LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Review
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is very much a sequel, not just to LEGO Batman but the entire LEGO series of games. It expands on the original and adds new elements, but at its heart it's very much a LEGO game. That means that if you've never really enjoyed LEGO games, there's just not enough of a difference here to entice you to give another LEGO game a go. That doesn't apply to me, though. I've always liked the LEGO games, and while some have certainly been better than others if they completely changed the formula I can't help to think that I'd be somewhat disappointed. As it so happens, LEGO Batman was not one of my favorite games in the franchise, but the new game features added by LEGO Batman 2 have made it one of the more enjoyable LEGO games for me.
To start with, LEGO Batman 2 has really opened up the gameplay. If you've played LEGO games before, then you're familiar with the way each game has a hub area from which you access the story levels. There was a little bit to do in each game's hub area, but most of the gameplay was constrained to the story levels themselves. LEGO Batman 2 has replaced that hub with an open world Gotham City, or at least the LEGO version of Gotham City. You can explore downtown with its skyscrapers and parks, Gotham, harbor, Arkham Asylum, Ace Chemicals, an amusement park, and even Gotham Zoo. At all of these locations and the expansive spaces in between, there are hidden areas to discover, special gold and red bricks to find, puzzles to solve, citizens in peril to rescue, and more. And as you make your way through the story levels and unlock new characters for free play you also open up new ways to have fun exploring Gotham - flying among the buildings of downtown as Superman is a different experience than cruising its streets in the Batmobile. The downside of this being the first open world LEGO game is that this is the first time that a game in the series has had to deal with navigation ... and it didn't quite get it right. The compass on the screen is a little hard to read in the first place, and it only gets worse as it wildly spins around as you navigate the roads of Gotham. It's a little awkward getting the map to pop up when you need it, and once you set a waypoint the ghost pips that are supposed to guide you on your way are a little hard to see when there are bricks and pips flying everywhere, and the trail doesn't seem to update itself too quickly when you stray off of the designated path. It's not a big enough issue to take the fun out of the game, but it was one of those things that proved to be a consistent minor irritation.
The next big change is that this is the first LEGO game in which the characters are voiced. While there has always been a certain charm to the way the LEGO minifigs mimed their way through the story cutscenes, they also did have the advantage that they were miming their way through familiar storylines such as the Star Wars saga. Adding voices has allowed the game to tell an original story set in the DC Universe that just would not have been possible to convey through silent miming. Top-notch quality voice acting also helps to enhance the experience. There's still plenty of that LEGO style humor that the games have become known for, though.
The story levels in LEGO Batman 2 tend to be longer than those in previous games in the series. While it's nice that the game scatters some save points through the levels, they're each a one shot deal (you can't keep playing for a bit and then return to the save point and save your game again) and I wish there were more of them because once you move past one you're committed to keep playing until you come across the next.
The gameplay itself doesn't do much to deviate from the LEGO formula. There are plenty of things to bash apart into a shower of LEGO pips (the currency used in the game to unlock new characters and vehicles) that you need to collect in a mad scramble before they blink out of existence. It feels like there are a lot more of these destructible items in LEGO Batman 2 than in previous games, so I'm sure that part of the game's long running time is due to all of the time that you spend running after the pips that you free. I also have to admit that it felt a bit funny to be smashing everything to pieces while playing as a superhero trying to save the city. There are also times when it can almost feel tedious to have to methodically work your way through a room smashing one object after another until none remains.
There are plenty of puzzles in the game and like previous LEGO games the ones that you need to solve to progress through the levels are pretty simple and straightforward, but those that hide the special collectible items can be particularly tricky. This helps to add a good replay factor to the game since you'll need to revisit the story levels if you want to pick up all of the collectibles and close in on the 100% completion mark. There are also areas in each level that are inaccessible to the characters that you will control the first time through, making things a different experience the second time through when you bring in a different set of heroes (or villains). The story puzzles are pretty focused on co-op coordination with one character using his or her abilities to enable the other character to use his or her own and then back again, and only rarely relying on the two to do something simultaneously. If you're playing solo, the AI does a pretty good job of following along and doing what it needs to be doing, although in areas that are tricky to navigate you'll probably have to get both characters past the obstacles manually.
The game also includes some story levels that involve on-rail chase sequences. These add a little variety to the game in that they're more akin to arcade shooter levels than to the traditional LEGO game levels. None of them are particularly challenging, but they are a welcome change of pace.
While Batman and Robin (and their wardrobe of specialty suits) are the stars of the show, the game will give the opportunity to play as all of the Justice League heroes including a few of its lower profile members. You'll spend a good amount of time with Superman whose freeze breath, heat ray vision, and ability to fly make him a fun character to play. Playing as Superman manages to make the game easier and harder at the same time, though. Easier because he's invulnerable to all attacks (although he does have an aversion to kryptonite) and harder because the game makes flight controls a lot more difficult than they should be. Trying to manage Superman's elevation and flight direction within the confines of a level can be a bit frustrating, especially when you're trying to hit pickups suspended in the air.
LEGO Batman 2 certainly delivers plenty of gameplay for your money. The story levels alone will take you about fifteen hours to complete if you want to break apart every object that you can find, and there are far more hours of gameplay to be had fully exploring Gotham City and its environs and discovering all of its secrets. Take the repetitive aspects of the gameplay aside, along with the minor frustrations of navigation and flight, and you have a game that will keep you playing happily for quite some time.
Final Rating: 88%. Brick-breaking fun with the entire Justice League at your disposal.