LOVED IT: Great blend of LEGO humor and DC Comics style, excellent collectibles, good-looking game
HATED IT: Boring combat, far too easy
GRAB IT IF: You’ve enjoyed the LEGO series so far
The Dark Knight has always been a solitary superhero, fighting crime in Gotham City with only Robin by his side.
But when the Joker and Lex Luthor form a dynamically evil duo in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, good old brooding Bruce Wayne finally winds up with some help. And the resultant infusion of new talent – as well as a few new gaming conventions – breathes life into a seven-year-old LEGO game series that was starting to grow stale.
The result is a LEGO game that both parents and kids will love. There’s enough wink-wink superhero humor for adults, and there’s plenty of simple, bash-and-collect fun for the youngsters.
It’s not just Batman’s new co-stars, either. Yes, your 10-year-old will love the added presence of Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and the boatload of other superheroes, but there are more additions, too. Developer Travellers’ Tales swaps the series’ trademark level-based setup in favor of an open-world, and, quietly, it introduces voice acting.
The transplant from traditional levels to the open-world Gotham City is the most noticeable move, and it’s a move that truly pays off. Gotham is a vast place, teeming with things to explore and bash, and it’s well-balanced for all levels of gamer.
It’s easy enough for youngsters to run up to say, a fire hydrant, smash it to bits and pick up the tiny, grabbable LEGO bits left over. But Gotham is versatile enough to entertain adults as well, with far trickier collectibles. Gold and Red Bricks are hidden in far trickier locations; spotting those tasks is best left for older gamers, requiring you to swap out heroes and carefully utilize different powers. These Bricks also provide the greatest return, unlocking cheats and additional characters.
The lone flaw in this surprisingly atmospheric Gotham City is its vehicles. It’s fun as heck to leave the Batcave in the Batmobile, but things go downhill from there, with no minimap and a too-close camera leading to plenty of crashing.
Still, that’s a minor quibble, and fantastic storytelling helps you forget it. The original tale itself is hardly earth-shattering – we’ve seen super-villain team-ups many times before – but it’s fantastically well-told, with plenty of nods to DC lore.
Bruce Wayne ex Vicki Vale handles the TV news, and there’s nothing better than the interplay between Batman and Superman. Comic fans know all about the duo’s always-antagonistic relationship, and LEGO brings that out; Superman enters the picture with his typical pomp and circumstance, practically shooting to make the Dark Knight feel inadequate, and, instantly, the Bat hurls some sidelong jabs and begins closet pouting.
Other characters are equally fleshed out. Flash and Green Lantern have brilliant applications for their powers, and Joker and Lex Luthor are backed by excellent voice acting (although Joker’s humor is stunningly weak).
Combined with LEGO’s typically-average core of maneuvers, it all upgrades the series. Traveller’s Tales still doesn’t quite nail the combat, leading to simplistic and repeated button-pressing boredom. And your A.I. teammates are still as useless as ever in combat. Granted, making an A.I. Superman more intelligent would make a super-easy game that much more of a cakewalk, but it’s absolutely ridiculous to watch one of Joker’s lackeys toss around the Man of Steel.
Still, it all adds up to a solid package on major consoles, and the game is just as effective on Sony’s PS Vita, too. Traveller’s Tales does an absolutely splendid job of miniaturizing this game for on-the-go users, subtly simplifying boss battles and puzzles and removing a few areas. But the Vita version still retains the game’s overall charm, complete with many of the major-console version cutscenes that make you smile.
It all adds up to a fine game.
And it’s all because Batman and LEGO invite a few friends.
Reviewed on Xbox 360 and PS Vita