Out Now – Travellers Tales/WB Games – 1-2 Players – PEGI 7
Xbox 360 (reviewed version)/PS3/Wii/PSVita/DS/3DS
Reviewed by Juanvasquez
The Dark Knight returns in the latest Lego tie-in from Travellers Tales, taking things in a bold new direction. This time The Joker has joined forces with Superman’s arch nemesis, Lex Luthor, meaning this isn’t going to be as straight forward for the Caped Crusader as it normally would be. Reluctantly, Batman asks for help from a few friends, The Justice League of America! Every Lego game so far has tried to do something different, with the hub worlds changing each time, some for the better (Lego Star Wars II/TCS) and some not so much (looking at you, Lego Indy 2!), but overall, the formula has remained the same. And while the emphasis on stud collecting and finding the minikit canisters remains, Lego Batman 2 feels almost like a reinvention. Opposed to a few accessible areas and and the stage select, things are taken beyond the Batcave, and onto the rainy, open streets of Gotham City. Things start of as usual, as when you start a new game, you are thrown straight into the first level, which happens to be taking place during Gotham’s Man of the Year awards, which is between Bruce Wayne and Lex Luther. Luther sees this as nothing more than the platform to unleash his new super villain friends on the unsuspecting attendees.
The first thing you’ll notice, and for fans of the Lego series so far, will come as bit of a surprise, is that there is dialogue. Up to now, all previous Lego games relied on the characters mannerisms and slapstick humour during the cut scenes. This time around the characters are voiced, adding even more to the always amusing cut scenes. And interestingly, the voice of The Joker, Chris Smith, is done very well, and could well be a worthy successor to Mark Hamil. The gameplay is much improved, and seems to be a lot tighter in terms of the area you cover throughout a level. While I had always insisted that the Star Wars games were the best of the Lego lot, the levels could drag on and feel quite flabby, and the same could be said for a lot of the games from then on. Lego Batman 2’s levels, while sometimes as lengthy, do not feel as if they outstay their welcome, nor does chasing after minikits and other collectibles. In fact they are some of the leanest, more varied levels in the Lego back catalogue.
Normally, after completing the Story Mode and moving onto Freeplay, to rack up the studs and collectibles, things start to drag. Certain characters abilities allow you to access parts of the level that were previously unreachable, and in previous Lego games, this could really draw things out, Lego fatigue, if you will. Most of the special characters would require many, many replays of the levels to accumulate studs/gold bricks in order to unlock certain character types. While it’s still the case that certain characters come at a cost, the majority are unlocked on the streets of Gotham, eliminating the need to play through each level countless times. And this is where the game really exceeds above its predecessors. The majority of gold bricks in this game are unlocked via certain challenges and obstacles scattered throughout the city, requiring costume changes from the Batman or Robin. As with the previous Lego Batman game, both characters can change suits to er, suit the environment. Robin can go from the usual red get up to a Nightwing-esque acrobat suit which can allow for access to out of reach areas, or a freeze suit which protects against the cold and freezes water. Batman can change into a demolition suit, allowing him to blow up what is otherwise untouchable, and a supersonic Bat-suit that allows him to glide or break glass with a high pitched sound wave.
The big draw however, is the inclusion of the Man of Steel and his Justice League compatriots. These characters add a new depth to Lego Batman, and a very welcome one at that. Flying around Gotham as Superman or Green Lantern is great fun, as is dashing around the streets with the Flash. There’s a plethora of antagonists to unlock throughout the city as well, including the ever brilliantly titled, Man-bat, Catwoman and General Zod. Add to that a vast amount of vehicles and Citizens In Peril, which are scattered around the city and you are not short of things to do between levels. Lego Batman 2 has set a new benchmark for the series. Despite each of the Lego games being great in their unique ways, up until now, nothing came close to Lego Star Wars The Complete Saga. But much like the Bat game from last year, this blows the rest out of the water. Whatever it is about the Bat, it’s been a great year for fans, and this is no exception. Addictive, compulsive and always entertaining.