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Review

LEGO Batman 2 DC Super Heroes Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

Gotham re-built.

Since lending its talents to a Star Wars spin-off way back in 2005, developer Traveller’s Tales has been pulled from pillar to post whilst pumping out one game after another, the studio’s name firmly tied to the iconic LEGO license.

Just as Treyarch and Infinity Ward have built their empire around sublime online first person shooters, so has TT and its unique puzzle/platforming formula, having partnered with a range of colossal film titles including Star Wars, Pirates of the Carribean, Harry Potter, and even Indiana Jones. You see, as many will protest rather unashamedly, the studio’s seven-year run of LEGO tie-ins hasn’t just catered for movie-going youngsters, but for casual and even hardcore gamers too.


Despite being geared towards split-screen multiplayer, this feature is somewhat flawed. Not only does the frame-rate fall considerably, the way in which Batman 2 dissects the screen is disorientating, almost bringing on a bout of motion sickenss.
However, as we know all too well in the video game industry, time is the biggest adversary of any annualised franchise. No matter how bulletproof a game design may seem the first time around, stretching the same tightly formed web of game mechanics becomes harder with every passing year. Despite giving fans a variety of settings and characters to interact with, the series has started to stagnate somewhat over the past few years.

Looking to combat this growing sense of fatigue, Traveller’s Tales has made a few noticeable changes with LEGO Batman 2. It may not be a complete re-thinking of the tested block-based blueprint, yet a few innovations here and there has kept the series afloat, and could even foreshadow a bold new direction for TT in the years to come.

Unlike Pirates, Star Wars, or Harry Potter, in LEGO Batman 2 there is no film script to rinse or poke fun at. Instead, the game builds its own story from scratch, keeping with the humorous vibe that permeates all LEGO titles whilst respecting the firm boundaries of DC’s timeless comic book universe.

Without pre-existing material to lean on, Traveller’s Tales has adopted a new approach to the way conducts narrative: voice acting. For those who’ve been on board with the LEGO spin-offs since day one it may feel a tad out of place at first, but it soon grows on you. With a voice cast consisting of industry stalwarts such as Brian Bloom, Nolan North, Steve Blum and Troy Baker on board the game is packed with talent and it really shows.

The story itself really isn’t notable. Upon losing out to Bruce Wayne in a “Man of the Year” award, Lex Luthor allies with The Joker in order to teach Gotham City a lesson, and further his bid to become the president. It’s your typical super villain team-up scenario without a plot twist or revelation in sight.

Utilitarian would be an ideal word for it; neither bad nor good, though serving as a platform in order for players to explore a number of locations. With that said, the dynamic between Batman, Robin and Superman plays out in a self-aware fashion which will have comic/game enthusiasts nodding in appreciation.

Staged across fifteen standalone chapters, LEGO Batman 2 is near enough exactly what you would expect. Using your intellect and a variety of character-exclusive abilities, players will build and break their way through dozens of cleverly-constructed challenges. There are combat and platforming sequences as well, though they only serve to galvanise the game’s puzzle-driven core.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about LEGO Batman’s cluster of on-rail missions. However, despite having a tendency to dampen even the most well-rounded video games, these stages are, luckily, short and sweet, and can be a nice diversion in between heavy sessions of head-scratching and puzzle solving, so it’s not all bad.

Fans will be pleased to hear that the character-swapping mechanic has also been altered somewhat, with the inclusion of suits. Strategically scattered throughout each mission, these power-ups allow characters to completely reformat their attributes. For instance, where there are glass objects, Batman will need to swap into the Bat Suit to proceed, similarly Robin has to slip into his Magnetic costume in order to scale certain surfaces and manipulate metal objects.

That’s not all LEGO Batman 2 has to offer though; for the first time, players will also be able to traverse a sprawling open world. Comparing it to the likes of Liberty City, Tamriel, or Red Dead’s Frontier would be pointless, not to mention unfair.

