Lego Batman 2: DC Super HeroesBy: Ben Nguyen
Posted: July 04, 2012
If you’re an older gamer who has now settled down and have kids, you’ve probably heard of the Lego Batman/Star Wars/Harry Potter/etc games. While they may not feature some of the extravagant blockbuster budgets and design that some games do, such as Batman: Arkham City, they certainly make up for a lot of it with charm and by providing fun for both parents and children. And if you’re looking for another Batman game to get you psyched up for the Dark Knight Rises, then perhaps this game is it. Lego Batman 2 is the latest entry to the Lego series providing an all new story which includes the Justice League (most notably, Superman) and some of their villainous counterparts. Throw in a more ‘open-world’ approach and Lego Batman 2 becomes that much more enticing for Lego fans looking for new changes to the gameplay beyond setting.
Lego Batman 2 begins with Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor attending a ball for a designated ‘Man of the Year’ award in Gotham City. When Bruce Wayne wins over Lex Luthor, Lex decides to team up with the Joker and sets out a nefarious plot to become the President and eliminate Bruce Wayne all the while finding a way to stop Superman from intervening. In the process the Joker and Lex Luthor also free the inmates of Arkham Asylum causing chaos to run rampant in Gotham City. Along with Robin, Batman attempts to stop this new dynamic duo, but even Batman realizes that he may need a little assistance, which is where Superman and the rest of the Justice League come in. However, even Superman and the Justice League will have a handful of problems to deal with as Lex and the Joker prove to be quite formidable throughout the story.
Certainly the plot is not deep and simply seeks to go from Point A to Point B with a new context for players to solve puzzles and beat up thugs, but even adults will find a lot to appreciate about the game’s story and dialogue. The tone is light throughout, and the developers wisely provide a lot of humor to keep the player interested. There isn’t a whole lot of drama, but you will find yourself paying attention for the interactions between Batman, Robin, and the rest of the DC superheroes as it's pitch perfect for a family friendly version of the Justice League.
Players who are familiar with the Lego series know that the game doesn't consist of much dialogue, however Lego Batman 2 has changed this, adding voice actors to the major characters; perhaps to provide a little more change and life to the series. While the silent humor was a lot of fun, I think the change was admirable after several games considering this opens up a lot more possibilities for the developers to express themselves. In all, both kids and adults should find a lot to appreciate about the story and writing, as there’s something there for both audiences.
The Game Rating: 8/10
Those familiar with the Lego series know that it's an action adventure type game with a lot of puzzle like elements that incorporate the building blocks of the Lego toys. There is a large emphasis on co-op gameplay to solve puzzles, but those playing alone can switch between characters. The brawling elements are very simple, accessible for just about most ages. There’s a basic attack for all characters, and then depending on the character/suit you’re wearing, you can also use those weapons/powers to defeat your enemies. Because you seemingly have infinite lives, there’s no danger of losing to the thugs you have to defeat, but it is somewhat fun to experiment with your powers and gadgets to defeat your enemies. If you string together enough hits, you can pull a finishing move specific to the suit/character that incentivizes playing different characters-- although it’s not like any character has much of an advantage over the other when it comes to the fighting aspect. It can’t be stressed enough that the brawling is very basic, which certainly saps a bit of fun out of the game, this however is understandable given its need to be appealing to all audiences.
Most of the game however will be navigating the environment, which will require your wits and various characters and suits to progress through. There are several hazards such as chemicals, electric grids, and fire that require specific characters and suits to get rid of the hazards. Often you will find one character having the ability to progress, but will need to find a way for your partners to also keep up with you. This will often mean breaking stuff in the environment (could be anything) which provides building blocks for either a new suit or providing a route for your other partners. In addition, it provides studs which acts as the currency of the game. This currency can then be used to purchase new characters in addition to buying unlockable cheats. The puzzle aspect is this game’s strong suit, providing a sizable challenge for all audiences. Even I have to admit that I got stumped a few times, perhaps because the game didn’t provide good indicators at times on what to do, but mostly because it requires a fair amount of ingenuity that I didn’t expect from the game. The levels are very well designed for the most part, and that’s what makes the puzzles a general joy to solve. However, there were times when the controls wouldn’t work the way you wanted them to, occasionally not jumping to the right platform, or getting stuck on certain objects which resulted in brief frustration.
