated lanterns in the Corps.

Because team-ups are such a central part of "Batman: Brave and the Bold," are you building this game from the ground up to be a co-op experience?

Tierney: Absolutely! The TV show revolves 100 percent around the idea of Batman teaming up with another hero, so we knew right off the bat that you couldn't do this as a traditional single-player game. If Batman ran through the game solo, it just wouldn't be "The Brave and the Bold."

Velasco: For the DS game, the player switches between heroes in real-time. You can grapple up to a ledge as Batman, and then switch to Blue Beetle to fire off a few shots at some baddies across the way! Co-op multiplayer play isn't really practical on the handheld, but with the constant switching between characters (not to mention the over-the-top screen-clearing special team-up attacks!) the team spirit is in full force.

Tierney: In the Wii game, both heroes are persistent. They're both talking and battling, regardless of whether it's a 1- or 2-player game. In a 2-player game, each character takes control of a hero. In a 1-player game, the unselected hero is controlled by the game's AI. But what I'm really excited about is the drop-in-drop-out structure of that multiplayer. At any time, a second player can power up their Wii Remote and hop right into the game, picking up where the AI character left off. If either player gets tired, they can power down their controller and the AI takes control once again. All of this happens without any break in the action.

You're actually using the connectivity between the Wii and DS with "The Brave and the Bold." Can you tell us about how that will work?

Tierney: Bat-Mite is the only character in both games that knows he's in a videogame. He destroys the fourth wall. We use him in a few different ways in the two games, but if a player owns both versions (and a Nintendo DS and Wii to play them on), they can connect the games to bring in Bat-Mite as a third playable character. Bat-Mite is controlled on the Nintendo DS (using the stylus), and appears in the Nintendo Wii game. As Bat-Mite, the player can float anywhere, and drop either health, energy, a bomb or an anvil. It's entirely up to that player whether to help the heroes or annoy them, which matches the persona of the character (especially when Paul Reubens is voicing him). The Wii-to-DS connectivity is such a unique feature with great possibilities, and we hope gamers get a kick out of what we did with it.

To go back to the "all-ages" concept, how are you creating an experience that will appeal to older fans of Batman and the other DC heroes as well as kids?

Tierney: Again, just check out the TV show. It may look like a kid's cartoon at first glance, but I challenge any DC Comics fan to watch a few episodes. You'll quickly be amazed at what a wealth of DC Comics mythos and fan service is crammed in there. So really, just following the show's example with our games helped make a product that should appeal to younger gamers, fans of the show, and fans of Batman in general.

Beyond that, we made a specific effort to include little touches that would appeal to the comics fanbase. For example, Booster Gold makes an appearance as a jump-in hero and, just like you'd expect, he poses for paparazzi while Skeets flies around doing all the hard work. That's the kind of thing that a fan of the TV show will laugh at, but it's really going to resonate with anyone that's followed Dan Jurgens' work on the character.

Velasco: From a gameplay perspective, we have some challenging moments for both platforming and combat. However, we also have a mode called "Bat-Mite Boost!" where Bat-Mite extends your health bar and appears in tough areas to make jumps easier to perform. This makes the game easier for younger players, while letting tough guys get that meaty challenge they crave.

What aspects of the games will you be showing off at Comic-Con this week?

Tierney: In the Wii game, we're showing off select stages from the Gotham City and Outer Space episodes, which star Batman, Robin, and Guy Gardner. We're also showing off four of the game's boss battles: Catman, Catwoman, The Rogues, and Starro. If that lineup right there doesn't tell you what an eclectic roster this game has, you're not a real DC Comics fan. We're also going to be debuting something special featuring Bat-Mite, as well as the aforementioned Wii-to-DS connectivity mode with him.

"Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame" is scheduled to arrive on September 7, 2010 for the Nintendo Wii and DS.

Tags: batman, nintendo, brave and the bold, cci2010, wayforward studios

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