Traveller’s Tales have pumped out so many LEGO video games in the last few years that you’d be forgiven for missing one or two. Somehow, I’ve missed all 14. It doesn’t make sense when you consider that, as a child, I spent hours sitting on the floor building and destroying LEGO towns like a sweaty-handed prepubescent Godzilla. So when the chief here at DC offered me a chance to review LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, I jumped at the chance and then glided around the room, arms outstretched, with my Superman cape on.
How can I say no to Batman? With the recent relaunch of DC’s entire line of superheroes and the hype train pulling into fan boy station for The Dark Knight Rises, it’d be hard to turn the Caped Crusader down at this time of year. In LEGO Batman 2, you take control of the titular Batman in all his brick-glory as well as a cast of over 50 heroes and villains ripped from the hallowed pages of the DC Comics line. Although those characters inherently bring a deep sense of back story to the game, it is refreshing to note that the game features a completely original narrative.
Lex Luthor, the well-dressed, shiny-skulled evil scientist made famous in Action Comics, teams up with everyone’s favourite supervillain in the Joker. The Joker, obviously high on the successes of The Dark Knight, interrupts Gotham’s Man of the Year award ceremony with a handful of his goons and some famous faces such as Harley Quinn, the Riddler and Two-Face. The game throws you in the middle of the action as Batman or the ever-embarrassing Robin and tasks you with defeating the two villains and saving the city of Gotham.
The course of the story is plotted through 15 chapters, kicking off at the Man of the Year awards and ending upon the roof of Wayne Tower. Each chapter involves the collection of ‘studs’ (you know those round LEGO one-pieces that usually form the lights on say, a Lego car). You collect them from all sorts of things because everything in the environment made of LEGO is smashable and destroying the scenery to reveal 1000’s of studs is part of the fun. Chapters interchange between a third-person perspective and a first-person on-rails shooter, with the latter providing a welcome break from the whack-and-think gameplay of the former.
Once again adding a layer of depth is the ability for Batman and Robin to change suits. Apart from your regular Bat Suit there is the Power Suit, allowing Batman to shoot rockets from a backpack, or the Electricity Suit that can plug into electrical sockets and allow traversal through dangerous electrical fields. These suits also feed directly into each character’s unique abilities. The Dark Knight’s Power Suit For example has the ability to blow up silver LEGO bricks, while Acrobat Suit Robin can double-jump and use his baton to reach secret areas. As you unlock extra characters, you find that their abilities are actually just recycled from those you had gained earlier with the suits, which is a little frustrating given the insane amount of abilities that DC Comics’ superheroes have.
The game is unabashedly easy, no doubt because its target audience have attention spans that are about as long as The Shire’s run on national television. The combat controls are simplistic with one dedicated button to punch, one to grab and one to jump (or fly!). Puzzles that are littered throughout each chapter rarely require much more than working out which suit or ability you need to progress. Making things easier is the inability to actually die. The health bar, which consists of four hearts, is depleted quickly but upon being drained you simply blow up into a mess of LEGO and respawn exactly where you were, only with fewer studs. The penalty for death is so meagre I often found myself running head first into combat with little regard for whether I was being hit or not. Once Superman joins your party, well, wind and caution meet quite quickly.
To my surprise, the cutscenes feature full voice acting, something that the LEGO series has not used in any of the previous instalments. Moreover, the classy dialogue and thoughtful cinematics are sprinkled with humour and delivered with gusto, meaning the guys at Traveller’s Tales didn’t throw voice acting in just to give Nolan North another pay check. I also find Lex Luthor’s voice soothingly sexy. Is that weird? Probably. Do I actively imitate it whenever I talk to my girlfriend now? Definitely. To be honest, the voice acting was one of my favourite parts of the game, especially considering the talent behind the voices have worked on a number of the associated animated series.
If you liked collecting Riddler trophies in Batman: Arkham City then you are going to appreciate the open-world Gotham City that Traveller’s Tales have created for this game. The entire map is littered with collectibles, ranging from new characters, red bricks, gold bricks, studs and parts for new vehicles – and during my time with the game I did my best to scour every corner and still fell remarkable short of 100% completion. Making this easier is the ability for characters like The Green Lantern and Superman to fly across the map and truly, the first time I took to the skies with the man-in-tights and John William’s timeless Superman theme kicked in, I got all childish and giddy. Unfortunately, those aerial controls are unnecessarily complex resulting in a number of crash landings and cement headbutts.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun while playing LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and at the end of the day, isn’t that what gaming is really about? It’s a title that makes no excuses for being easy or cheesy (it pays homage to the incredible shark scene from the 70’s TV Batman), but supplants the idea of needing fancy graphics and explosions to tell a decent story. For that reason alone, it deserves your attention. I know The Dark Knight Rises is probably number one on your list-of-Batman-related-things-to-experience (and I don’t blame you) but knock LEGO Batman 2 up the list a few places and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with just how much fun it is.
- Reviewed On