Despite being someone that hasn’t enjoyed the previous Lego games I walked away from Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes with nothing but a smile on my face since it’s that good. Combining the things we know about Batman, Superman and their other super powered friends, Lego Batman 2 delivers a game that has engaging gameplay and more importantly has a narrative that isn’t scoff worthy or falls flat towards the end. The game may not be perfect as things like the open-world Gotham don’t feel fully utilized, but if you’re a fan of Batman and want a fun game to play while we wait for the next masterpiece from Rocksteady then Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is definitely worth your time.
+ Gameplay is really fun and has a tremendous amount of variety.
+ Each of the heroes feels perfect and are used in interesting ways.
+ Graphically the game may not be a beast but it has a lot of charm and more importantly it looks good most of the time.
+ The writing and voice acting adds a lot of depth and its fun to see key characters react in unique ways.
- Co-op play being limited to local only is just odd.
- Having an open-world Gotham is nice but it doesn’t feel like it was pushed to its full potential.
- A few of the stages drag on for far too long.
I always like to try new video games since that’s not only my job as a writer extraordinaire but it’s what we as gamers like to do. Most of us have our go-to games or genres, but every once in a while it’s good to pick up something new and give it a shot. With that said, I was never a fan of the Lego games by any means of the imagination. I don’t know if it was their simplicity, the whole Lego gimmick, or the somewhat shoddy controls, but whether it was Lego Star Wars or Lego Indiana Jones I tried my best to stay as far away from those games as possible. With my somewhat tepid if not hateful feelings on the Lego games already being thrown out there, it may surprise you that I found Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes to be an overwhelming fun game that actually does the Batman brand justice.
As a Lego game and being someone that was entirely lukewarm to the franchise I was incredibly surprised by how well-rounded Lego Batman 2 is. The game definitely lives up to some of the pre-existing tropes and humor found in the other Lego games, but beneath the blocky surface of everything is a game that is thought out, has nice variety, and has a story that will actually please comic book fans since it presents various dream scenarios.
Lego Batman 2 keeps the long time tradition of the Lego games by presenting silly action to the player that never once takes itself too seriously. While there’s an insane amount of pure slapstick humor, there are definitely jokes in the game that go beyond being a nice inside joke kind of thing or one that only the most geeky of Batman fans will know. Beneath the zany humor the game provides through the actions of the Joker or merely up-playing how overly serious Batman can be the comic-inspired tale spun in the game is actually good. By good I mean it’s really damn good since despite not having the serious bite of something like a Paul Dini Batman story, Lego Batman 2 maintains a brisk pace that actually manages to explain why action X is happening at location y instead just providing a thinly veiled narrative that will appease to the younger audience the game somewhat skews to.
The plot of the game is pretty simple as once again the Joker is up to one of his plans which as fate would happen to have it is foiled early on by Batman. While the plans of the Joker are initially ruined, he does find himself backed by none other than Lex Luthor who enlists the madman to help him in his quest to become President of the United States and do all sorts of bad stuff. From there the game has Batman, assisted by the boy wonder Robin, trying to stop the Joker and Lex and prevent their dastardly plans from becoming reality. It may sound basic, but where the game excels is through its writing and how it incorporates Superman into the game and ultimately how none other than the Justice League come to save the day. Never once is the spotlight taken off of Batman, but the game simply does a terrific job at giving all the characters room to breathe and more importantly give them a moment to shine in the cutscenes.
Even without Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in the roles of Batman and the Joker, Lego Batman 2 does what matters the most: it stays true to the characters we all know and love. Now we may not have a completely accurate depiction of Batman as he isn’t a sometimes overly solemn vigilante, but the game does do an excellent job at taking what we know a character to be and playing those traits up in an amusing way that never feels grating or unnecessary. The voice acting in particular does an excellent job of giving the characters their newly enhanced personalities as seeing the back-and-forth banter between an annoyed Batman and an overly confident Superman is simply priceless, especially when you add Robin into the quotient as he totally marks out for Superman from time to time in the game.
Given my previous experiences with Lego games I was expecting Lego Batman 2 to be kind of rough around the edges if not completely shoddy when it came to the controls and how everything felt. The horrible jump and tumble animations from the Indiana Jones Lego game still haunt my memories and I was worried Lego Batman 2 would suffer from a similar issue. Thankfully in the span of time I’ve removed myself from the Lego games, developer TT Games have refined nearly every aspect of how everything controls and feels. So if you’re like myself and decided to take a break from the Lego games then now is the time to jump back in since everything is actually fun for a change.
Still maintaining the same side-scrolling perspective as the other Lego games, Lego Batman 2 features some nice depth thanks to the emphasis on co-op play. While playing a stage with a buddy is limited to local play only, the game still does an excellent job in providing areas that either require teamwork or involve one player using their particular skillset in order to progress. What’s different about Lego Batman 2 is that there are various suits that both Batman and Robin can wear which gives them special abilities, whether it’s having a missile launcher or being able to climb walls via the wonder that are magnets. Equipping these suits is rather easy as they’re stumbled upon in areas that require them. There may not be amount of freedom in terms of equipping the suits, but figuring out how to use them is where the fun is to be had. In a few areas it’s rather easy to figure out how I need to use Batman’s wing glide ability to reach an area, but in a few other stages the skills of the suits are used in inventive ways and they’re even used in a few boss battles as well.
