When LEGO Star Wars was released, I was interested how the game would play. I mean, mixing a cool sci-fi universe with building blocks? That was just crazy! But Traveller’s Tales did a great job of combining the two into a charming world to explore. I played that game so much and was excited to get into LEGO Indiana Jones and eventually, LEGO Batman. But by the time I actually got around to playing Batman, I was tired of the LEGO universe. I mean, the games played exactly the same but with different characters. So, I pushed those titles aside for a while and that helped get me excited for LEGO Batman 2, which is still more of the same but with added gameplay elements that make this game stand above the rest.
When I heard that Lego Batman 2 was under development, I grunted and groaned asking why we needed yet another LEGO game that was sure to play like the others. But, as I was finding out more, I read something that stuck out: the LEGO characters were going to speak. I was worried about that, as I thought it would take away some of the charm. I was pretty wrong on that fear. Traveller’s Tales does a great job of adding voices, and for this game, it’s necessary. LEGO Batman 2 offers up a detailed story, which is different than the movie-based games.
In Batman 2, Lex Luthor enlists the help of The Joker to help ensure that he gets elected the next President. The story gets a bit deeper, but I don’t want to give anything away. For the most part, the voice acting is done pretty well, while keeping the subtle humor and charm that I have come to know and love in the LEGO games. There are some names that we all know lending their voices like Nolan North, Steve Blum and Clancy Brown. They do a fairly good job in telling the story.
The gameplay is exactly the same as past LEGO games. You go through each level beating up bad guys, collecting LEGO studs, hunting hidden canisters and switching between characters to solve puzzles. The biggest thing I noticed while playing through the levels the first time around is that I switched between characters a lot more than normal. I really liked this change, because it forced me to play as the other character (which was mainly Robin). Otherwise, I wouldn’t really take the time to swap. In Batman 2, I was perfectly fine with switching between Batman and Robin because that usually meant that I got to use a new suit that is needed to help solve the puzzle I was working on. That is another aspect of this game that feels different. The puzzles. They actually make sense in this game.
As I was playing through the game and getting used to switching back and forth frequently, I got to play as Superman. I was thrilled about this, as I was interested to see how TT would make him. He is invulnerable, has x-ray vision, his freeze and super breath and can shoot those lasers out of his eyes. Oh, and he can fly. So naturally, after playing as him, all that switching between characters was thrown right out the door. I never wanted to play as anyone else. But since I had to, I would swap to the one I needed and then switch right back to Supes. Yeah, Batman and Robin have bat-a-rangs, grappling hooks and cool new suits that have neat powers, but it’s Superman! I’d rather fly and be impervious to harm then use a grappling hook and get punched in the face any day.
I absolutely loved the interaction between the characters, too. When Superman first made his appearance, Robin was geeking out while Batman stayed reserved and could not care less. The Dark Knight was kind of a dick towards him which is the same demeanor Batman gives off in the animated show and movies. In fact, a lot of the character interaction is that way.
The biggest difference in this game is the fact that it is open-world. The entire city of Gotham is yours to play around in. And there is a lot to do. You can go around and collect Lego studs. You can find people who are in peril and in need of saving, or you can go around and activate batcomputers that are spread across Gotham. When these are activated, a villain reveals him/herself, and you can choose to go fight him/her. If you do fight and beat them, they will surrender and you can choose to buy them to add to your character collection. If you choose not to fight them then and there, they are marked on your map so you can hunt them down later.
TT did a nice job on making this game open-world. You can use your map for a lot of things like finding out where certain buildings are, where the villains are (as mentioned above) and you can set a waypoint for where ever you are going. But there are some problems. My biggest gripe is that there is no legend. I had no way to know what the icons on my compass (which is in the top left corner). Opening up my menu was frustrating since I still have no idea what certain icons mean. I kind of had to figure that out by just following and investigating.
Another problem is the actual way-points you can set. They consist of Lego studs that are see-thru blue and can be easily lost in the chaos that is going on in the streets of Gotham. At times, I actually mistook them for Lego studs intended for collection. I would often lose where it was leading me, but I would find that out way too late for me to turn around. I figured that the waypoint would adjust and redirect me. Well, it doesn’t really do that. All it does is take you back the way you came. So its like there is only one way to get to where you are going. This got to be a bit frustrating.
The only other problem I had with this game was the computer controlled AI. They are just as dumb in this game as they were in the other LEGO games. All they really do is follow you and don’t contribute to any of the fighting. They can get hit time-after-time and not retaliate. The only thing they accomplish is getting in your wa,y which can hurt you a good bit. That’s why I prefer to play with another human being. Co-op is limited to same console, which is a downer because I would have loved to play this game online. I still can’t figure out why TT didn’t put that in.
After all is said and done, LEGO Batman 2 is still a LEGO game. You collect the same LEGO studs, beat up some goons and collect stuff; a lot of stuff. If you missed something the first time around, you can go back with all the characters you unlocked and try to collect the rest. It also does some new things and throws in a ton of fan service. The Batman theme Danny Elfman composed is the main source of music that plays in the background. When you fly as Superman, the John Williams-composed Superman theme plays. On top of that, we are treated to a good story, some pretty decent voice acting and a huge world to play around in. While TT did a fantastic job with this game, there are a few problems that need to be worked out but in all, they set the bar a little bit higher for their next adventure that I can only hope will be a LEGO Marvel game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.