Is this the Lego game that players deserve or is it time to throw the series into the asylum of fallen franchises and lose the key?
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genres: Action, Adventure
Developer: Traveller\'s Tales
MSRP: $49.99 (PS3,
Replay value is also where the open world elements of the title really get to come into play and at their best they genuinely strengthen the overall longevity of this title. While the story missions are a terrific part of the overall game, it is these open world elements that are unquestionably the biggest addition to both the title and the series as a whole from a gameplay perspective. I wish could say then that said elements were an unqualified success, but unfortunately a number of flaws mar the experience and prevent it from being everything it could be. The idea to introduce a full open world into a Lego game, particularly a super-hero themed one, is simply inspired but the execution suffers in a number of ways.
The biggest issue plaguing the open world mode is unquestionably the controls. First of all, vehicle controls are fairly awful, with it being far too easy to get stuck on scenery and far too difficult to simply turn around. Even worse are the controls for flying in the open world mode, which operate differently than how they do in the story missions. Whereas in story missions flight is simple, fun, and easy to control (essentially pressing the jump button twice lets a character with flight powers take to the air, the jump button then allows players to gain altitude while another lowers them with the control sticks being used for navigation and moving forward), in the open world mode LB2 uses a far more cumbersome approach. Instead of a simple button press for gaining air, players instead have to aim a reticule around the screen and then press the jump button to move forward. While this works well enough for general flight, it makes precision a hard prospect, a fact made even more difficult by the inexplicable decision to not let players move straight up in flight as they can in story missions. It is a bizarre and completely unnecessary design choice, especially since the game already had flying controls in its story missions that would have worked equally well in the open world mode. I would not go so far as to say that flying in the open world mode is completely broken, as for the most part it works decently, but it is certainly far more frustrating and annoying than it needed to be.
Honestly that is pretty much what I can say about all the problems marring the open world experience in Lego Batman 2: they are annoying and they sap some of the fun from the proceedings but ultimately they do not manage to truly ruin the overall experience. That being said, other problems like the lack of a mini-map, excessive load times, and the fact that the game has to completely stop the action whenever it saves (which occurs pretty much anytime you unlock something or accomplish a goal/complete a side mission) still add up and they prevent the game from having the optimal open world experience it could have had. Which is a shame since when problems are not marring the experience, exploring the wide open confines of Gotham can be a great deal of fun. There is simply a ton of things of to do in Lego Batman 2, from tracking down unlockable characters (good guys always require a puzzle of one kind or another be solved, bad guys need to be beaten down in a fight, all characters not unlocked as part of the plot require the in-game currency of studs be spent to fully unlock them for use), completing side missions, playing various mini-games to unlock extras (including incredibly useful in-game cheats), solving the multitude of smaller puzzles scattered around the city, and simply destroying everything in sight to get more studs await players.
It also helps that Lego Batman 2 is, for the most part, a simply gorgeous looking game. The mixture of Gotham’s gothic architecture and nature with the goofier aspects inherent to the Lego brand is a potent one which in turn lets Traveller’s Tales create one of the more memorable takes on Batman’s home I have ever seen. You have not lived until you have witnessed a city filled with giant Godzilla-sized statuary in the shape of the classic human Lego minifig, often with an expression locked in horror or grim determination on their faces. As annoying as flying can be at times, the sight of the city spreading out beneath you almost makes you forget the troubles that haunt this aspect of the game. Almost. Mixing realistic looking architecture and landscapes with Lego blocks simply should not work as well as it does in Lego Batman 2. The lack of slowdown, even when dozens upon dozens of characters fill the screen, and the minimum of pop-up round out a visual experience that stands as a definite mark in the win column for LB2.
Aurally the game is even stronger, with the inspired choice of reusing some of the classic movie themes from the Burton Batman films and the Christopher Reeve’s Superman films paying off in droves. Nothing can beat the chill that goes through your body, for example, the first time you take to the air as Superman in the game only to have the classic notes of John Williams iconic theme begin to play. The voice acting is also first rate and really helps sell the character and personality of each hero and villain, even when some of them get little more than a single full line of dialogue in the whole game. While only Clancy Brown reprises his role of Luthor from the animated series, the individuals chosen to stand in for such luminaries as Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy are no slouches. Both the actors playing Joker and Batman manage to bring their own touches to the parts even while recalling aspects of any number of the diverse group of individuals to step into the shoes of these classic characters over the years.
