To say that Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is "just another Lego game" would be doing the title a considerable amount of injustice. On its surface, it may initially appear to be nothing but the latest in the long line of titles but there's a lot more to it than that: whilst the alterations may seem small in amount, they have a big impact on the entire game, creating not only the best Lego title yet but a stunning template and role model for future titles to come.
Starting it up, Lego Batman 2 does nothing to make the player feel as if what they are slogging through is something new and exciting: that's because, at least to begin with, it isn't. There are still puzzles to solve, bad guys to fight and studs to collect, just as there have been in every single Lego game previous. It's not until a few levels in where it becomes apparent just what the developers have done to really shake the formula up and those alterations are: voice acting and the inclusion of an open world to explore.
Voice acting not only makes it more exciting to watch but also allows Traveller's Tales to present a story that is told through other means than grunts and facial expressions. Whilst that did lead to some comedic moments, Lego Batman 2 allows the characters to breathe, simply because the player can understand what they are thinking. It also makes each of them believable: the Joker is the Joker because he has his infamous high-pitched, clownish voice and Batman is Batman, with his brooding and deep thought processes. The inclusion of voice acting demonstrates perfectly what has been missing from previous Lego games and is a stroke of genius by Traveller's Tales.
What also makes it such a delight is that the voice acting is actually pretty good. Batman; whilst lacking the gruff, voice-breaking tone of the Nolan films; sounds great and like all the other characters can sometimes be rather amusing, especially in the scenes where he and Superman try to better each other. The Joker is great but isn't up there with Mark Hamill from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, but fits the comedic tone of this game whereas he would be incredibly out of place in the darker themes of Rocksteady's masterpieces.
The second biggest inclusion is the idea of an open world: Gotham City is there in its full glory to explore and it looks great. Whilst it doesn't quite reach the lofty heights set by Arkham City in terms of atmosphere, Traveller's Tales give the area their own unique touch because of the inclusion of Lego. Items explode into studs just as they would in the single player missions, and flying through the skies above Gotham City as Superman never gets old as his theme tune blares out. But with a large world to explore means there's a lot more to do and Lego Batman 2 delivers content in spades: a ten-hour campaign simply comfortably around hundreds of collectibles, including vehicles, characters, gold bricks and citizens to save. There really is a lot to do in Traveller's Tales latest, meaning it will be played for a long time to come.
But new additions don't always mean a great game and it was entirely possible for Lego Batman 2 to fall under the immense pressure the open world and voice acting have made, regarding success and integration. Thankfully, the rest of the game is just as good. It features what is easily the best campaign ever put into a Lego game and also features the strongest story. Whilst it isn't particularly gripping nor are there any twists and turns in the plot, it's interesting and light-hearted enough for it to act as an adequate form of structure for a game that's sole purpose is to entertain. And what it lacks in depth or originality, it makes up for in how much fun the title is as there aren't many games that could be considered as genuinely enjoyable as Lego Batman 2.
The core idea of the game has hardly altered but it seems as if Traveller's Tales have gone for a more cinematic approach to the title. Levels with big explosions, large areas, huge boss-battles and jaw-dropping scripted moments appear throughout the whole fifteen-level campaign and all have the power to not only delight and amuse, but also to show off proudly that this is the biggest Lego game ever made. One of the bosses is huge, and having it chase the player whilst they drive the Batmobile through the streets of Gotham is not only exciting, but also rather exhilarating; the game's penultimate stage stands out as easily one of the best moments of gaming this year.
Graphically, Lego Batman 2 looks fantastic. It still has the bright and bold colours Lego is famous for and the simplicity of the square character models, but everything just looks so much cleaner and sharper. This isn't quite Uncharted 3 but Lego Batman 2 has a level of charm to it that most games lack; it doesn't try to be realistic nor be the best looking game ever, it just wants to be appealing to the eyes and it completely succeeds. There are a few graphical hiccups here and there but it's never anything to detract from the experience. However, the game did crash once after extended play (roughly around five hours straight) but it worked absolutely fine once it had been started up again.
As good as Lego Batman 2 is, it isn't perfect. The platforming could become slightly annoying due to the fixed camera, and the AI of the other party members is far from perfect, with them running off for no reason or simply standing still until players switched to them and moved them themselves. These aren't huge gripes but they're enough to make some of the harder levels considerably more difficult than they needed to be, with cheap "deaths" and AI characters getting stuck, making stages that should be enjoyable a minor chore to get through.
Lego Batman 2 is no Arkham City and it isn't really close, but what it is is very enjoyable and the best Lego game yet. Whilst its core DNA is the same, it has made enough changes to ensure that it isn't just like previous entries but has enough similar so it doesn't alienate fans. Fun, amusing and frankly brilliant; Lego Batman 2 is a game that players will put a lot of time into not because they have to but because they'll want to as it's absolutely brilliant and will fill the gap very nicely until The Dark Knight Rises hits cinemas this summer or Rocksteady release the third instalment in their Batman series.
- Open world with a lot to explore
- Voice acting is great
- The DNA is the same but there's enough new additions to it
- A lot to do with a long campaign and hundreds of collectibles
- A great cinematic feel to it
- It looks great
- A few graphical hiccups here and there
- Poor AI for party members
- Unfair deaths