Developer: Traveler’s Tales / Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Played on: PlayStation 3 / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Cartoon Violence]
Bruce Wayne wins the Man of the Year award and, wouldn’t you know it, things couldn’t get any worse for the citizens of Gotham. The latest iteration of Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO series of video games is more than most other titles in the series. Not only does LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes feature the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder, but it also has Superman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, and plenty of other DC superstars as playable characters, each with their own set of powers and abilities. Couple the playable characters with a good, funny story and solid cooperative play, and LEGO Batman 2 is a hit for gamers of all ages.
The Joker is up to no good yet again as he crashes the Man of the Year awards right after Bruce Wayne is given the prestigious accolade (much to the dismay of fellow nominee Lex Luthor). Before you can say holy Bill of Rights, Batman and Robin swoop in and save the day, returning the Joker and his cohorts to Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately for the dynamic duo, they won’t be resting easy any time soon, because soon after the aforementioned fiasco, Lex Luthor frees the Joker and just about every other super villain being housed at Arkham. Though reluctant to ask for help, Batman calls upon the aid of Superman to help him with the situation at hand. With Lex and the Joker teaming up, and dozens of evil doers terrorizing the citizens of Gotham City, Batman, Robin, and even Superman might be in over their heads. The story in LEGO Batman 2 is actually entertaining, hitting all the right notes as a super hero story, a Batman comic, and a LEGO video game should. Helping out greatly with this is the inclusion of voice actors for every character. Instead of the mumbles and gestures seen in past LEGO games, LEGO Batman 2 uses a full cast of voice actors to deliver a much more enjoyable experience. Humorous bits are mixed in to every scene: if you’ve played a previous game in the LEGO series you can expect the same type of comedy. The main story spans 15 chapters, each varying in length, with the whole story being over in around 15 hours.
The gameplay in LEGO Batman 2 remains largely the same as it was in the first LEGO Batman game (and for that matter most LEGO games made by Traveller’s Tales). Most of the story mode will have you playing as Batman or Robin. Both characters have a basic attacks and combos to dispatch foes, grappling hooks to reach high ledges, and Batarangs to throw at enemies. Each of the heroes also has special suits only they can wear to gain additional powers. Batman’s electricity suit allows him to walk through electric barriers, and his bat suit lets him glide from high altitudes as well as use a sonic gun to destroy certain objects blocking his path, just to name a couple. Robin, on the other hand, has an agility suit that he can use to climb up walls, and a magnet suit to attract and walk on metal surfaces. You’ll have to use these suits’ special abilities to progress through many of the game’s stages, as you’ll be presented with a scenario where only one hero’s powers can allow for further progress. This type of gameplay makes playing the game cooperatively a much better method because it’s faster and more fun than having to constantly switch between characters. If you’re at all familiar with past entries in the series, you’ll be a little disappointed with the lack of innovation in this respect.
Though the gameplay of the story mode borders on familiarly stale, it is outside of the story mode that the game shines. Completing a level unlocks free play for the specific level, which allows you to replay the stage as any character you have previously unlocked. Playing through the game as, say, Clayface instead of Batman can be very entertaining. Not only that, but there are collectibles like vehicles and extra characters to play as that you can only gain access to by replaying a level with a specific character. Perhaps the best part of the entire game is what you do between missions. After each stage you are taken back to a fully explorable Gotham City. Since the prisoners of Arkham have taken to the city (think Batman: Arkham City), there is plenty for you to get distracted with instead of stopping Lex and the Joker. I had thoughts of Grand Theft Auto while running around Gotham, beating up thugs, driving around in cars, flying as Superman to the tops of each building, and exploring every nook and cranny the city had to offer. You can easily play the game for hours just running through the city and not even play the next event in the story and be totally happy. There are 250 gold LEGO bricks to collect, dozens of characters to unlock, and over 20 vehicles to collect and build, meaning there is a ton to do in LEGO Batman 2.
Sadly, the same problems that were present in past games are still present here. It’s very easy to get stuck in an area and not know how to progress. In just about every level I played I came to a point where I couldn’t see what to do next, and had to run back through the level trying to figure out what the hell to do next. I also had performance issues when playing co-op with both players that were far away from one another geographically. When the game is autosaving you cannot control your hero, but you can still take damage from enemies around you. A couple odd glitches forced me to restart the level or, in one instance, restart my PlayStation 3.
Sound & Visuals
This is the first among the new breed of LEGO games to feature a voice cast. Voice actors deliver convincing performances, with Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and the Joker sticking out as the best of the bunch. The banter between characters is funny to hear, like Batman’s disdain for Superman, or Lex’s serious tone clashing with the Joker’s craziness. The soundtrack doesn’t stand out as much as the voices, but still has some highlights, like the main theme song. Overall the music isn’t memorable, mainly because the voice acting is far superior. By now the novelty of everything being made out of LEGO bricks has worn off. That doesn’t mean the game doesn’t still look good; it does, with high quality graphics that are among the best in the series. While playing in Gotham the game loads everything at one time, meaning there are no breaks in gameplay when traveling from one corner of the city to the other. On top of that there aren’t any instances of pop-in or hanging loadtimes to speak of.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is what you expect it to be: the newest LEGO game with a Justice League twist. The amount of recognizable DC heroes and villains you can play as will make you search out every last gold brick to unlock them. Though the gameplay remains largely unchanged from past games in the series, it still offers solid cooperative gameplay that is accessible by gamers of all skill levels. The inclusion of a fully voiced cast and the open-world setting of Gotham make this one of the most ambitious games in the LEGO series to date. If you only play one Batman game that comes out this year, it should definitely be LEGO Batman 2.