The other major element of the game is the ‘open world’ aspect, which allows Batman to freely travel around Gotham City rather than a hub that directs you to the next part of the game. Here, you can find some of the released prisoners from Arkham Asylum including Bane, Man-Bat, Two Face, and many others and you can defeat them and then purchase them for use as a character. In addition there are several collectible items in the area including Gold Bricks which are necessary to unlock bonus levels and characters. The switch to an open world system makes sense, but unfortunately it’s kind of limited by the gameplay. There just isn’t that much to do, as many of these collectibles have been done without the use of it. There are many different kinds of vehicles and characters to use at least that might entertain some in terms of experimentation in exploring Gotham City, but unfortunately, it’s more sensible to go through the entire game and then if you feel like it, get the collectibles, especially because the game requires so many different characters and suits to attain everything.
It’s fair to say that Lego Batman 2 isn’t a stunning looking game, the art style isn’t meant to be realistic, but to evoke the Lego world as much as possible. But Gotham City looks surprisingly solid for an open world city, the rain effects are quite nice in particular. What does deter from the look though are the aliasing issues which are quite noticeable given the simplistic shapes that the game takes. Also screen-tearing is quite noticeable throughout the game, which is a major annoyance of mine. Character models look pretty decent as expected, they’re not incredibly detailed, though obviously the point. The framerate seems to hold up throughout even as things get a bit cluttered and hectic towards the end and the animations are smooth but represent Lego figures well, which add to the charm of the visual aesthetic of the game. While the game looks acceptable, it’s certainly not pushing any boundaries and a few niggling performance issues also hurt it further.
As mentioned before, Lego Batman 2 is notable for adding voice acting to the games. Most importantly, Batman sounds solid, performed by the reliable Troy Baker, and Superman also has the stoic charm that we’ve come to expect from the character. Clancy Brown also reprises his role as Lex Luthor from the animated series/Justice League, but he also sounds a bit bored at times in the role. Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to wish for the actors who portrayed some of the characters in Batman: The Animated Series, but the Joker in particular feels like a pale imitation of Mark Hamill who has supposedly retired from the role of the Joker. The musical cues are mostly taken from the Danny Elfman scores from Batman and John Williams’ score for Superman. Obviously, these are classic soundtracks and it provides a nice feeling for nostalgia especially when you first start up the game, however, a lot of musical cues are overused and it can become a bit of an annoyance. A little more variety in the tracks would have been nice, but if you’re going to overplay songs, you could do much worse.
Audio Rating: 7/10
The story should take about eight hours to progress through, consisting of 15 levels that will take approximately 30 minutes to complete for each one. From there, there are quite a few characters to experiment with and find the collectibles which can unlock new vehicles, other characters, and cheats that change up the gameplay a bit. These are pretty decent incentives to continue playing however, it’s important to note that a great deal of the extra characters cannot be played until after the game is finished which is disappointing and many of the extra characters lack the usefulness of others. In all, it should take approximately 25 hours to collect and complete everything which is solid for a family friendly game. The co-op aspect may be greater incentive for those to replay the game, but unfortunately like many other Lego games, there is no online co-op, which severely limits the value of it. Clearly the developers intend for parents and kids to play together (or kids) rather than adults playing over the internet.
Lego Batman 2 is ultimately a fun game with plenty of issues. However, the general audience for the game certainly won’t mind as much as it delivers a light-hearted experience that appeals to pretty much all age groups. Some of the new additions to the Lego franchise will be welcomed by long time players but in the end this is mostly the same song and dance, but the franchise has been remarkably consistent throughout. Going forward, voice acting will probably be a welcome addition and the open world style can continue to improve to provide more than what it currently does. As it is, it feels like a bit of experimentation to spice things up, but it feels lacking in this installment. If you enjoyed the animated series, or if you’re looking for a fun game to play with children however, this would be a worthy game to check out, providing age appropriate humor that should please any fan of Batman and puzzles that actually demand a bit more thinking than what you might expect.
Overall Rating: 7/10
-Game provides a lot of comedic charm
-Wide range of characters to play, even if some are underutilized.
-Puzzles are well designed
-No online co-op
-Lots of screen tearing and some aliasing issues
-Controls and interaction with the environment can be occasionally frustrating