Lego Batman really should have been my all-time favorite Lego game. The problem was, by the time it rolled around, the formula had worn kind of thin and not even the presence of my favorite super hero could spark any excitement about the same game with a different costume. Well, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes really ups the ante with some new additions to the franchise that gives it a much needed freshening up. However, some old problems still linger and the fact of the matter is at the core of it, it’s still the same old tried and true Lego formula. Still, I was happy to find that a Lego game featuring Batman could finally become not only my favorite Lego game, but a game that’s just simply a lot fun; especially for DC comics nerds.
The biggest addition that makes this game stand out from past Lego games is the fact that it’s fully voiced. Traditionally, Lego games have told their stories without any dialogue. That works when you’re spoofing well-known scenes from popular movies, but it’s tough to pull off with super heroes in an original story. Having the characters talks neatly solves that problem, and makes things more enjoyable to boot. The traditional Lego humor is still there, now expressed with a knowing wit. Best of all, Clancy Brown reprises his role from the animated Superman series as Lex Luthor. The rest of the cast is fine, with Superman being a bit over-the-top (”after all, I can do anything”), which explains Batman’s sulky demeanor whenever Supes is around. Robin just wants Batman’s approval (and he finally gets it), and acts like a fan-girl whenever Superman is around. Joker is wacky and silly, and all of this adds up to a game that’s genuinely very funny and very enjoyable.
The story even comes with a nice moral to it; like an episode of Super Friends, but not quite as cheesy. Batman, as one would expect from such a loner, doesn’t like Superman constantly coming to the “rescue.” He tells Robin the reason he gets so annoyed is because they can’t constantly count on Superman to fly in and help; in fact, they can’t count on anyone. They can only rely on themselves. However, by the end of the adventure, even Batman grudgingly admits that it’s good to have friends (especially when they’re the Justice League) and there are times we just can’t do it all on our own. Yes, we all need help at times, most of all when it comes to eternity. You know what sets Christianity apart from most other religions? Generally, everyone else will tell you “you can do it.” Be good enough, moral enough, nice enough; put in enough effort, work towards enlightenment, and you can achieve paradise in eternity. The Bible, however, tell us a different story. It tells us that we can’t do it; we’ll never be good enough or enlightened enough to achieve paradise on our own. We need help. Fortunately God loves us enough to provide that help through Jesus Christ. He did for us what we could never do on our own through his death on a cross and his resurrection. So while just about every other religion tells us to do, do, do; the God of the Bible says it can’t be done, so he did it for us. All we need to do is admit we need a helping hand. Sometimes that isn’t easy, as Batman well knows.
The other big addition is an open world to explore. Gotham City, rendered more in the stylized Tim Burton motif, is at your fingertips and is chock full of things to explore, discover, solve, and collect. You may just think of it as the biggest hub world yet in a Lego game, but there’s so much do and find and solve that it never feels like a hub, but more like a giant level all of its own. However, this open world addition isn’t without its problems. First off, you don’t get to enjoy free play in it until you beat the story. This was kind of frustrating as I felt I had to put off my exploration until I finished the story. The nice thing about some of the hub worlds in other Lego games was you got to just play around in it with various characters whenever you didn’t feel like starting a whole new mission. While you can explore Gotham between levels, you don’t have that freedom of playing around with new characters until you’ve finished the story. You can do free play in specific levels and try out new characters, but it seems like an oversight to not be able to do that right from the start in the big open world setting. The other problem is getting around. A mini map of some sort would have been a huge help when navigating on the ground. When you fly over Gotham it’s easy to get where you’re going, but it can be frustrating and easy to get lost when you have to drive or run through the streets.
Speaking of flying, this is probably my favorite Superman game. While it’s a bit odd to see the Man of Steel flying over the darkened, gloomy skyline of Gotham City, it’s still a lot of fun (and the fact that soaring John Williams Superman score strikes up every time you take off is a nice touch as well). However, it would have been nice to have inverted flight controls. Without them, it can take a awhile to adjust to the flying mechanics, and it’s not always easy to land precisely where you want on the various rooftops. Still, the fact that you can fly any time and have all of Superman’s powers makes him a lot of fun to play around with. Like I said, this is probably the best Superman game yet. Oh, he’s also pretty funny in this game as well.
