The combination of LEGO and videogames seems pretty obvious to us now, but back in 1997 they were poorly executed and an amateurish affair. It wasn’t until 2005 that LEGO started to make their presence felt in the interactive gaming market with the release of LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. This combination of fun platformer and blockbuster franchise gave LEGO a whole new lucrative avenue to explore.
Since that day, they have gone on to make many memorable games in the Star Wars universe; as well as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even upcoming Lord of the Rings releases. Each captured the heart and limitless imagination of the LEGO toys, including the 2008 LEGO Batman game that sold an impressive 11 million copies worldwide. Now, four years later, Traveller’s Tales are back to bring us their long awaited sequel.
However, as the title implies, it’s not just Batman and his inner-circle of plastic chums who make an appearance. This time he’s joined by fellow DC comrades, including Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman. In fact there are over 50 playable characters to explore, each with their own comedic animations and abilities. For example the Man of Steel has heat vision, Hawkgirl can fly, Clayface has super strength, Wonder Woman can lasso enemies, and Aquaman… can er.. swim and talk to fish and junk.
As a huge LEGO fan and an avid comic-book reader, I was like a mongoose in a birdhouse with LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. The impressive cast of DC characters and the clever use of visual comedy that the LEGO games are known for come together here like a fine goulash of awesomeness. Watching the ‘most eligible bachelor showdown' between Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor is hilarious, while Harley Quinn’s jaunty skip and deranged grin on her miniature plastic head never gets old. One running gag is Robin’s blatant admiration for Superman, a rather delicate issue that has Batman in a fit of jealous rage. It’s pure genius.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes centers around two main characters, Batman and Superman and their attempts to stop their respective arch-nemeses, The Joker and Lex Luthor, who have teamed up to destroy Gotham ‘brick by brick’. Along the way, you’ll need the help of various Justice League heroes as the cast of villains mount up, each lovingly recreated in LEGO minifig form.
In fact the sheer number of sub-plots revolving around the likes of Catwoman, The Riddler, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, General Zod, Poison Ivy, Cyborg, Killer Croc, Brainiac, Mr. Freeze, and Bane is hard to keep up with. But, as with all LEGO games, the gentle pace and humour ensure the Fun-Factor 3000™ is cranked to a maximum at all times.
In order to keep the multiple storylines in the game flowing, this LEGO videogame features a lot more dialogue than the mute minifigs of earlier games. Thankfully though, a lot of top-tier voice talent is behind DC Super Heroes, including Troy Baker (from Arkham City) as Batman, Clancy Brown (DC Animated Universe) reprises his role of Lex Luthor, the legendary Nolan North is Superman, Robin and Scarecrow, and even Laura Bailey steps in for Poison Ivy, Wonder Woman, and Harley Quinn. Although the addition of dialogue moves away from the almost pantomime expressions of LEGO Star Wars, it’s executed perfectly here.
To those who have played any of the franchised LEGO videogames before, DC Super Heroes will feel right at home. The game is essentially a 3D platformer, where players take control of their little LEGO minifig, leaping and fighting their way through various levels of baddies. Often players will need to solve basic puzzles, usually revolving around the building of objects using LEGO bricks. At every turn the controls are simple, highly accessible, and with the game’s immense level of interactivity, it's a perfect title for nearly all ages. While the combat and puzzles might be bordering on repetitive for older gamers, the number of secrets, unlockables, and even just the overall humour should more than compensate. As before, the game features infinite lives and best of all, drop-in multiplayer as well.
It’s here, with a sidekick, that the game really excels. In singleplayer, the AI tends to struggle, often holding up the flow of gameplay by missing jumps, or simply standing around in the middle of a fist-fight. But with two humans in control, the near infinite partnerships of Batman / Robin, Wonder Woman / Superman, or even Bruce Wayne / Clark Kent give way to hours of fun. Due to the large, open-world environments in the game, players will be presented with split-screen action so they are free to explore without holding up the other on a stretched screen.
It’s this open-world aspect that feels like the biggest change to the LEGO game formula. After the introduction sequences, you’re allowed to roam Gotham City and explore a vast number of attractions within. Along the way you’ll encounter troubled citizens who need your superhero help, or hopefully discover a daunting number of hidden collectibles scattered around the city.
While the main bulk of gameplay is a platformer, it is occasionally broken up with in-vehicle sequences too. However it’s here that the close camera angle and basic controls tend to suffer, making piloting the BatPlane, for example, a rather tedious affair. Luckily there are other ways of navigating, including a subway system and handy maps with wayfinders to get from one end of the city to the other. You’ll never be short of something to do. You can even visit Gotham FunLand, a bustling plastic amusement park filled with teacup rides, carnival games, and dodgems cars, where you can earn gold bricks.
The game's soundtrack also hits the spot, featuring Danny Elfman's score from the Batman and Batman Returns films, and, where appropriate, John Williams' score from Superman. The presentation throughout DC Super Heroes is consistently good, from highly animated colourful in-game graphics that would please a kid with ADD right through to adorable, grin-inducing cutscenes.
Overall LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is just what the doctor ordered. It’s fun, clever, charming, action-packed, replayable, and, above all, loyal to DC Comics and the LEGO videogame universe. I totally dig games intended for both young hands and old minds alike and once again, Traveller’s Tales have delivered.