LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes ReviewBy Matt Keil - Posted Jun 26, 2012
Lex Luthor and the Joker team up to do evil things to the citizens of Gotham City, and Batman, Superman and the Justice League must stop them by building structures out of LEGO bricks, smashing anything that looks breakable, and changing clothes regularly.
- Excellent level and puzzle design
- Huge cast of DC characters to unlock and play as
- Voice acting adds much to the presentation
- Flying around Gotham while John Williams' Superman theme plays
- Poorly implemented map system
- Vehicle sections a bit too simplistic
- Guidance system in open world hard to see
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Review:
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes could have been a lazy, by-the-numbers sequel. It’s only the second Batman LEGO game, but it’s the 11th overall LEGO game in the series of licensed titles that includes LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter, among others. Traveller’s Tales seems to have been aware of this, and has thrown in some interesting new wrinkles that buck the familiar formula and keep things interesting. Plus, now there’s Superman.
The story is a departure from the LEGO norm, not due to the content but the presentation. Lex Luthor teams up with the Joker to pull an overly-complicated scheme over on Gotham City that will somehow result in Lex being elected President of the United States. Unable to stop him solo, Batman (eventually) enlists the help of Superman, and, as the game’s title suggests, the rest of the Justice League lends a hand in the end. The difference is that, for the first time in the series, the characters are fully voiced rather than pantomiming the story.
Refusing to Hush
Many may consider this sacrilege at first (I certainly did), but it actually really works in LEGO Batman 2, and solves a problem suffered by the first LEGO Batman. The pantomiming really works best in a story like Star Wars or Harry Potter, in which you already know what’s supposed to happen. The slapstick humor so closely identified with the series is funny in part because it breaks from what we know and expect to happen in these iconic scenes. LEGO Batman didn’t quite gel in this regard because it was telling an original story. The voices in LEGO Batman 2 free the game from this constraint. Clancy Brown as Lex, Travis Willingham as a delightfully-oblivious-to-his-own-obnoxiousness Superman, Troy Baker as a growly and indignant Batman, and many other top quality performances really sell the story and make it clear why full voice acting was the route chosen for the game. It remains to be seen if the voices are the correct choice for all LEGO games, though. The film voices used in the iconic story of LEGO Lord of the Rings, due later this year, may end up being a different story. But for the original tale of LEGO Batman 2, it was absolutely the right decision, and the story should delight both hardcore and casual fans of DC’s super heroes.
The story consists of fifteen levels, several of which are fairly lengthy. As in the first LEGO Batman, many of the environmental puzzles require Batman and Robin to change outfits, and two new suits make their debut here. Batman’s Power Suit fires missiles that destroy silver LEGO objects and let him pull levels that require super strength. Robin’s Hazard Suit lets him fill up with any liquid and spray it as a weapon or a cleaning agent. Superman’s arrival mid-way through the game adds heat vision and freeze breath to the mix. The puzzle design is very inventive much of the time, and perhaps most impressive once Superman enters the narrative as a playable character.
Faster than a speeding Holiday Train Set
The interesting thing about Superman in this game is that he’s actually Superman. He’s invulnerable to all non-Kryptonite attacks, period. He can’t die, he can’t fall, he can’t be hurt at all. However, he’s not the “win button” he seems to be at first. You still need the other characters’ abilities to surmount environmental obstacles, so Superman must be used in conjunction with Batman and Robin’s suit abilities to progress. In this manner, Traveller’s Tales makes him feel like Superman without breaking the game in the process, and it’s a pretty great accomplishment. Best of all, in the Gotham overworld, Superman can fly freely around the city, and as he takes off the Danny Elfman Batman music is replaced by the classic Superman film theme by John Williams. I probably spent half an hour flying around to the Williams music when I first unlocked Supes.
As always, replayability is a huge priority. All the story levels have hidden stuff that requires the use of non-story characters to obtain. Finishing the story only gets you to about 20% completion, so there is a tremendous amount to do beyond the core campaign. A lot of this content is presented in a wholly different way than in previous LEGO titles, although this is the root of the game’s major flaw.
All the LEGO games feature a hub area of some sort that serves as a central location for accessing story missions and miscellaneous challenges, but LEGO Batman 2 takes its hub further than ever before. A full open world Gotham City sprawls out in front of you, with three islands packed with secret gold bricks, citizens in peril to save, and supervillains to defeat (and subsequently purchase as playable characters). It’s a cool idea and a natural evolution of the hub concept, with a truly shocking amount of post-game content in it. However, it’s still Traveller’s Tales first attempt at the open world hub, and there are a few rookie mistakes present in it that mar the experience.
Gotham Positioning System
Any open world requires a system of navigational tools to assist the player in making their way around and LEGO Batman 2’s tools are oddly flawed. Instead of a minimap, you’re given a compass with apparently random icons on it. They’re not tough to decipher, but the game never actually explains what they are, leaving you to puzzle them out. The map is even more curious, in that there are actually three versions of it in the game. If you access the map while roaming around Gotham, you can see revealed supervillain locations and use a scan feature to briefly reveal the locations of hidden objects and secrets. No explanation of what each hidden object icon means is given, however. If you access the map at one of the Batcomputer link terminals, you can do all of the above, plus fast travel between major locations and view a quick clip of a nearby supervillain’s location, helping to find them more accurately. Finally, if you access the Batcomputer directly in the Batcave, you can do all of the above, plus replay any of the story missions you’ve completed. Again, none of this is explained to the player, which seems strange considering that 15 hours into the game Alfred is still firing off helpful hints about each character’s basic abilities.
It seems needlessly convoluted for a game about toy super heroes running around building adorable forklifts and driving radio controlled buggies. Why not just give the players a fully functional map no matter where they are? At the very least, why not give clear explanations as to how each version of the map works? It certainly doesn’t sink the game, but it’s very puzzling.
The other shortcomings are related to the vehicles. Occasional vehicle sections break up the on-foot levels in the story, and they’re almost universally repetitive and challenge-free. A couple of them actually appear to be impossible to lose. Additionally, when driving in the Gotham overworld, a line of transparent blue LEGO studs will appear to direct you to your next destination, but they’re so hard to distinguish from the busy backgrounds of fleeing pedestrians that I think I overshot every single turn I was directed to make by them.
These are relatively minor problems when stacked up against the sheer inventiveness of the levels and the fun of playing as iconic DC characters. The combination of LEGO and license has resulted in mixed results ranging from spectacular to mundane, but LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes definitely leans in the direction of the former. LEGO fans will enjoy it, DC fans will love it, and fans of both…well, you probably already have it. With just the right balance of new ideas and familiar gaming comfort food, LEGO Batman 2 should please all but the most curmudgeonly of gamers.
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Editor's Note: LEGO Batman 2 was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.