- Familiar LEGO action
- Voice acting works really well
- Gotham City is huge
- Tons to do post-story
- Although huge, there’s not a great deal to do in Gotham beyond collecting things.
I like LEGO games, I like them a lot but let’s be honest, they’re never really that different from each other, are they? Sure, you might be Harry Potter in one and Captain Jack Sparrow in another but they all follow the same general mentality. LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes bucks this trend by trying a fair bit new with things like voice acting and a massive single area hub world. The big question is though, do they work?
Before moving onto what’s new, let’s recap the familiar. You play as Batman and a sidekick throughout the entire game; the sidekick changing dependant on where you are and what you’re doing. For the first chunk of the game it’s Batman’s regular sidekick Robin and later in, you get to take Superman out for a flight or two amongst numerous other DC good guys. In familiar LEGO game style, the game progresses through linear levels joined by a hub world. You move around the hub to a pre-determined point and activate a story level which will roll on until you’re thrust back into the hub world. This time, the hub world is a massive Gotham City covered in landmarks, locales and things to collect. It’s not as interactive as you’d might hope if you jump out of your Batmobile and take a stroll around but there are still hidden collectables including gold bricks, red bricks, citizens in peril and villain fights which unlock the respective villain for use in Freeplay mode.
When you’re not pottering around Gotham City and you’re playing through Batman’s story, you’ll find the action instantly familiar. Once you’ve arrived at the marker in Gotham City, you’ll be thrust into a linear but fairly open level. There’s a start and a finish and plenty to do in between but you’ll always go in one main direction. Sure, there might be things to smash up for spendable studs, or items hidden away in areas you can only access with specific characters, but the premise is mostly the same. There are a few interesting sections however where you’ll be piloting one of Batman’s numerous vehicles in the air as you shoot down Joker’s henchmen. One that stood out in particular sees you alternating between Batman and Superman as you fly around Lex Luthor’s huge aircraft, destroying bits of it until the hatch opens and you can get inside.
Like other LEGO titles, completing each level requires the use of different items and powers. In LEGO Batman 2, there are suits that Batman and Robin can equip by entering portals. As you progress through stages, you’ll come across obstacles that can only be bypassed by using a certain suit. For example, glass objects can only be shattered by Batman’s supersonic gun that he gets by equipping the Bat Suit or blue walls that can only be traversed when Robin is wearing his Magnet Suit. Thankfully, there aren’t that many suits in the game and you’ll only ever have access to the ones you need so it’s not as complex as it sounds.
Where LEGO Batman 2 also deviates from other recent LEGO titles such as Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean, is that the story is brand-new and written specifically for the game. This time, The Joker teams up with Lex Luthor as they exact their own styles of revenge on Batman. Lex has a gun that can destroy “shiny black objects” and Joker has gas that can be used to control people. Joker sees the gun as a way to stop Batman and Lex sees the gas as a way to control voters, making him US President. Other DC characters pop up as you play but the main focus is mainly on the two villains and Batman.
Where LEGO Batman 2 really stands apart from previous games in the franchise is the inclusion of full voice acting for the game’s cutscenes. Whereas LEGO tradition has always seen the characters merely grunting and mumbling vague words, the Batman sequel instead lets the characters express themselves in good old English. I’ll admit, I was highly sceptical; part of the LEGO game charm has always been the lack of voice acting. However, I’m pleased to say that the voice acting actually works surprisingly well and it got me pondering what the likes of LEGO Harry Potter would have been like with vocal talent. The highlights are easily the quips between Batman and sidekick Robin who, as always, gets the short end of the stick. If there’s one criticism, it’s that supporting characters often try a little too hard to sound like Arkham City/Asylum voice actors. Harley Quinn’s voice actress, for example, attempts a Tara Strong-esque Harley but really doesn’t succeed.
In terms of visual prowess, LEGO Batman 2 could easily put some supposedly triple-A blockbusters to shame. Although a LEGO game, LEGO itself is used mainly for things you can smash up for studs with everything else opting for a fairly realistic visual style. Although still fairly basic, some of the environments, particularly open-world Gotham which is constantly soaked in rain, look fantastic. When you consider that the LEGO games are made by a fairly small team in the UK, it’s a very impressive feat.
LEGO Batman 2 is a joy to play and will last you as long as you’re willing to collect things. The story itself won’t take too long to plow through if that’s all you’re interested in but, as with previous LEGO titles, the number of collectables and oddities on offer will keep you going for ages. The massive open world and new voice acting were risks for the development team at Traveler’s Tales but thankfully they’ve paid off and LEGO Batman 2 isn’t something you want to miss.
Best LEGO game yet? Quite possibly.