Lego series developer TT Games took on an interesting challenge with 2008’s Lego Batman: Telling an original story without the use of voice. Previously in both the Lego Star Wars and Indiana Jones games the stories were told with pantomime and slap-stick gags that worked so incredibly well due to the fact that each of the properties are so ingrained in pop-culture that people didn’t need spoken dialogue to know what was happening. The original Lego Batman had all the trappings of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones game before it: The dual-character set up, punching everything you can get your hands to gather studs, solving puzzles by building Lego objects but the humor and story just didn’t translate as well as before because the game wasn’t based upon a past iteration of Batman. When it came to return to Gotham City, TT Games removed the tape from the mouths of the mini-figs, allowing the characters to speak to in-game other than grunts for the first time. This was just one of the many changes that would forever alter the Lego formula as we knew it.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes introduced a lot of firsts to the Lego series of game. As already mentioned, voice work, featuring the talents of Troy “My voice is LITERALLY everywhere” Baker as Batman and Clancy Brown, returning as Lex Luthor from a multitude of DC animated films and TV series among many, many others. The inclusion of voice doesn’t take away from the brilliant work the developer had done in their other titles, it just simply provides them another outlet in which to bring smiles to players faces both young and old with the help of some sharp writing and fantastic comedic timing from the talented cast that even pokes some fun at Gotham’s always raining weather and Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City.
Another first for the young sub-series is the introduction of other characters from the DC Universe, though this is still very much a Batman game, which can be taken equally as a positive and negative. The game builds on the foundation of the original Lego Batman’s suit swapping mechanic for the Dynamic Duo wherein new outfits alter character abilities in some fun new ways, but having the “DC Super Heroes” sub-title lets the player believe that they’ll also be able to play around with the crazy powers and personalities of the expanded DC Universe roster. In the fifteen mission game, the only Justice League characters you should expect to play as in anything than the last couple of missions is Superman who exists to show you that you really want more characters to play with than just Batman and Robin. Getting to play as Superman for the first time, flying around while the classic 70’s Superman John Williams theme plays is something that is truly goose-bump worthy.
The initial structure of Lego Batman 2 is similar to other Lego games before it. You play through a series of missions littered with collectibles that obsessive folks like me have to repeat afterwards in “Freeplay” mode (a feature that lets you play as any character) and while starting out they’re a lot of fun as you experiment with the new suits like Robin’s acrobat outfit that lets him perform Prince of Persia-esque acrobats and encase himself in a hamster ball, they start to get very uneven around the midway point. Around the time Superman is introduced into the story the levels become very long and start to drag, or they run together so seamlessly that you start to feel like you’re playing one long mission. The main antagonists in the game are the Joker and Lex Luthor who make for some great bad guys wherever they show up, but it would’ve been nice to maybe have some henchman show up for a sub-plot; Other Batman villains only make an appearance in the intro level and another where you’re in a maze and chase them down, neither of which have a bearing on the overarching story.
Where the game redeems itself from the varying quality levels it makes up for in the open-world portion, another new addition to the Lego series. Either between missions or after you’ve completed the main game you can roam around Gotham City in a wide selection of traditional and off the wall vehicles or as one of the flying super heroes like Superman or Green Lantern. There’s simply so much to do that you don’t know where to begin and none of it ever feels like pointless busy work. You can play mini-games, save citizens in peril, and complete fun challenges that really show off the new suits; All of which reward the player with gold bricks, the Lego game equivalent of the stars in Super Mario 64 or the jiggy pieces in Banjo-Kazooie, The only real detriment to your exploration can be the games flying controls, either as a minifig or in a vehicle. A lot of the hidden collectibles are found in high up nooks that require a lot of precision to get into that the flying controls don’t quite allow. Getting around at super speed from one end of the map to another is perfectly okay, but positioning Superman just right when slowly hovering can be a bit of a nightmare. It is a minor complaint however, and nothing that affects how much fun you’ll have overall exploring Gotham City.
You can also seek out red bricks that activate cheats, tilting the odds ever in your favor by unlocking various radars that let you zero in on gold bricks, characters and vehicles to buy multipliers for how much currency you get from each Lego stud. Currency is something that you’ll definitely want a lot of when it comes to buying all the characters, 70 in all, ranging from heroes and villains from the Bat-family of characters, Justice League members like Flash, Wonder Woman, and of course, Aquaman and even cosmic baddies like Sinestro and Brainaic. Much like how when the open world becomes available and the real game shows itself, the “DC Super Heroes” subtitle is really earned when you’re buying up all the characters to fill out the extensive roster.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is not a perfect game with some levels that either over stay their welcome or bleed into one another and some spotty flying controls, however the evolution of the Lego series as a whole in the additions of voice acting and a playable open world are two excellent additions to a series that only gets better with each new entry. While I would’ve liked more characters from the expanded DC universe to play a part in the games main story other than a paltry few missions, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had finding them and playing with them in the game’s rendition of Gotham City Whether you’re a fan of Batman, the DC Universe, or I dare say neither, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this addition to TT Games phenomenal Lego series.
WHAT’S NEW FOR Wii U
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes was ported to the Wii U console in the early months of 2013 and if you haven’t played any version of this game, or perhaps only the port to the original Wii console that lacked the open world gameplay of the other consoles, this is the version to get. The differences don’t account for much while playing the main game, however when playing in the open world the entire map is available on the tablet controller and this makes marking way points to whatever collectible you’re looking for very intuitive. There’s also an option to tap on an icon that brings up your character roster, allowing you to quickly select whoever you need without fumbling through the menu in every other version of the game.
These additions wouldn’t warrant a repurchase when the game was brand new and selling for full price, but right now you can pick up this SKU for around $19.99 brand new, and at that price, it’s worth a first, or even second look if you’ve already played it.