Sometimes I like to stop and think about the irony of aging (a line I don’t commonly associate with being an opener for one of my reviews) and this is a thought which pops into my brain most often when I’m revisiting a videogame I used to really enjoy from the past. Since LEGO Star Wars back in 2005, Traveller’s Tales have sought to offer gamers makeshift masterpieces in the form of their distinctive LEGO franchise – a series synonymous with featuring comical cutscenes, fiddly fighting and pesky puzzles. Glance back to my very first sentence and you may begin to realize that every iteration of the LEGO saga you’ve sat down to play since has more often than not had you stuck at multiple points throughout the game, jumping around like a lunatic in search of some divine inspiration to help you progress. It’s then you realize that the LEGO formula (if a little overused) is perfectly designed for players of all ages – it’s well crafted, a little taxing and completely charming; three reasons for exactly why LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes will have you scratching your head as you attempt to solve puzzles you probably completed back in the days where Hurricane Katrina and Live 8 rocked the world… in two completely contrasting ways.
11 seems to be a significant number for those in the LEGO world; we’ve had 11 games up until now and the highest grossing of them (LEGO Batman) sold approximately 11 million units worldwide. It was therefore just a matter of time until Brick-Bruce Wayne received his sequel, despite his first outing being a critical flop due to some bad design choices, formulaic approach and questionable presentation.
The game begins at a “Man of the Year” award ceremony, where Bruce Wayne naturally accepts his golden gong at the expense of US presidential candidate Lex Luthor. Before Luthor can get too hot-headed (get it?) about the whole ordeal, fan-favourite Joker crashes the party to steal everybody’s bits and pieces. From there, you embark on a mission with your trusty sidekick Robin to save Gotham City from another attack by DC’s greatest villains. Sounds like a pretty standard set-up for a child-friendly Batman game, but thanks to the brilliant and much-required inclusion of voice acting things really feel more original, fresh and revitalised than they probably are. If you’ve ever seen that video clip on Youtube of the deaf lady being able to hear herself for the first time, this is pretty much what LEGO Batman 2 does for the franchise – and whilst it’s going to mean a lot more effort for Traveller’s Tales in future, it’s definitely an important addition which they really can’t skimp out on in future.
The massive cast of characters (including Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Poison Ivy and The Riddler) are really well realized in this entry, and Batman, Robin and the Joker are all brought wonderfully to life thanks to their pertinent voice actors; every little nuance of their personality can be picked up, played with and stretched much further than ever before (particularly in the hilarious exchanges between super-recluse Batman, swooning fanboy Robin and hunky hero Superman). As always with LEGO games, you’ll be swapping between this gang of superheroes throughout the relatively lengthy experience and utilizing their own distinctive powers – ranging from Batman’s iconic gadgetry to Superman’s laser-eyes and frosty breath. It’s an old trick which works well yet again, and you’ll find yourself picking your favourites early on in the game.
To avoid the disappointment of no online modes (not even online Co-Op, although I guess Rayman Origins was also guilty of that one), Traveller’s Tales pack the game full of collectables to boost replay value and even offer fans for the first time ever the promise of some open-world gameplay. It’s not exactly sandbox but it’s definitely a step in the right direction, I had hours of fun jumping in different vehicles – cruising around the breathtaking sights of LEGO’s Gotham City. Standard local Co-Op is offered here as it has always been, so if you’ve got a friend or partner who doesn’t like gory games or family members who are partial to a bit of LEGO action then this is definitely the most appropriate game for you.
All in all, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is one of the strongest entries to the ever-expansive franchise. For the most part it will feel identical to what you’ve seen before, but the new inclusions (such as open world gameplay and live dialogue) are so ground-breaking to the series you’ll feel as if you’re taking an old dog for a walk in a whole different ballpark. It’s safe to say – Batman fans of all ages will enjoy the game’s inspired, original story filled with classic LEGO action and humour; a fine LEGO experience complete without any fear of stubbing your toes on plastic bricks.