While some problems do mar the tile at times, overall Lego Batman 2 is a terrific game that also stands as the best entry into the Lego series in a long time. While I suspect the very nature of the next Lego game coming from Traveller’s Tales (Lego Lord of the Rings) will preclude the use of the open world employed by this game, if nothing else I feel like the series has been significantly revitalized. This is no phoned in performance from Traveller’s Tale and instead stands as hopefully the start of a new second wind for both the series and the developer. Even if this does not turn out to be the case, Lego Batman 2 still stands as not only my favorite Lego game but also one of the most enjoyable superhero related experiences I have ever had in a video game. Featuring strong writing, fun story missions, and a highly enjoyable (if somewhat flawed) take on an open world experience, the game is one that will appeal as much to adults as it will to the younger players who are nominally the target audience of the game. This is exactly the kind of title that should be pointed towards when the topic of all-ages gaming for both the casual and the hardcore player comes up in discussion. Lego Batman 2 is simply a winner of a game and if you have even the slightest interest in Legos, the DC universe, or a fun and accessible action-adventure title, you should seriously consider picking this one up.
A copy of this game was purchased by Blistered Thumbs for review purposes on Xbox 360. The reviewer spent approximately twenty hours playing the game and completed its story mode.
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The newest Lego game has arrived and with it comes a new launch trailer that shows off everything new the game is bringing to the table.
Posted By Shaun K. about 11 months ago
The newest Lego game has arrived and with it comes a new launch trailer that shows off everything new the game is bringing to the table.
Lego Batman 2 is the second entry in the venerable Lego series to tackle the heroes and villains of the DC Universe and a great deal is riding on this return. While recent entries have remained enjoyable enough, the lack of innovation and change from title to title combined with the rapid release schedule of said titles has clearly hurt the series. For many the shine that once accompanied the Lego games back in the early days, when both the formula for and the idea of such games was still fresh and novel, has fled. It is to the credit of long time series developer Traveller’s Tales then that it has to be said Lego Batman 2 clearly represents a concentrated effort to bring more innovation to the table this time around. From the use of voice acting for the first time in series history to the introduction of an open world system, plenty of new ideas (at least as far as the series is concerned) grace Lego Batman 2. The question remains then: are these enough to make this the Lego game that players deserve or is it time to throw the series into the asylum of fallen franchises and lose the key?
|PROS||Writing, visuals, audio, use of licenses, story mode, mostly enjoyable open world|
|CONS||Controls in open world flawed, lack of mini-map, overly long load times|
|WTF?!||Why is General Zod easier to beat in a fist fight than freaking Killer Moth?|
Trouble has once again come to Gotham City. As if everything from invasions by Brainiac to a large portion of the city being turned into a prison as part of a madman’s plot was not bad enough, now the city has to face the treacherous team-up of two of the vilest villains to ever walk this world: Lex Luthor and The Joker. A pair this felonious might just be too much for even the Dynamic Duo to prevail, but fortunately waiting in the wings is a veritable army of heroes, in particular a certain Last Son of Krypton, eager and willing to help… Whether the Caped Crusader likes it or not.
Such is the main narrative driving Lego Batman 2 and not only does said narrative represent a series high point for the Lego games, it also manages to be a genuine (if humorous) first-rate superhero tale in its own right. Starting out with just another crazy night in Gotham before escalating to an increasingly twisted plot centered around Lex Luthor using The Joker to help him secure a presidential election, the game does a terrific job with its pacing. There was some debate beforehand about why call this game Lego Batman 2 when so many non-Batman characters feature in it. However once you play the game it quickly becomes apparent that, at its core, this is far more a Batman story than say it is a Justice League one. The game centers on him and he is the character with an actual arc in the game. And yes I did just say arc; for all the focus on laughs (which are both big and plentiful), this game never loses sight of what makes its various characters tick. Sure it is a lighter take on the likes of Batman, Joker, Superman and Luthor, playing up various aspects of their modern portrayals for laughs, but it also one that stays true to each major player’s essential nature. The fact that it does all of this while also being really, really funny is only all the more impressive. In short, this is the first Lego game where the story is as much a reason to play it as the gameplay is and this is a welcome fact indeed.