Speaking of problems, many of the familiar ones from past Lego games continue to show up here. Driving vehicles can be tough as their handling is a bit light and overly touchy, although I thought there was at least some improvement here. When you’re not playing with a friend, the A.I. can be a problem as well. While it does a fine job of helping you throw switches that require two people, when it’s not doing that, your partner will typically just be standing around, not even helping in a fight. There were also several times where I “died” because they were in the way or otherwise inadvertently knocked me off some ledge, which leads to the fact that the platforming is still fairly imprecise as always. These and a few other niggling issues won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s ever played a Lego game, but considering the fact that there were some improvements made in other areas, the fact that these issues still remain after all this time is kind of disappointing. There is some pop-in as well, which isn’t such a big deal except when you arrive at a beacon where there should be a console to activate and you have to wait for said console to appear. Also, the game locked up on me during one cutscene that forced me to reboot a couple times before I could continue.
On the plus side of familiar issues, this game is still a collector’s dream (or nightmare, depending on how obsessive you are) come true. The levels consist of the usual smash everything to get Lego studs to buy more characters and solve a few simple puzzles type of variety. However, the tantalizing notion of being able to unlock characters such as Mr. Freeze or Martian Manhunter makes going back to these levels to get as many studs as possible less of a chore. There’s also the hidden mini-kits, of which you won’t be able to find all the pieces until after a couple play-throughs with the right characters to help you get to previously inaccessible areas or to solve puzzles. At times, the core gameplay felt almost too familiar, but the added excitement of playing as Superman or Wonder Woman or even Lex Luthor made things less monotonous than they might otherwise have been.
Going through the wide-open Gotham city presents you with even more to do, and it’s here where the game feels freshest. You can fight and then unlock new characters, help random citizens in need, find new vehicles to purchase, find little mini-levels and puzzles to complete in order to get gold bricks or just fly or drive around town and enjoy the view. There’s lots to discover, and some characters can only be unlocked by having a certain number of gold bricks, and even then, you have to find the hidden gold doors; so yeah, obsessive types might lose a lot of time in this game trying to collect everything. And then there’s the joy of playing as the Justice League members. While the story only features them in a couple levels, going back to play previous levels just to see what they can unlock is fun. And finding new characters throughout the city is blast. Racing around as Flash is a thrill, if difficult to control. Finding Sinestro and using him as a character is also exciting. In fact, I could go on and on about all the characters to find and play with, but half the fun is just discovering them for yourself.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is at it’s core the usual song and dance when it comes to a Lego game. However, it’s also daring enough to try a few new things as well. While these new additions aren’t without some of their own problems, and the usual issues from these games still linger, it’s enough to help set this one apart from previous Lego titles. Plus, the fun of playing with favorite Justice League characters makes this game a must-own for any DC comics nerd. It’s also a great way to introduce the family to some of the more obscure members of the DC universe, because above all else, Lego games are family games, and that’s no different here. Now all we need is a Lego Avengers game and everyone will be happy.
Score out of 7:
Graphics: 6 - It’s a pretty looking game, with some impressive lighting effects and particle effects. All the Lego pieces look appropriately platicy, and Gotham City is full of rain-soaked gloom.
Sound: 6 - Love the voice acting, which really helps sell the humor and even tells a decent story. Toss in some good music (the Danny Elfman Batman theme and the John Williams Superman theme are awesome), and great sound effects and you have a good sounding game that matches its good looks.
Gameplay: 5 - Much of the in-level gameplay is the same old Lego routine, which can get tedious. Some on-rails vehicle and flying sections help break that up, but are almost too simple. However, the open-world aspect full of things to explore and discover is fun, and using new characters with different powers in the levels is also a blast. I just wish free play in Gotham didn’t have to be unlocked by finishing the story. Plus, it’s even more fun with a friend in co-op.
Controls: 5 - Pretty standard stuff, although there are no inverted flight controls, which would have helped, and vehicles still handle lightly. Platforming is also imprecise. Still, nothing is broken, and the controls are proficient enough to make the game enjoyable.
Story: 5 - Batman learns that sometimes he needs help from his friends, and the Gotham police admit that a giant robot with a purple suit, white face and green hair should have tipped them off that the Joker was involved. Good stuff.
Content: 7 - The great thing about Lego games, they are truly family friendly.
Final: 5 - Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a great Lego game that introduces some nice new features to the franchise. It’s also a DC comics nerd’s dream come true. The core gameplay is the same as ever, but finding cool DC characters while collecting studs, mini-kits and gold bricks in an open world Gotham City will keep you busy for many hours.