This is clearly a simple attempt to expand the fiction and add even more replay value. Whilst Gotham may not have an intricate pedestrian system or radiant quests, it does have a great multitude of collectibles including red bricks, civilians in peril, boss battles, and the series staple: gold bricks.

In truth, the game’s open world feels a bit too barren in places, and could have done with a downsize as well as a more intricate mini-map. With that said, it’s great to see Traveller’s Tales thinking outside the original LEGO template, and hopefully the studio will pursue open world integration in future titles.

As one would naturally assume, DC Super Heroes is without doubt the best-looking LEGO game to date. Improved lighting and textures really help merge the LEGO universe with Gotham’s gloomy backdrop, even more so when exploring the game’s open world.

Unlike the very first LEGO Star Wars, which tried to rebuild every aspect using the LEGO aesthetic, in Batman 2 only the characters and a smattering of interactive objects are done this way. Environments are much more lifelike, given even more authenticity thanks to the game’s weather effects, yet still retaining the series’ unique, slightly cartoon-ish veneer.

Pros

  • Solid gameplay, enhanced with a roster of over 50 characters.
  • At least 20 hours of content for completionists to blitz through.
  • Voice work helps to sell the game’s smart humour.
  • The inclusion of an open world, stuffed with dozens of collectibles.

Cons

  • Intrusive loading times after acquiring gold bricks/switching characters in free play.
  • Superman aside, the game’s cast of other DC heroes only feature briefly.
  • A handful of awkward puzzles.
  • Split-screen causes noticeable frame rate issues, can also induce major headaches.

If you were hoping for a dramatic departure from previous LEGO games then you should have called off the search a long time ago. Traveller’s Tales has been conservative in its approach to game design for years now and, despite a few glimmers of innovation, it doesn’t seem as though change is coming. Then again, why should it?

LEGO Batman 2 may have suffered from the series’ collective fatigue in a few places, yet still stands as one of the best, most enriching puzzle platformers to grace home consoles.

Score: 8/10

18 Comments
  1. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    This isn’t the game that the Bat deserves, but it is the game he needs. Sorry, i couldn’t resist using that batquote. I’ll grab my Batcoat and batleave. *gets kicked in the groin for using too many Bat things*

    I’m disappointed that the story is not that notable as they have a lot of things to work with. From Batman’s rise to the Dark Knight to him fighting the Joker for the first time as well as him protecting Gotham from all of the batvillians and would have probably been better off using a preexisting story and then add the typical lego twist to it.

    As for Gotham finally being free to explore in a video game, i had hoped that they would have avoided having some parts of it being barren as well as the typical lady being mugged in an alleyway then the superhero make his entrance. Surprised that they managed to get the likes of Nolan North, Steve Blum etc.. Although i will keep imagining the character that Blum plays as Orghen from DAO. I just can’t stop thinking of him when he plays a character in another game.

    I’m going to pass on this and hope that Rocksteady will take a leaf out of TT’s book and do a open world Bat game set in Gotham.

    Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 14:12.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      You have some good points there, but i just want to point out a couple of things;

      Firstly, note the title of the game – It is ‘Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes’. So what can we glean from this? It’s the second Lego Batman game (so not really ideal for an origins story) & it involves other superheroes. The main focus is of course on Batman, but you get to play around with the others too (mainly in free roam).

      Additionally, i think an origins story would be just a bit too dark for a Lego game, as it would have to deal with death & revenge. Not suitable subjects for children really.

      Secondly, Rocksteady don’t really need to take a leaf out of this book for an open world adventure. See Batman Arkham City for details.

      Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 14:23.
      • shields_t
        Member
        Since: Oct 2008

        It’s also worth noting that despite the plot not being particularly amazing, some of the dialogue is great. There has always been a rich vein of humour in the Lego games and voice acting serves to extend the comedy even further.

        Comment posted on 20/07/2012 at 14:01.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Agreed – Quite a few times i had a wry smile creep over my face & actually chuckled at quite a few bits too.

        Comment posted on 20/07/2012 at 14:10.
    • The Lone Steven
      Never heard of him.
      Since: May 2010

      You have some valid points. Rocksteady did an excellent job of AC but they could take a look at this and see what they could do with their version of Gotham as i think everyone wants to see a open world Gotham game.

