LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes – Review
Lego Batman 2 is the latest Lego game to appear from Travellers Tales Games (TT) and published by Warner Brothers Games. Once again we see the Dark Knight and his trusty, yet annoying, side-kick, Robin, take on the Joker while he attempts another of his mad schemes in Gotham City. This time, however, the Joker has teamed up with Lex Luthor to cause chaos and to try and force the people to vote Lex in as President. In order to stop them, Batman partners up, albeit reluctantly, with Superman and a host of other superheroes in order to win the day. You might ask what the hell are Superman and Lex Luthor doing in a Batman game, but it’s nicely worked in and all relatively believable… for a game about superheroes that is.
For the first time in a Lego game, TT have made the decision to fully voice the characters rather than rely on body language and comedy noises. If I remember correctly, there was a bit of a stink among fans when this was first announced, but having seen it in action I can safely say that all those people are idiots. In no way is anything taken away from the game. If anything the voice acting adds to the game and allows for a more engaging storyline; there’s only so much story you can get across with someone making an “Uh Oh” noise and then falling down. To be honest, TT should have made this decision ages ago and I for one am glad that voiced characters have been implemented.
Another new feature is the introduction of an open world map. It’s an interesting idea for this type of game; as well as the missions dotted around the place there are also loads of hidden collectables to discover and bosses to fight. To help you find all this hidden stuff you’re able to scan the map with the Bat Computer in your Bat Cave; a little later on you gain access to Bat Computer terminals, which are dotted around the world map, and then, later, a portable computer that will allow you to view the map and scan from the pause menu.
A quick note to the completionists: as far as I can make out, the bat computer can pick up all collectables on the world map so nothing really is truly hidden from you, it’s just a matter of scanning and then remembering where to go. You can even drop down markers to help you, but I found them to be a bit useless because they don’t actually appear in the world, only on your HUD, so they might as well not be there. The map is relatively big but you unlock vehicles quite early on, which makes getting around a lot easier.
The only problem I have with the world map is that vehicle movement and flying controls are different there than in the missions. Flying in the missions, for example, you need to tap the jump button twice in quick succession to take off and then move around with the left analogue stick. In contrast, on the world map, you are required to hold down the jump button in order to move and you can only steer with analogue stick. To be honest I found this method to be an absolute nightmare; it is incredibly difficult to reach a specific spot when flying as the controls are just so laborious. There is one golden brick which is located at the top of a tall building that only flyers can reach; the only way I could get it was to sort of take a run at it and fly into it – it took me ages to do and had me raging. In addition to this there is always some momentary confusion after finishing a level in which you’ve been flying when you find yourself back on the world map and the controls have bloody changed. The flying problem is not exactly a deal breaker, but I’m sure TT games could have found a more elegant solution for the problem.
As far as the rest of the gameplay goes, if you’ve ever played a LEGO game before then I don’t need to tell you what to expect, as the same tried and tested formula once again applies to Batman 2, but for those who don’t know, I’ll recap. Each mission requires you to simply get from point A to point B, during which you collect Lego studs, fight Lego people, collect more Lego studs, solve a few puzzles, build stuff, collect more studs, find hidden crap and fight bosses. It’s all pretty standard stuff for a Lego game, but, for the most, part it’s actually a lot of fun. At the start and end of each mission you get treated to short, but well made, cut-scenes that progress the story on slightly, before throwing you into the mission or back onto the world map.
The missions themselves are quite varied, with no two environments the same. I particularly enjoyed the Wayne Tower mission for its futuristic tech. setting; oh, and the fact that it was in the middle of collapsing while you are in it. Great fun. As you progress through each mission you’ll come across different outfits for Batman and Robin, which give different abilities from that of the standard suits. For example, Batman’s Electricity Suit allows him to walk unharmed over electrified areas, as well as power special switches, while Robin’s Hazard Suit allows him to clean up harmful radioactive goo and travel underwater. As you can imagine, these suits need to be used in tandem with each other in order to get past the relatively simple puzzles, and, occasionally, you’ll be required to back-track slightly in order to switch to the required suit. When Superman and the other heroes become playable (towards the middle/end of the game) the missions are cleverly designed so that you need to make use of all their individual powers to enable you to progress. The best of example of this is probably the Batcave mission, with Batman, Robin and Superman teaming up together – I’ll avoid spoilers but, needless to say, I thought it was particularly good.
In addition to the usual platform missions, TT have added a number of on-rails vehicle missions where all you have to do is shoot targets and kill a boss at the end. While they don’t really sound that great on paper, they are actually very enjoyable and I found that they served as a good break from the normal missions, especially as there aren’t too many of them. All missions can either be tackled solo, where characters are switched between with a quick press of a button, or in co-op mode with a friend.
Co-op is drop in/out and local only (no online) and, for the most part, it’s great fun. I say for the most part because there are a few niggles that my co-op partner (the Missus) and I discovered whilst playing. Firstly, the camera: when playing in co-op and both characters are near each other, everything is fine as the screen is shared, however, when players separate, the screen splits in two so that a section is still centred on each player. This eliminates the old problem of both characters having to stay together all the time.
