At this point we all know what to expect from a Lego game. We’re going to see some appealingly goofy Lego designs, a story with reverence to the source material and a welcome sense of humor about itself, and of course endless opportunities to smash the crap out of villains and items until they fall into collectable plastic pieces. Yep, the series sure is consistent aside from whatever franchise they decide to adopt. But before you go jumping to conclusions and writing off Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes just because you’ve grown weary of Traveller’s Tales endless stream of Lego games, give it a chance. The designer weren’t content just to shift out another Lego Star Wars remake. All the touchstones are definitely there, but with just enough new additions to make the series seem fresh again. Even though this thing isn’t going to be winning awards for changing the gaming landscape anytime soon, it proves there’s still a little life left in this pop culture crazed franchise and plenty of childish glee to be had.
The game opens with a Gotham City Man Of The Year awards ceremony where both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are competing for the top prize. You can probably guess who wins and who is pissed off about losing. Suddenly the Joker breaks in deciding he should have nabbed the award himself. A fight with Batman ensues, but not before Luthor decides this Joker character could be a good partner to make up for the whole “Man Of The Year” thing, by running for president. Obviously, Batman and Robin will have to stop them, only this time with the help of a collection of Justice League buddies at their side. It’s the type of irreverent, goofball story we’ve all come to expect from Traveller’s Tales, but now there’s dialogue (though sadly no Mark Hamil Joker, just someone doing an impression of him…sigh). That’s right, the characters don’t just silently mug, they trade quips back and forth. It’s always light and funny. Nothing that will get the writers a gig on a sitcom, but when Robin was geeking out over Superman to the chagrin of a jealous Batman, I can’t pretend I didn’t chuckle.
Of course, while the semi-parody stories and jokes always add a great deal of charm to the game, these aren’t exactly deep narrative experiences. It’s all about gameplay and this sucker delivers the goods with a couple of pleasant surprises. The basis is of course smashy smashy action and jumpy jumpy platforming. Batman and Robin are your main men on the fight and once again they get special suits to help them with the task. The old suits from the last game return along with some new ones like Batman’s Power Suit which gives him super strength and rockets or his Sensor Suit, which throws in X-ray vision and invisibility. Robin on the other hand gets special new outfits like his Acrobat Suit that allows him to swing to higher points in environment and create bubble to zip around in and a Snow Suit packing an ice cannon along with an invulnerability to cold. The other DC characters throw down their own powers like The Flash’s superspeed, Green Lantern’s ability to construct things with his ring and of course, Superman’s you know…superpowers. Once again, you’ll be going back into old levels to find previously inaccessible areas with the new suits and characters. This game could go on for weeks if not months if you decide to collect everything.
Collecting has always been a big part of adding replay value to Lego games and Batman 2 guarantees a whole new level of addictive reply by making their Gotham City an open world adventure. That’s right, between levels you have Gotham as your personal playground and can shuttle around to famous landmarks like Arkham Asylum, Wayne Manor, the Wayne Enterprises Tower, or the Ace Chemicals plant. To make travel a little less painful you’ll have access to the Batmobile. Or if your Superman, you can always fly (which in a fantastic touch comes accompanied by John Williams’ iconic theme from the Superman movies. It’s enough to encourage you to fly around for hours for no apparent reason). The open world is filled with collectables and achievements, which combined with all the hidden goodies in the levels means that you could quite easily find yourself dropping a few dozen hours into this thing if you desperately need to reach that sweet, sweet 100% completion level. Traveller’s Tales did an incredible job designing the city, which is gorgeously detailed even within the limitations of the Lego block aesthetic. It’s not perfect (the map n’ marker system is a little harder to use than it should be), but for the designers’ first crack at an open world, they did a damn good job.
For the most part the folks behind Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes didn’t do much to mess with their established formula. Fair enough, why should they? This franchise has lasted far longer than anyone could have expected because it is a hell of a lot of fun and simply tossing a new pop culture icon at the formula is enough to make it interesting (I think we can assume a Lego Avengers or even better, a full Lego Marvel Universe game isn’t far away). The new additions to this game like the new superheroes, the open world, and a few new gamplay modes (such as being able to aim Superman’s laser eyes from over his shoulder in flight) are all welcome additions and prove that Traveler’s Tales even have a few fresh ideas left to keep this series from getting stale. Over all, it’s probably the best Lego game to come along since the Star Wars games invented the genre and should not be missed by anyone who enjoys these things. If you always thought the Lego games were a bit dull, simply throwing in an open world and dialogue is not going to be enough to convert you. However, if you were long ago (in a galaxy far, far away?) seduced by the cutesy Lego charms, get ready for many hours of your life to disappear.