The LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile (76112) made its debut earlier in the year and has been quite anticipated since then. LEGO sets are pretty static in general within the System theme, with exceptions like vehicles running on tracks and rails such as trains and the recent roller coaster, so it’s pretty nice to have a free-form controlled device in the mainstream market that won’t take much time from build to play. The new Batmobile finally hits store shelves today, and we’re taking it for a spin so we can pretend to be the Dark Knight for a day.
Coming in at 321 elements and with a price tag of $99 USD and available on LEGO online stores on August 1st, let’s dive deep and evaluate if it’s worth parting with your hard earned dollar.
First things first, hardcore Batman fans will notice right off the bat (pun intended) that the Batman insignia used on the box art is from the New 52 series of comic books or more recently: Rebirth. The Arkham video game series from Rockstar Studios too use this bat-logo. At first glance, one might guess that the vehicle build could have been inspired by the series of comic books or the video games, but we could not find any association with either of these. It’s more likely that LEGO is staying aligned with the most recent darker themed version of Batman and the vehicle is just an original build by the LEGO design team.
The box & instructions
The App-Controlled Batmobile comes with 3 bags in the box and the rest of the remaining parts are loose as shown in this spread. The box is made of a thicker material and with flaps to store your parts after play, seen quite frequently in Ideas and Architecture sets. What’s relatively new here is the Powered Up system, unofficially known as “Power Functions 2.0” within the LEGO building community.
The Powered Up system
The main unit is basically a Hub (receiver) and acts as the main power device that requires 6 AAA batteries. The trend has now moved away from IR and towards Bluetooth as its main communication channel. This means the controller can actually be a physical unit like the one provided with the upcoming City Train 60197, but for this set, a smartphone or tablet device is expected to be used together with an application that would be downloadable from mobile app stores. The unit reminded me very much of the BOOST Creative Toolbox but in a smaller package with the same type of flat connector ports. This hub is fitted with 2 ports on one side. This set comes with 2 motors which will no doubt be to power up the 4 wheels. The hub stands 4 bricks tall and is 8 studs length by 4 studs in width. This is the same form factor as the current Power Functions battery hub.
The hub battery housing requires six AAA batteries and the cover is secured with two screws on the underside. While it’s meant to be held securely in place, we’ve always secretly wished they’d do away with screws and re-design a screw-less system to facilitate quick battery replacements.
Unique parts & printed elements
Holy Batman accessories, Batman! The set does come with some unique parts. It’s basically a pack of Batman-themed decorations that’s going to be a delight for fans of the Dark Knight and for potential custom LEGO creations. Where possible, they’re all designed for aesthetics with at most a single anti-stud at the back. It contains three Bat-a-rangs, and a pair each of four other various bat-shaped elements. This is a nice highlight for custom builders. Note that only two of these accessories are used, so you’ll have a lot of spares by the end of the build.
This bag comes with a printed element which comes with a “power” button on a Nexo Knight Shield and contains two printed slopes that make up the fictional console and controls for Batman in the cockpit.
Building the Batmobile
Bag 1 consists of building the undercarriage with the two motors that will eventually house the wheels. The wires are stiff yet still manageable. By the time the first bag is complete, you have the lower half of the bat-mobile with some clever cable management techniques used to keep the cables in place
A view of the undersides of the build at the completion of Bag 1 shows how the axles are secured to the chassis. During the build, you can tell how large the base will be for the wheels.
The completion of Bag 2 basically finishes the sides to allow for the Power Up main unit.
Bag 3 consists of what we call the “shields-up” bag! The parts are all made to cover up the vehicle’s core, provide the outer shaping, and give the vehicle its signature Batmobile look.
The hub sits at the back of the Batmobile in an area that fits snugly, with only 4 studs to hold it in place. From the image below, you can see the green element and at the back, the two studs from the grey piece. This will facilitate easy access and removal.
The last few remaining steps are to pop in the hub and flip up the back panel.
The printed power switch is placed strategically over a Plate, Round 2 x 2 with Rounded Bottom, which presses the green switch on the hub itself.
