Nowadays, most presidential candidates attempt to gain office with the help of big donations and SuperPACs. In Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, the villainous Lex Luthor tries something different; he breaks The Joker out of jail and asks him to use his laughing gas to hypnotize the entire country into voting for him.
Developed by: Traveller’s Tales
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action-Adventure, Kids
For ages: 10 and Up
Release Date: June 19, 2012
The Story: A Super Weapon, a Super Man, and Batman's Super Irritation
With a giant Joker robot and a gun that dissolves anything in the world into its Lego components (a cool effect), Lex and Joker might seem tough to beat, but Batman is confident that he and Robin can handle things. Robin is in favor of taking Superman up on his offer of assistance, but Batman is put off by his fellow hero’s sunny optimism, boy-scout do-goodism, and irritating invulnerability. He also isn’t thrilled to see Robin’s boy-wonder crush on the guy; why can’t he just shut up about the Man of Steel?
The not shutting up thing is the most surprising aspect of LB2. One of the traditions of the Lego games has been their comic, pantomime recreations of movie scenes, but the characters of LB2 are fully voiced. This allows developer Traveller’s Tales to craft more of a coherent story, but at the same time, little of the dialogue is as funny as the best of their previous silent work.
The Gameplay: Super Powers Through Costume Changes
If you’ve ever played anything from the vast multitude of Lego games then you know the basics. Little Lego characters break things, build things, solve puzzles, fight Lego opponents. If your avatar dies it is instantly resuscitated. The games are aimed primarily at children but have a goofy charm that keeps many adults playing.
LB2’s gameplay is focused heavily on costumes that alter Batman and Robin’s powers. Batman has suits that fires missiles or let him walk through electrified fields. Robin can wear a costume that gives him acrobatic skills or another that lets him clean toxic waste. For most of the game you have two good guys in play; you can switch between them or play with a friend in co-op mode.
After a few missions, Superman joins the party. Superman has quite a few powers, including x-ray vision that can cut through metal and the ability to fly. He also can’t be destroyed, not even by Kryptonite (which he simply won’t walk past).
The developers clearly haven’t got a handle on the whole flying thing. Superman does fine in confined areas where he can only go up and down, but in open spaces he is a disaster, with a poorly implemented control scheme that makes him almost impossible to steer. The game also insists that Superman can’t fly across any of the rivers in the game; if he wants to cross a river, he needs a bridge; no bridge, and he will just swerve away from the river in a seemingly random direction that leaves you unsure of where you are. For a series known for its simple, easy-to handle controls, Superman in flight has to be considered a low point.
The Hub: A Vast City To Prepare You For Lego's First Wii U Title
In recent years, the Lego series has increasingly focused on hub worlds; large areas that can be explored independent of the story missions, like the space ship in Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars or Hogwarts in the Lego Harry Potter games. LB2 includes the largest Lego hub yet, a riot-plagued Gotham City. As you drive down the streets in the Batmobile or an ice cream truck, thugs chase residents with giant hammers or throw pies at them. To complete your collection of gold bricks which unlock additional characters in the game, you must climb skyscrapers, an elaborate process often requiring multiple costume changes. Cries for help lead you to citizens cornered by gun-toting penguins or trapped by giant plants. You can also ride a rollercoaster or explore Poison Ivy’s lair. What you see of the city during missions is a fraction of what is there.
The game does an impressive job of giving the city a Batmanesque quality. New areas are introduced with the sort of elaborate, swooping camera work common in Batman movies, and even though the game is a bunch of little toy people running around a toy city, at times it feels as epic as Batman Begins.
This hub city and the voice acting would seem to be part of a trail run for Traveller’s Tales upcoming Grand Theft Lego-style Wii U game, Lego City: Undercover. The open-world Lego concept shows a lot of potential, but now that they’ve done an open city in LB2, the developers have created a situation where they will need something far vaster to prevent a been-there-done-that reaction.
The Verdict: A Solid Entry in an Endless Series
Towards the end of the game several members of the Justice League turn up to help finish off the Joker-bot whose destruction takes up about the last third of the missions. The League doesn’t add a lot to the game – they only appear for the last couple of missions and they simply have the same powers Batman and Robin have through their suits – but they do whet the appetite for a Lego Justice League game.
All in all, LB2 is a consistently fun game with a lot of content. The puzzles are more challenging than many franchise entries – occasionally I had to actually think to solve one – and the super-suits and super powers open up some nice variety in the gameplay. The game doesn’t do anything especially new, aside from adding voice acting, but it gives players the solid Lego gameplay they’ve come to expect. The story is slight but engaging, and it is satisfying in the end to thwart Luthor’s nefarious presidential bid. Although if his next campaign run involves SuperPACs, the only hero able to stop him will not be Batman, but rather Billionaire Bruce Wayne.