The split in the screen is usually diagonal and it moves/rotates depending on the position of the two characters. For example, if I was Batman and I was on the left of the screen when it split, I would be on the left hand side. However, if I were then to move over to the right as my co-op partner veered left, then the split-screen would move and rotate, relative to our positions, and I would then have to focus on the right hand side of the screen. When players come together again the screen realigns itself to become one again. It’s rather difficult to describe, but it is really very clever in its execution (although it can be rather disorientating to look at). More than a few times it had one of us confused and led to deaths as the screen moved around, especially when there was a lot happening. The camera issues don’t end there, however, as the angles can sometimes be problematic; there are times when the positioning of the camera isn’t too great, and with numerous balance-beam sections in the game, it’s a recipe for disaster and plenty of deaths.
The next problem we found with the co-op was friendly fire. You are actually able to hurt your co-op partner whilst fighting, something which I thought was short sighted on TT’s part. You really need to be careful when mashing away at the attack button during big fights as you’re just as likely to smack your co-op buddy in the face than you are anybody else, especially when you are both fighting a boss. It’s not a massive problem because if you kill your co-op partner then he instantly respawns, but you’ll lose some Lego studs, not to mention that it is very annoying. Finally, on very rare occasions, we found that it wasn’t immediately obvious what was needed to be done in order to progress with a puzzle. This could have just been us being thick, but at these points we were scratching our heads for about ten minutes before we fluked on to the solution and managed to progress. Incidentally, the missus thinks that I shouldn’t have mentioned this as a bad point, and says that she likes a challenge from time to time (a reason why she is with me, maybe? [definitely - Ed.]), but I disagree. In my opinion it is possible for you to still be challenged while knowing exactly what you need to do, and therefore it is a bad point.
As mentioned previously, and in keeping with the tradition of previous games, there are plenty of collectables to be found in each mission, with the easiest of them requiring you to fill the Lego gauge with studs, which can then can be used to buy new characters, vehicles and the like, of which there are many – about 60 characters in all. Completionists will want to unlock these new characters, as they’ll be needed to unlock certain areas, either within the missions themselves or on the world map. In order to unlock a character on the world map, you’ll usually have to just find them and deliver a bit of a kicking, after which you’ll need to pay some Lego studs to unlock him/her. You can then switch back and forth between them and any other unlocked character, relatively easily.
In each mission there are ten hidden Lego kits which, when they are all found, will unlock a vehicle. In addition, there is a golden brick to locate and a citizen to save on each level. You’ll not be able to get everything on one run through of each level while playing the story mode, as sometimes different characters are required to get you past certain areas i.e. you might need the Riddler or the Joker to open a secret passage. This is where the Free Play mode comes in. Once you have completed a mission in story mode you are then able to play it again in Free Play mode. This lets you switch to any character you like, providing you have unlocked him/her on the world map, and doing so will allow you use their powers and unlock those hidden doors and the like.
Graphically and audibly Batman 2 is almost identical to every other Lego game out there, however that’s not to say it isn’t good. TT games nailed the engine and sound for these games ages ago, and therefore I’d have been very surprised if they had managed to screw that up. As I mentioned before the cut-scenes look pretty decent, but seeing as they don’t seem to be done using the in-game engine this is hardly surprising. Additionally, the music is good, but a little repetitive, and with missions sometimes taking up to around 40-45 minutes to complete, you’ll start to block it out altogether until the mission is over and it changes.
With a total of 15 missions, each with a shed load of collectables to find, along with a ton of stuff to hunt down on the world map, there is a huge amount of content to keep you busy and thus ensure your money’s worth; TT have done a great job in this respect. To put the sheer amount of collectables into perspective, when I finished my story mode play through the game told me I was a mere 18% complete in all. There’s probably an argument worth having about whether that is too much in terms of collectables versus gameplay, but seeing as this is what we’ve come to expect from a Lego game, I can forgive it.Pros
- Great story with a decent amount of missions
- Lots to do and collect
- Huge amount of characters and vehicles to unlock
- Decent co-op mode
- Flying on the world map is just terrible
- Camera can be a nuisance from time to time
- Sometimes it's not clear what the hell you should be doing
- Too many collectables?
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a great addition to the LEGO family of games, and the long overdue appearance of voiced characters means that it has the best story yet. The usual ton of collectibles to hunt down and unlock will keep those who are that way inclined busy for some time before they can truly max out the game, but for those that aren't bothered about collecting every last thing, the story mode is still a decent length and worth more than one play through.
Despite the great story and the awesome amount of characters to play, the game still isn't perfect. The flying on the world map is shocking and the camera angle often causes unnecessary deaths. Not only that, but the split-screen, whilst a good idea, is often disorientating, especially when there is a lot happening. However, the good points of LEGO Batman 2 far outweigh the bad, with the negatives mostly just being minor annoyances, rather than deal breakers. If you're looking for something that will keep you occupied for quite some time, but isn't really that much of a challenge in the grand scheme of things then LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is the game for you. Buy it.
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