Not forgetting the Caped Crusader’s seat, Batman has to lie almost flat for the cover to be attached, which is only held in place by two studs close to the front of the vehicle.
The end result is actually pretty stunning when you have the finished build in your hand. It almost gives you the feeling of being Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) from the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy when he hands over the keys to the Batmobile to Christian Bale. Take a moment to soak it all in.
The design (or lack thereof)
Let’s get down to the real deal. We’re pretty sure that many of you are less enthusiastic about the lack of a super cool looking Batmobile at first glance. That’s how we felt too at first. It simply looked like a hunk of black elements put together. What it comes down to is this – the construction of this Batmobile is designed with simplicity and functionality and maximum playability in mind. Unlike many LEGO sets we review here on The Brothers Brick, this Batmobile is not a display piece. It looks more like a Bat-tank with its bulk and speed (which we will come to shortly). With the minifigure being modelled after the Arkham series, the design does strike us that it would be inspired by gameplay. Though we didn’t quite find a similar Batmobile in the series, the bulk does remind us of the Bat-Tank from that series. So while the build could certainly do with a bit more colour (well, at least some more very, very dark gray), the end product in hand actually grows on you when it comes to its durability during play. For one, it’s portable and parts don’t fall off easily, and the vehicle will take a bit of a bang before they do. All in all, it actually looks quite decent as opposed to the product shots on the box, so don’t let that turn you off. And if all else fails, you could do your own mods.
It took us a while to identify the suit, but we did find out the exact print that the minifigure was modelled after. Bat-fans will be pleased to know that the Bat-suit is modelled after the successful Rocksteady Studios 2015 Arkham Knight game. The minifigure is indeed unique, so for collectors that must have every single Batman minifig variant out there, this is one that’s definitely worth adding to your collection. Note: Earlier product shots showed a more generic looking Batman minifigure
Batman has a dual-sided face print, both with a bit of stubble, and the detailing of the torso extends to the back.
The pearl-grey cowl is only used in one other Batman minifigure from the LEGO Clash of the Heroes 76044 playset.
The Powered Up mobile/tablet app
The Powered Up app replaces the controller present in the City Train 60197 – which is a good approach that translates to a lower cost of sale for this set. It’s perfect for an entry-level product with remote control functionality, without sacrificing features and playability. You do obviously have to own a compatible smartphone device. It’s quite obvious that you could easily interchange the app with the controller. The advantage of the Powered Up app is the capability to add pre-programmed moves or to use a flexible building-block approach in the same way that you can program LEGO Boost.
Launching the app greet you with the LEGO City and Batman theme music. It’s obvious that LEGO is consolidating control for all Powered Up-compatible LEGO sets with this app (and as a result it’s a great way to provide some subtle advertising of other LEGO sets). A short video plays right after first launching the app, depicting a kid putting together the LEGO set and, with ease, immediately getting into the gameplay. This is quite similar to our experience.
A quick battery reminder is displayed with menu options. The beauty of LEGO is that it’s designed with universality in mind — there’s not a single piece of text or voice audio required to build and operate the vehicle. The well-designed visuals are self-explanatory. It was a surprise, however, to see these two screens presented upon the completion of the video above. Selecting one or the other would present different virtual controllers. It took a while for us to figure out the difference but it is not something to be overly concerned about.
Let’s do a quick rundown of the difference between the red virtual controller and the blue virtual controller. The red app controller features two vertical controls on each end of the screen followed by 3 hexagonal icons at the bottom centre console for pre-programmed actions. A hub signal icon appears at the top. Tapping it will take you to another screen to show connectivity status.
The blue controller has a very similar layout, but instead of the vertical bars, in their place is a + and – interface with 3 hexagonal icons at the bottom centre.
The difference that I could tell is that the red controllers seem to be analogue controllers, where sliding your fingers slowly gives the Batmobile a step increase in forward acceleration (or reverse acceleration). The blue console, however, seems to take binary input – pressing an on-screen button pushes the motors to their highest speeds in either direction.
