Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes review: dynamic do-over

Game Info
Platform 360, PS3, Win, Wii U, Wii, DS, PS Vita, iOS, 3DS
Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer Traveller's Tales
Release Date Jun 19, 2012

The first Lego Batman had issues to rival the Dark Knight himself. It was the first stumble in Lego's cute, kid-friendly line of brand reinventions, tripped up by bland level design and a lack of iconic scenes to draw from for the series' trademark dialogue-free humor. I swore off Lego games for the next few years after Lego Batman.

Now, after a four year break, the caped crusader is back to seek justice for past misdeeds, and much has changed on the streets of Lego Gotham.

Lego Batman 2 address all of its predecessor's biggest problems and serves as the most significant step forward in the Lego game franchise since its 2005 launch.

Lego Batman 2 adds a new comedic edge to the series' long-standing promise of cartoon silliness by introducing voice acting - the biggest and most immediate change to the formula from previous games. Lego Batman 2 particularly benefits from the addition of voice acting because it's creating a new - if familiar - comic book storyline, rather than drawing inspiration from films that most people have seen.

Like many classic Batman tales, Lego Batman 2 begins with a breakout at Arkham Asylum. The Dark Knight and his sidekick Robin have to track down an on-the-run rogues gallery - the Joker, Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, etc. - but the situation quickly expands to include Lex Luthor, Superman, and a bevy of other heroes and villains from across the DC universe.


Lego Batman 2 embraces the goofiness of a dark, serious Batman existing in the same world as his colorful Justice League allies. Batman's irritated responses to an always-grinning Superman hint at the divide between the two, a distinction that builds toward a pleasant - though again, very kid-friendly - conclusion. It's a Lego game with an actual character arc, albeit one that's watered down and easy to swallow.

It has a more entertaining plot than I expected, but Lego Batman 2 misses some enticing narrative possibilities. Aside from Superman and Lex Luthor, the expanded cast of DC characters mainly appear in cameo form. A handful of Justice Leaguers such as Cyborg and Wonder Woman are playable in the last few missions, and a few more - Aquaman, Huntress, and others - can be purchased as bonus characters for free play mode, but fan favorites like Green Lantern are granted no more than one or two lines of dialogue. This makes the wait for a seemingly inevitable full-on Lego Justice League game all the more difficult to bear.

Improved storytelling aside, Lego Batman 2 still devotes most of its running time to bashing pieces of Lego scenery for studs (the game's currency of choice), smashing apart Lego thugs, and shooting opposing vehicles in occasional on-rails sequences. The story's 15 missions ferry you around an entertaining variety of Gotham City locales, but the gameplay is as simplistic as it's ever been. But destroying Lego environments and celebrating amidst a shower of multi-colored Lego bolts remains satisfying, and Lego Batman 2 mixes things up with a few memorable set pieces, like a sequence where you plummet from the top of Wayne Tower while fighting a giant robot.

Once you finish the campaign missions and unlock free play,Lego Batman 2 provides more of a playground than past Lego games; rather than a small hub leading to individual levels, Traveller's Tales has built a full open-world Gotham City to roam around in. The game's myriad collectibles - gold bricks, red bricks, minifigure parts, civilians under attack, etc. - are scattered through the city with a frequency that encourages exploration for hours beyond the main story. Like Batman: Arkham City, most collectibles are tied to a small puzzle or platforming challenge, making them more interesting to round up than in the average collectathon.

Lego Batman 2 leaves some room for improvement in Traveller's Tales' continued stubborn refusal to add online co-op. The Lego games aim for a younger crowd that may not be as demanding of online play, but nearly a dozen games into this franchise, it's long past time for that element to get fleshed out.


Wrap Up:


Still, it's encouraging that Traveller's Tales has finally made some big, worthwhile changes to its formula. Lego games have rarely been bad, but the series has stagnated, content with being merely okay. How fitting that the troubled hero who signaled this decline is now here to see the series change into something better. Lego Batman 2 may not be the Lego Batman game we need, but it is, finally, the Lego Batman game that we deserve.

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