A big part of the success of this story comes down to the inclusion of fully spoken dialogue for the first time in a Lego game from Traveller’s Tale. I do not think I cannot overstate just how well this works in the context of the game and free of the limitations of relying only on pantomime (not that Lego Batman 2 does not still make good use of this form of performance) the writers at Telltale are free to really show their chops. There are so many little moments and asides that it can be easy to miss one joke because you are so busy laughing at another. The humor has a nice set of range, relying as much on fun character interaction and wacky slapstick beats as it does references and callbacks, though the latter is featured in copious amounts throughout the game. Everything from the Nolan trilogy (pay attention to Ra’s al Ghul opening quote before his boss encounter) to the Keaton films to the various animated cartoons to even other games such as last year’s Arkham City (one of my favorite gags in the game is when Vickie Vale reports how the Arkham Asylum breakout that the Joker instigates early in the game has put on hold the Mayors plans to turn a portion of the city into a prison for the criminals, which is probably for the best anyways, Vale says, since it was almost certainly a bad idea in the first place) is up for grabs. Certainly it is lot of fun waiting to see what insane reference the writers will cram in next.
Moving onto gameplay, Lego Batman two is divided primarily into two main modes: the story mode and the open world mode. Essentially, the story mode of Lego Batman 2 plays out in a similar fashion to previous games in the series: via 15 stages, each of which operate as distinct location that stands separate from the otherwise open world of Gotham City. They also often tend to feature any number of unique gameplay elements (such as the Arkham Maze which uses an overhead view clearly deliberately reminiscent of Pac-man while tasking players with solving puzzles so as to stop the various villains riding around the maze in amusingly absurd vehicles; or the various on-rails shooting-based vehicle levels) and initially limit players to whatever heroes are pre-assigned by the game. The story mode in Lego Batman 2 is more or less divided into three acts, with the first five levels that make up act 1 restricting players to playing as only Batman and Robin the first time through, with Act 2 bringing in Superman to the mix before Act 3 lets players unleash the full might of the Justice League. Once a level is beaten it can then be replayed at any time in free mode, which allows players to switch between however many of the games 50 character strong roster they have currently unlocked at any time. This approach does mean that the dedicated villain levels of Lego Batman are no longer present but honestly, players will be unlikely to miss them in light of the more coherent story presented this time around.
The story missions in Lego Batman 2 feature a nice degree of variety and also manage to correct many of the problems that have plagued the series other recent efforts. There is far less of a focus on annoying platforming sequences in LB2, which makes sense considering there are now characters that can fly at will, and similarly removed is the constant intrusion of endless waves of respawning foes. Instead, the game relies far more on clever puzzles and employing the wide variety of abilities that LB2 introduces. While previous Lego games have had different characters possess different abilities, LB2 really takes this idea and runs with it. A big part of the game are the various suits that Batman and Robin (and Batman and Robin only) can wear in order to give themselves various abilities ranging from ice powers to bomb throwing to acrobatics to sonic blasts and more. These suits really help to liven up the design of the game and also ensure that the various levels leading up to the full appearance of Justice League remain diverse and engaging.
While other characters cannot wear the suits, many (but not all) of their powers are duplicated by the natural abilities of these individuals. Thus, for example, Cyborg can make use of the same magnetic powers that one of Robin’s specialty suits features along with having access to a laser similar to Superman’s heat vision. Another example would be the Penguin, who can use his umbrella to glide in a manner similar to a secondary ability of Batman’s sonic suit while also being able to summon explosive minions who function in similar manner to the primary ability of a different Batman suit. It is a clever approach that makes sense in-universe even while allowing for fun experimentation. Players can even mix and match various power sets using the now standard character creator system that most Lego games feature, a system that has new life breathed into as a result. I especially want to point how perfect of a job Lego Batman 2 does of capturing the essence of Superman. There have been any number of video games to feature the Man of Steel but none have come close to getting it as right as LB2 does. The game gives Superman his full range of powers as opposed to simply nerfing the character (which makes sense because that brand is owned by a different company than Lego and terrible pun is terrible but I regret nothing) in order to make designing the game simpler. After all these years who would have thought that the first game to truly get Superman right would be built around Legos? Lego Batman 2’s story mode will initially take eight to ten hours to beat (depending on how obsessively you pursue every collectible and stud in each level) and even once complete this is a game, like so many other Lego titles, that simply screams replay value.