The hexagonal icons on both virtual controllers are simply pre-programmed actions. All of these could be performed with the controller once you get accustomed to the controller, but having them is just a nice way to quickly get the Batmobile to take some quick actions as opposed to just a regular drive. We’ll cover these action button in our Videos review section.
In short, the controls are simple and self-explanatory. We don’t see any reason someone couldn’t get started pretty quickly.
Powering it up!
Robin, to the Batmobile! No review of a motorised LEGO set is complete without it being in action. The Batmobile maneuvers quite well within a small space as can be seen in our indoor video. The response time is pretty quick and seamless, as you would expect from a remote controlled car. There is one downside though of the Powered Up system that we experienced. Turn up your volume for this particular video – that high pitched droning noise is a constant during any motor movement. For enclosed areas, if Batman was in pursuit of an enemy, well, let’s just say the bad guy would be alerted well before the Batmobile appears in sight.
Using the Virtual Controllers
The red virtual controller features two sliders that have 10 increments to move forward and backward. Each increment steps up the speed of the vehicle, giving you a finer-grain control in either direction. Lifting your fingers off the controls basically turns off the motor. The blue console is binary; it accelerates to top speed in either direction, which is a little tougher to have precise control, but great for speed runs. The easiest way to think of it is that the red controller gives you controlled speed, where the blue is all about full throttle.
Taking the Batmobile for a spin
We decided to take the Batmobile outside for a spin to give you better context for the playability in a real-world environment. This video should give you a sense of speed and control and agility. The audio is muted as the GoPro camera had a waterproof protective casing which had the side-effect of protecting against most if not all sounds.
Earlier in this review, we mentioned the pre-programmed moves (hexagonal icons) in each virtual controller. Let’s see them in action, executed one after another — a wheelie, a full 360-degree turn, and a reverse U-turn via the red controller. The blue pre-programmed buttons in action feature a quick reverse (defense mode), a wheelie, followed by surveillance mode.
While both of these features seem quite gimmicky, it’s pretty useful that there’s an immediate fun factor right out of the box. Any one of those moves could be executed on your own once you actually familiarise yourself with the controls, but it’s more fun to see it done right up front. Very similar to the Boost system, it won’t be a surprise if you could eventually do your own pre-programmed sequences.
One question that’s probably at the back of your mind is – how fast does this thing go? Well, have a look at this back and forth run. We used the blue controller, which basically enables max acceleration when you press the button.
It’s not so fast that it can outrun your domestic feline or canine, but it will give them something to watch out for. Trust me on that, this was canine tested and approved.
Going the distance
The last thing that we need to cover is the range. How far can the Batmobile run before the Bluetooth signals are out of reach of the hub module? Have a watch.
The lamp post on the right is as far as it would go from where we were seated. The measured distance was roughly 14 meters or 46 feet, which we think is a decent distance to run. Note: The mobile device that the Powered Up app was tested on is an iPhone X, which may be running a later version of Bluetooth with greater range. A pop-up appears in the app on your device when the Batmobile goes out of range and the signal is lost.
While the design may be lacking, it does serve a purpose. The high profile with the looks of a wheeled tank makes it more durable when and flexible on different terrain and potential obstacles. The controls are smooth, and while it won’t run at an extremely fast speed to outrun a dog or a cat, it will introduce some great fun for its intended target audience of kids who are just getting exposed to remote controlled vehicles.
The set is built well for structure and strength, but just don’t expect it to be completely indestructible. It maneuvers quite well and the build was extremely easy and seamless, such that even the hubs and motor were simply treated as just another element that needed to be put in place with little effort. The language of LEGO is quite well-polished — despite the increased complexity of connected devices with a software controller, simply pictures and diagrams sufficed, just like all previous LEGO sets. The minifigure is unique and from a known Batman franchise (the Arkham video game series), which will appeal to Bat-fans and collectors. And the best part? You’ve always wanted to swoosh and zoom your playsets, and this set actually makes that dream come true. We look forward to more remote-controlled LEGO sets in the future, and this is indeed a good way to kick off the new Powered Up features.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.