The LEGO game series has been around for seven years now always managing to deliver a cute, easily accessible experience that gamers, friends, family and even fans of the movie they are representing can get into. While each new addition to the series rarely ever feels like it breaks entirely new ground, they’re still enough fun if somewhat unadventurous in their approach. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones and Harry Potter to Pirates of the Caribbean the general idea was enjoyable but ultimately beginning to lose some of its original charm. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes however looks to bring the series forward with new ideas and a grander overall scope. Does it manage to do so?
Whereas previous LEGO games have been silent and relied on the visual actions of the characters to provide humour, here Batman, Robin and the rest of the cast are all fully voiced helping elevate the funny level even further with jokes that would have been practically impossible with just shrugs and smiles. I also felt a lot more invested in the story this time as characters were able to explain their thoughts, plans and generally what was going on through their voice, especially helpful here were the plot is entirely new rather than a retreading of a famous movie. In LEGO Batman 2, Lex Luthor along with the Joker’s help decides to bid for the presidency after losing a “Man of the Year” award to Bruce Wayne. With something more sinister bubbling beneath the surface, Batman, Robin and eventually Superman and the entire Justice League step in to stop the evil plot. Sure it’s all basic stuff but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
While the game has been advertised as featuring an open-world to explore, that statement isn’t entirely true. Instead Gotham City acts merely as a giant hub for Batman and his sidekick to venture, going from one point to another via foot or vehicle in order to initiate a new chapter stage. These moments play out in pretty much the same fashion as previous LEGO titles with tightly structured stages consisting of enemies to punch, obstacles to jump and navigate and light puzzles to solve. Scattered throughout these are also new outfits for the pair to use providing them with unique abilities that will help them along the way. The electricity suit for example allows Batman to walk through electrified areas harm free while Robin’s hazard suit lets him shoot radioactive gunk from a hose. Again you’ll earn studs (the game’s form of currency) and find hidden items to unlock more goodies here. Sadly the similar structure to older LEGO titles mean moments where you’re left wondering what piece of scenery you need to interact with next are present which can bog down the overall pace of these chapters. This is tried and tested LEGO-style gameplay and believe it or not it still works, despite this being about the tenth time we’ve seen it now.
Back to the “open-world” though. Here is where you’re free to search around the likes of Arkham Asylum, Ace Chemicals, Gotham City Police Department and the rest of Gotham taking on villains, collecting red and gold bricks and tackling side missions. The area in which you’re given to drive, fly and cause general havoc is huge which can also be a problem thanks to the lack of any form of small radar on the screen. Going back and forth between the main map (which in itself doesn’t allow you to zoom for more detail) proves annoying especially considering it provides the whereabouts of a majority of the hidden extras in the city. The city itself is also devoid of any real… well… LEGO. It just feels a bit generic and could have been a lot more enjoyable if the actual LEGO idea was taken further. Faults aside however, the added freedom is a nice change of pace from previous LEGO titles and hopefully something Travellers Tales can expand further in their future efforts.
Co-op is handled in a decent manner with drop-in/drop-out meaning a friend can join at any point in the game. During the more open segments, the screen splits into two which makes sense given players will likely want to explore on their own rather than being tether together. During the actual chapter sections however the action appears on the one screen whilst subtly splitting should you venture too far from your buddy. It may sound slick but the actual implementation proved fairly confusing and disorienting. One or the other would have been better rather than this iffy combination.
As mentioned before it’s not just Batman who makes an appearance in the game with Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern and many more heroes lending a hand. Unfortunately these guys don’t make enough of an appearance in the main adventure, most showing up near the back end. For such a heavily focused feature (it appears in the title) the added cast of heroes feels like it could have been more fleshed out. However the sheer number to unlock and select in free-play, each with their own moves and abilities is impressive to say the least. Heroes or villains, you’re completely free to choose your perfect pairing. The same can also be said for the vehicles with a selection vast and wide.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a noble effort from Traveller’s Tales to try and infuse some new ideas into a formula that has long since starting to crumble. It may not have paid off perfectly, but the new ideas displayed here definitely show potential for future LEGO titles. With Batman 2 however, a flawed open-structure and similar issues that have plagued previous LEGO titles result in a game that struggles to reach superhero standards.