Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is yet another installment in the popular Lego series. From building crazy contraptions to hilarious cutscenes, Lego games have always been filled with fun, pure awesomeness, and even a little nostalgia, and as an avid player, I am always optimistic of a new brand crossover. Sadly, after the success of Lego Star Wars and the first Lego Batman, Traveller's Tales seemed to have lost the magic that permeated their first creations. While I partly blame myself growing up, I also blame the game-breaking glitches, lazy level design, a slap-in-the-face feel of thrown-togetherness, and even a little misplaced pride. After the horror that was Lego Indiana Jones 2, the developers have started to gain their strength back, but I’m not so sure they’re there yet.
If you’ve played a Lego game before, the first and most obvious change you’d notice in DC Super Heroes is the voice acting. Previous Lego games were mimed out with grunts, squeaks, and squeals getting the point across, along with clever, improvised acting. Still, if you had never seen the movies the Lego games parody, you would have no idea what was going on. The first Lego Batman made an exception with its own made-up story, like Lego Batman 2.
The first question to come into your head should be, “Is the voice acting done well?” Many people were skeptical, some were fully open to the idea, and a few outright hated the concept. I think Traveller's Tales did an awesome job of bringing the normally mute protagonists to life. The lines aren’t cheesy; they’re hilarious and original. The voices fit all the characters too. Batman is serious and tough, Joker is funny and maniacal, Lex Luthor is an arrogant politician, and Superman is invincible and reserved. Sadly, we don’t have Kevin Conroy as Batman or Mark Hamill as Joker; instead we have Troy Baker and some other guy, but all the actors perform amazingly and really evoke the sense of a Batman game.
The actual story mode lasts around four hours with an hour of that time devoted to cutscenes. The game isn't a long by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't need to be. I really wish Traveller's Tales had created a villain campaign like they did in the first Lego Batman, but with the amount of new content in the sequel, I can forgive them. The plot feels original, even if it’s entirely predictable. You control Batman and Robin, along with the help of Superman and other members of the Justice League, whose ultimate goal is to stop Lex Luthor and Joker from their dastardly deeds of ruining Gotham's day.
Feel like watching a movie?
The level designs are well made despite some very obvious signs of laziness here and there. I did not like the location of the Minikit collectibles. I get the sense that the developers just threw them in random places, put an obstruction over them so you can only get it in Free Play, and called it hidden. This design makes me miss Lego Star Wars where they built more of the level just for the collectibles. There were hidden rooms and even lengthy puzzles to unlock that final Minikit.
Another new addition to Lego Batman 2 is the open-world of Gotham City. The map depicts a large portion of the notorious metropolis, and scattered throughout Gotham are terminals used to discover villains that you can fight and unlock, red bricks that give your Lego figure different abilities like invincibility, and a plethora of gold bricks to find. But Citizens in Peril, which I feel are an incredibly pointless collectible, should be promptly removed from any future Lego game.
The only problem with the open-world is that it feels too… open. Gotham is beautifully designed and realistically detailed, but that’s about as far as graphics go. Once you find all the collectibles (which isn’t too hard considering the ping tool maps their locations) and buy all the characters, you’re kind of stuck. You can run around Gotham fighting thugs that attack you, but there’s no real point. The clunky vehicle controls crudely handle the joys of driving the Batmobile. You could fly in Robin’s helicopter, but it’s easier to jet around as Wonder Woman or the Green Lantern. I don’t say Superman because his theme song plays the whole time your soaring about the city, and that gets old very fast.
DC Super Heroes contains all the trademarked Batman/Superman music that you’ve more than likely heard before. It’s nice to hear the melodies again for nostalgia purposes, but Lego games have a tendency to spoil their appeal every time the songs repeat on a loop, especially Superman’s.
The 100-plus gold bricks populating Gotham lessened my annoyance at the city's vastness.
Most Lego games controls feel light and responsive, and also a little bit slippery. Lego Batman 2 still has that slippery sensation, but the characters also have a heavier feel as if they are not just gliding about the world's surface. The game itself has no game-breaking glitches (thank goodness) but does have a lot of minor ones, such as getting stuck on walls in the open-world or villains disappearing completely because of weird load errors. I have yet to encounter any glitches within the actual levels, nor have I been forced to restart my Xbox to continue. There are parts of levels that make you say, “There’s no way they tested that more than once,” which is annoying, but there’s no workaround.
A large part of any Lego game has always been the drop-in/drop-out co-op. As with all recent Lego titles, this one uses a split-screen feature, which has been loved and hated. Personally, I hate it, and so does my brother (whom I always play with). The problem is that it moves around too much; one second you’re on the top screen, the next you’re in the bottom-diagonal-left. One of us ended up dropping out many times just so we could see what we were doing – whether we were running to the next objective or solving a puzzle at hand – when not trying to keep our screens together during other circumstances.
So how is the overall execution? The voice acting is amazingly done, the script is hilarious, and the story feels original. The sounds are as good as they get for a Lego game; everything you do has a sound effect that fits. The graphics and physics improve with every release, and Arkham Asylum and Gotham City can be comical sites with a bunch of Lego figures running around. The controls retain the same sensation, but I have to complain about the clunky vehicles and the awkward split-screen camera. There are many different people to play as, from Joker to Killer Croc and Green Lantern to Cyborg, that will appease any DC fan.
DC Super Heroes is a decent Lego game, but if I had to sum up my impressions in a single word, I’d use the word “empty.” Even with voice acting, I feel so much more could be done to flesh out Gotham City. Besides the hunt for collectibles, there is little reason to replay the story mode. At $30 or less, I say Lego Batman 2 is completely worth it, and Lego games tend to hit that price fast.
Publishers: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Number of Players: 1-2 (Campaign)
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PC, Wii, 3DS, DS