Tt Games has been bringing popular movie series to the Lego universe since their Lego Star Wars hit in 2005. In addition to the three Star Wars titles, they’ve also captured the worlds of Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter (among others). An adaptation of Lord of the Rings is already finished and set for a release later this year.
On the surface, Lego games are similar to a good Pixar movie. They are directed at children with subtle humor and depth that will make adults smile and enjoy the show. Lego games are about problem solving and collecting, with little repercussion for falling into a pit while trying to accomplish those tasks.
The games’ overall difficulty may be easy in the sense you re-spawn where you were last blown into Lego-bits, but the puzzles and goals of collecting and meeting every challenge in the game prove a worthy task for all gamers. In the past, movie series brought to Lego-life have worked within the original source material and in a serialized manner. The lack of such structure and incorporating an open world to explore is what makes Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes so distinct.
As in the original Lego Batman, Lego Batman 2 has an original story which brings to life the heroes and villains of the Batman universe. The natural next step in storytelling is expanding that world to the entire DC comic universe, but don’t let the aptly-noted subtitle “DC Super Heroes” fool you: Lego Batman 2 is still all about the Dark Knight and his sidekick, only this time you get to fly around with Superman for half of the game too. The main story features a combination of Superman and Batman canon, as Lex Luthor and the Joker team up with a diabolical plan.
As the story unfolds, the inclusion of other Justice League Heroes plays out, but their involvement (and use) in the main game is somewhat limited. The writing is excellent and the welcome addition of actual voice acting is really well done as previous Lego games used facial expressions and sighs (or grunts) to display emotion and move the story. In the 15 levels of the game, you switch between Superman or Batman and Robin-specific suits to get past obstacles, as well as operate different air, ground and water craft as you chase the Joker and Lex through the narrative. The problem-solving tropes that require a certain Batman Sonar suit or Superman’s heat ray vision all borrow from previous Lego games, so they feel very familiar to fans of Tt’s titles.
Lego Batman 2 takes a big step out of the somewhat-monotonous familiarity of past Lego games with its open world approach to Gotham City. This freedom is not hyperbole, as the city layout is similar to Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto. After each level, you follow a Lego coin trail to the next plot point, but you are free to enter these as you please. In the interim, you can mow down frenzied patrons of Gotham with the machine gun on your Batmobile, seek out other escaped villains littered across the town or collect gold or red bricks using a very detailed map.
These quests are not encompassing, merely search-and-find missions for villains and vehicles (which cost Lego coins to enter your arsenal), while certain gold bricks may require scaling a building using three different bat-suits along the way. There are 205 gold bricks that exist outside the main story (some goals are very repetitive), about 20 villains to capture and a number of citizens in peril to rescue. As you reach certain milestones in the game (in both story and in gold brick count) you can find and buy other Justice League heroes as well. As with all previous Lego games, all of these mini tasks and collecting challenges add into your completion percentage of the game.
While flying through the night as Wonder Woman or zip-lining from building to building with Batman sounds and is, at times, presented well, there are some graphical challenges with the game. In the linear story levels, flying is very effective. In the open 3D world, there are times where you think you are playing a Nintendo 64 game with all the clipping and camera issues. Flying close to a building wall will cause you to loop back with the camera suddenly zooming in on the back of Superman’s cape. Simple tasks like gliding into the busted head of a Lego statue to retrieve a gold brick become cumbersome as you battle the in-game camera.
The camera also can be an issue while playing the main story with a friend. A split screen which adjusts to both of your locations is great until you are trying to shoot a grappling hook and all of a sudden your line of sight is changed and you can’t move your icon any further. The game also tended to freeze for me after extended play on the 360, a plague that riddled the first Batman game and early Star Wars titles as well. Fortunately you can save mid-level in the main story, and the game constantly auto-saves as you find things in the open world.
Lego Batman 2 is a success in how it caters to all audiences. For newcomers interested in the comic-sourced material, the game is expansive and has a large number of DC characters. The story stands on its own and is enjoyable to play through. For gamers experienced in the Lego universe, Lego Batman 2 takes a step forward with the large open world while remaining satisfying and familiar with the in-game problem solving and collecting achievements.
Pros: Original story, open world exploration as your favorite DC heroes
Cons: Camera can get frustrating, some minor glitch and freezing situations