Review:- Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

Game: Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is Traveller’s Tales’ tenth Lego game to be released since the first Lego Star Wars first came out in 2005 and at first glance not a great deal has changed over the past seven or so years.  With each Lego game that has been released Travller’s Tales have focused on refining the experience rather than dramatically overhauling the series with every subsequent game, and as a result of this their games have been some of the finest family friendly games released.

Still, despite being well aware of this fact,  I couldn’t help but initially feel a little disappointed with Lego Batman 2. Sure there are a selection of new costumes for Batman and Robin to use, a number of new locations and every character has been redesigned, but the basic gameplay remains the same; navigate your way through a fairly linear environment, solve basic puzzles using your character’s unique abilities, and defeat the bad guys. It turns out that my initial misgivings about the game were completely unfounded as, once you’ve completed the first few missions, a small change is made that dramatically improves the whole experience.

Along the way you’ll come across sections that are inaccessible until you return at a later point in time with a specific character. Much like Lego Batman before it the game’s soundtrack is made up of the tracks from Tim Burton’s first Batman movie composed by Danny Elfman, which goes some way towards explaining the feeling of familiarity.

The dynamic split-screen feature can be quite disorienting at times

As with every other Lego game before it, Lego Batman 2 is playable in co-op with another player locally and there is no online co-op. When playing in split-screen Traveller’s Tales use their innovative dynamic split screen system that has the borders of each player’s screen change as the two players move around the world. If two players are right next to each other there’s no split in the screen, and if one chooses to run off to the other end of the map the screen splits accordingly.

One downside of this feature is the fact that it can really be quiet disorienting, particularly  when flying characters come into the mix. Should the other player run off to the right you’ll end up with a vertical split down the screen, however, if they launch themselves into the air to a great height and come back on themselves, the split rotates until it becomes horizontal. No one can deny that it’s a very intelligent feature, but it can really cause some confusion.

With all of the slightly negative points out of the way it’s time to focus on everything that is 100% spot on perfect about the game. After completing the third or fourth mission the game truly starts to open up… and I mean that literally.

The first few missions will feel very familiar if you’ve played any of the past ten Lego games

Beyond a certain point you will have large sections of Gotham City open for you to explore freely, with more sections unlocking as you progress through the game. By the end of the first act you’ll have a gigantic densely populated city to explore between missions for as long as you like, and this newfound freedom is intoxicating.

Gotham City is literally teaming with hidden collectibles and side puzzles to solve as well as hundreds of panicked pedestrians and violent thugs roaming the streets. The amount of content is really quite astounding: there are endangered civilians that need rescuing, cheat enabling red bricks to discover, boss characters to defeat (and then purchase for using in the game’s free play mode), 250 golden bricks to discover, and dozens of new vehicles to buy. In some regards it’s almost too much content to handle, and is actually quite a daunting prospect on paper.

Fortunately, as with the main missions themselves, certain puzzles can only be solved once you have unlocked the required character. For instance, Superman’s heat vision can melt any golden metal objects and Lex Luthor’s disruptor gun can destroy glowing black blocks - until you have these characters you will not be able to complete these side objectives, so you’ll have plenty of excuses to return to old levels and sections of Gotham long after you’ve completed the main story.

In some regards there are simply too many things to unlock including Bane’s… errr… Mole Machine?

Speaking of the unlockable characters, from the subtitle some may be expecting a full-fledged DC Super Heroes game, although that is not the case – this is Lego Batman afterall, not Lego Justice League. For the first half of the game the only heroes available to you are Batman and Robin, with Superman making the odd appearance until he eventually joins the team. The rest of the Justice League, meanwhile, is only playable from the final two missions onwards. Once you have completed the main story you are given free rein of the city as any character you please, and it is really here that you’re likely to have the most fun.

One significantly amazing feature is Traveller’s Tales’ handling of the man of steel. Superman is practically invulnerable and can use his freezing breath, heat vision, and power of flight to your heart’s content. So many other developers have made the mistake of limiting Superman’s abilities in previous games, and their games have suffered for it. By successfully replicating the feeling of being Superman I honestly feel that Lego Batman 2 is the best Superman game ever made.

In fact one of the best features of the entire game is the way Traveller’s Tales successfully marry the gameplay with the music when Superman flies. As soon as you take off from the ground Danny Elfman’s grim Batman soundtrack gives way for John William’s powerfully iconic Superman theme tune. When coupled with the scope of the city, and the speed at which he moves, it is one of the most breathtaking moments in recent years and it never fails to bring a smile to my face (see our video below and prepare for a face breaking grin!)

Another impressive change brought about with Lego Batman 2 is the inclusion of full voice acting for all of the main characters. Clancy Brown returns to voice Lex Luthor, as he has done in almost every significant DC comics cartoon since the 1990’s, and he performs brilliantly. The rest of the voice cast do a fine job of portraying the characters (although they’re not as good as their Animated Series counterparts in the opinion of this humble reviewer) and the script is generally well written. There’s a nice mix of appropriate all ages comedy and significant levels of drama to keep the story rolling along, and the writers should be commended.

Despite being a little harsh on Lego Batman 2 to begin with I have personally grown to love it. While it shares all of the same basic DNA as the other Lego games there have been enough small tweaks made that make it not only the best Lego game released to date, but one of the best super hero games of all time.

Review Round-Up

Graphics: 4/5 – Although basic, the art style is really pleasing and vibrant.

Sound: 5/5 – Strong voice acting from Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor in particular, and a phenomenal use of Danny Elfman’s Batman and John Williams’ Superman soundtracks.

Gameplay: 4/5 – Initially a little disappointing – very much the same as all the other Lego games – until you venture out in to the open world Gotham City and it becomes a familiar, but fresh, animal.

Longevity: 5/5 – 250 gold bricks to collect, 50 endangered civilians to save, 25 red power bricks, dozens of characters and vehicles to unlock, and 15 story missions to play over and over again. In some regards it seems like there’s just too much content for one package.

Overall: 4 out 5

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is easily the best Lego game to date. A gigantic multilayered open world rammed full of content to explore and all of the best super powers at your disposal. What more could you want?

- Luke Mears

Tue, June 26 2012 » 3DS, PS3, Reviews, Vita, Xbox 360

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