Opting to channel my inner Batman a bit by being a loner, I played my initial run-through of the single-player campaign by myself. It may sound like I was trying to sabotage my own enjoyment by playing a co-op centric game with the assistance of an AI partner, but Lego Batman 2 didn’t falter. Thanks to the nifty ability of being able to switch between any of the characters in your party, which towards the end of the game will include six heroes, I didn’t find myself stuck in a location while I waited for my AI partner to walk over to the switch and grab the damn thing. The AI was definitely a bit slow at times when it came to combat, but seeing as how the base combat is easy and merely involves punching the crap out of people, throwing batarangs at them, or in my case freezing them via Superman’s special ability then its fine if my AI partner was a bit of a slouch.
Like I alluded to earlier, TT Games have fixed the feel of the controls in the game as nothing feels floaty and that thankfully means that platforming in the game is pure bliss. There aren’t sections in the game that are entirely platform extensive as the general gameplay is a nice mixture of combat, light puzzle solving, platforming, and unique battles/boss encounters. When a platforming section surfaced I didn’t cringe since I didn’t have to deal with controls that were fighting against me or felt so unpolished that it was unimaginable to think how the game was ever released to begin with.
The action variety in Lego Batman 2 is rather high since each stage has its share of thrills with unique puzzle sections, such as escaping a burning chemical plant, or battling a series of villains on the loose in Arkham Asylum. There aren’t any sections in which the game suddenly goes into an alt game mode to fit the battle at hand save for a few vehicle specific missions which are honestly awesome. During a few times I did find myself in a brief lull since most of the action is the same, but the game does get an added boost of character due to the bonus playable characters. While in the first run-through of the story mode the character options are limited to specific stages, I was able to play the game with a massive array of heroes and villains all of whom have special powers and abilities. Ranging from favorites such as The RIddler to Cyborg, these characters do add a lot of replay to the game and there are even a few post-game missions that involve using one particular character to defeat their arch-enemy or access a hidden area/secret, basically it’s a good old fashioned comic book superhero moment.
Most games never do a good job at multi-tasking, but Lego Batman 2 does an admirable job with the vehicle sections that are provided since the action is straightforward, everything is fun, and they don’t occur too often nor do they overstay their welcome. It was disappointing at first when I controlled one of Batman’s vehicles only to learn that the entire segment was on-rails and didn’t require any control on my part other than firing and controlling the reticule. But even then there’s a scope to the vehicle sections in the game which is fun and there are even a few surprise moments which definitely set the game apart in a good way.
A huge selling point for Lego Batman 2 was that it featured a fully open-world Gotham city. Things may not be as detailed as the slice of Gotham we saw in Batman: Arkham City, but it was still nonetheless cool to know that at any moment I could pop in the batmobile or Robin’s motorcycle and tear it up in Gotham City. The sad thing is that there honestly isn’t a lot to do in Gotham. Everything may look nice and there’s a desperate feel in the city as citizens are running away from the dastardly criminals that are running amok, who can actually be run over btw, but there’s not a whole lot to do. Gotham as a whole essentially serves a mere hub for all the story missions which take place in entirely closed off locales. There are a few secrets scattered around Gotham, but there aren’t any areas or missions which really take advantage of it like a game like Infamous does.
The general Lego aesthetic is one that pleased me as a child since yellow block dudes, blue blocks, and silver pieces is stuff that can leave a kid engaged for hours, but the style of the Lego games never pleased me all that much. I don’t know if my jaded exterior has finally been cracked, but the visual approach in Lego Batman 2 managed to appeal to me. Perhaps it was just seeing Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor and The Penguin in Lego form, but the game is actually pleasing to look at and manages to evoke a nice sense of style. Opting to go with the more gothic inspired version of Gotham, seeing giant Lego men statues in Gotham City or exploring Lex Luthor’s massive fortress offered some nice visual flourishes created through the Lego style while injecting a few “normal” textures which managed to hold their own. I’ll admit that I was never once wowed in one particular area as the game doesn’t deliver a wow inducing moment whose scope is unparalleled, but if anything the game has a competent look to it that is luckily devoid of any annoying tech or graphical issues.
Being a guy that sometimes expects a lot from games or in a few cases expects the worst, I was surprised by Lego Batman 2 in a good way. The game knows what it is and doesn’t try to be something yet it actually cares enough to keep things varied and deliver a story that doesn’t feel like it’s a bad Saturday morning cartoon reject. On the surface things may be basic, but just like most Lego products actually getting to the root of the fun reveals a complex experience that may take you longer than expected to complete. In some ways if it wasn’t for the minor restrictions the Lego formula instilled upon the game, I would say that Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes has to be one of the best superhero games released this generation since it’s pure fun that gives comic book fans and gamers what they want.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.