      The origin story could be done in a light hearted tone. Such as the killer using a fake gun that using the Bang flag and for the revenge, throw a custard pie in the face and have a slap fight as it seems like something that would fit in a lego game. Deaths have been covered in lego games before and the origin could be used as the tutorital level aswell as serving as the intro. Such as Batman has to save a hostage from the Joker’s men. I’m a bit surprised that Superman is not the most overpowered character in the game. :O

      Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 14:31.
  2. bigbaldwolf
    Member
    Since: Mar 2012

    At least this game is passable. They butchered the hand held versions

    Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 14:16.
    • shields_t
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      I was gutted when I read that the Vita version was a steaming pile of crap, since my Vita is a whole lot more accessible than my PS3 these days.

      Comment posted on 20/07/2012 at 14:02.
  3. Forrest_01
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I am having a ball with this game – Completed the main story last night (which i actually found quite enjoyable to be fair) & am now working my way around gotham looking for secrets & mopping up bits & pieces.

    I do love Lego games though – They are perfect to just kick back & have fun with & not worry about your K/D ratio, whether you have drifted round a corner perfectly enough to make the grade or whether you have defeated a level 99 demon with your level 1 mage.

    It is a fair review though, as i wished the Justice League showed up a little sooner than they did & the perspective can sometimes cause a bit of an annoyance (especially when you continually fall off of a balance beam for example).

    Also, if alfred says “just one more thing sir” to me many more times, i may have to actively seek him out & throttle him. I know how to change characters thanks Alfred.

    Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 14:29.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I, too, hated the continual Alfred pop-ups, though it isn’t so bad after a while, only when you’re stuck on a puzzle.

      As a critic, I think the inclusion of other DC heroes was a token gesture and didn’t really achieve much. However, as a player, I can easily see how fans will appreciate having them at their disposal.

      Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 14:59.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        To be fair, the Alfred thing only started to bug me once i had completed the story & could change characters, as he seemed to be reminding me about it every couple of minutes.

        However, that may have been because i already had the characters i wanted to use at the end of the game (Flash mainly to unlock the last of the terminals), so i had no need to change. I suspect he might shut up once i have changed a few times.

        Agreed on the DC characters as well – They of course each serve a purpose, but it isn’t anything that couldn’t have appeared as a different Batman/Robin suit. That said, they all have their own movesets, voices & characterisations, so it isn’t too bad.

        Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 15:28.
      • R1MJAW
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        The Alfred issue can be easily solved by turning him off in the options.
        I totally agree about the DC characters though, they weren’t used nearly enough.
        I was also disappointed in the length of the story, 15 levels was quite poor considering Lego games usually have at least 24. They could have easily spread the villains out a bit instead of having the majority of them in 1 level.

        Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 15:42.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Yeah, better to turn Alfred off than to turn him on.

        Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 18:40.
  4. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i really enjoyed the demo, the game is definitely one i want to get.

    i thought the voices were a great addition to the game, they allow the story, such as it is, to be fleshed out a bit, handy when it’s a whole new story.

    Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 15:52.
  5. element666
    Member
    Since: Mar 2012

    I really enjoyed it,though for 5 levels you battle the same thing!
    I had a much better time with the free roam in Gotham,just bombing round as flash :)

    Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 18:15.
  6. Bodachi
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Shame the Vita version isn’t more like this as I might of brought it.

    Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 18:35.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I was originally intending on getting the Vita version. Seems a real bummer that the console version wasn’t ported.

      Comment posted on 19/07/2012 at 22:07.
  7. LTG Davey
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Great little game and one of the few family-friendly games I have in my library which I can put on when my nephew comes over lol.

    Comment posted on 20/07/2012 at 09:15.
  8. OnlineAssassin77
    Member
    Since: Jun 2012

    Never really bothered with the lego games to be honest only tried the one and cant remember what that was…

    Comment posted on 21/07/2012 at 13:04.

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