LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Wii | Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Traveller's Tales | 1-2 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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9th August 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Before even getting into the game itself, it is important to first draw attention to a key point of improvement relating to the series' signature storytelling component, which is the new presence of voice acting. Whereas past LEGO games have relied on grunts, laughter, and other expressive sounds and gestures to convey feelings and communicate plot details, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes marks the first game in the series to take the step of having actors lend their voices to the palette of personality, and boy has it ever made a difference. The voice acting works hand in hand with the undeniable charm of the character interactions and relationships to create an all-noticeable comedic and light-hearted dynamic. I especially loved seeing Superman and Batman working together, especially as it sometimes meant Robin getting treated almost like a third wheel both in the story and in the gameplay setting. It's all quite surreal for anyone who has played past LEGO titles, and it might take a while just for it to sink in that they've actually done it, but when it does, you'll come to appreciate that they've done such a great job with it, too. With witty comments that'll make you laugh more than they will cause your eyes to roll, LEGO Batman 2's story exploration is very likeable in these manners, and it thus serves to ground you to the experience in ways that are highly similar to past games, just with an interaction method that's easier to relate to and follow.
In terms of what the story actually is: Lex Luther and Joker join forces to pursue the common goal of ridding themselves of their despised rivals. On the opposing side, you have Batman and Superman who cross paths at one point, and it is only after some disagreements over the acceptance of help that the two team up as well. With these joint efforts there's also the baggage of having secondary villains, with the likes of Sinestro, The Penguin, and The Riddler being just some of the folks you'll encounter in your adventure. Aiding you in your efforts is not only your trusty wingman Robin -- who totally becomes struck with hero worship anytime Superman enters the room -- but also the members of the Justice League. Story progression will primarily follow after the deeds of Joker and Lex, but on the side either during or after completing the main campaign, you can choose to harness your crime-fighting skills in other areas of Gotham City where these and other enemies await you.
As you go about tackling various mission objectives -- those tied to the main story and those not -- there exist gadgets that you'll have to get the swing of if you hope to prevail against the evil ends that cover over Gotham City. Breaking this down to the simplest setup that remains congruent regardless of the character in use, the A Button serves as your jump or flight button, B is for attacking as well as the firing of bullets and projectiles, C is to swap characters, and Z is your interact button. At times, you will need to use the Wii Remote's pointer to target hooks, enemies, and props for the subsequent dispensing of your Batarang or another gadget on hand. Both when the targeting is automatic and when manual control is required, I kept finding the aiming to be not very accurate. With the former, it was a matter of drones and teammates being hit instead of the environmental elements.
Now, each character comes with their own bag of tricks. Batman and Robin may not have the stamina and versatility as those with flying abilities, but they are skilled in other areas; namely, the bypassing of security traps, removal of metal plates, clearing of corrosive material, the firing of bombs, containing and transporting electrical currents, and a few other things. Each of the abilities just described are channeled by equipping suits that appear in respective areas of levels where there is a need for such powers nearby. Robin's Acrobatic Suit was one that I was quite fond of in the way it allowed you to roll around in a container and either knock out enemies or trigger switches by means of ball sockets. Because of the occasional need to swap back and forth between different suits with the same character -- some can only be used by Batman, others are for Robin only -- the impact this has on your play experience is that it creates a bit of backtracking in the flow. However, the game does a good job of ensuring that it never becomes tedious or overly burdensome to haul your behind back to a certain point to prepare for a new obstacle up ahead.
As you move past control of just Batman and Robin, levels will start to present new elements that require the usage of someone like Superman in order to make advancement. For example, his Freeze Breath ability can put out fires -- the dinky kind, not the large, blazing ones -- while his X-Ray Vision can be put to good use in front of green screens to switch open a path or turn on a device. How these abilities come into play in relation to elements found within levels is never done in such a way that you'll end up relying on one specific person. No, creative control is distributed fairly equally at all parts throughout the game's levels, and with each character also getting their own occasional shining moments where they can show off their talents, it creates a very balanced atmosphere.
One element that has a lighter tone than the rest but is still felt is combat. Enemies seen throughout the experience, whether they come in the form of androids or clowns, are absolute pushovers and provide next-to-no threat at all in their frontal attacks. I at least expected that some of the later enemy forces would start to pull their weight as they increased in size, but this simply isn't the case. They never ever provide a challenge and behave more like annoying flies for the reason that they don't really do much. Related to the discussion of mildly present elements, aside from the vehicles you control in Gotham City to get to and from different destinations such as the ever-recognizable Batmobile, some assorted smaller vehicles pop up in the middle of levels as well. These include bumper cars, bicycles, forklifts, and so on. The controls for many of these are far from perfect -- especially when you're up against a wall -- so as nice as it is to have something different now and again, the execution leaves a bit to be desired.
I appreciated the way LEGO Batman 2 continues the trend of giving indications on successive interaction points. But as any good game in this genre would do in the interest of discovery, it also hesitates to do this at certain points to encourage freedom to explore and find things out for yourself. I can recall there was one occasion, however, where I spent what seemed like five minutes just trying to figure out what to do next following the press of a switch. As it turns out, the way the camera was situated prevented me from seeing an opening with clarity, but this didn't surprise me as I faced similar situations in past LEGO games as well. I must say, though, that the times where I was out of ideas for what I was supposed to be doing next were somewhat rare by comparison, and that felt great especially when I was playing by myself. On that note, I found the AI of the computer-controlled teammates to be fairly responsive. Whenever you cleared the way for them or opened up a path for them to use an ability exclusive to them, the response time was usually pretty good. But I did find the responsiveness diminished as the group got larger and more party members were available for use within the same mission. At other times, the computers were completely useless and made an entire sequence feel like a one-man show. It's something to be aware of, albeit you won't have a huge problem with that if you play this strictly within co-operative terms.
Aside from the usual fare of mission objectives, the plot is also advanced through the completion of missions that consist of on-rails portions and boss fights. The first set of missions will often involve a giant robot -- chasing after it by boat, running away by motorbike, or raging a fight against it and a horde of support enemies in the air. At these times, it again becomes a matter of the aiming not always being up to snuff, but aside from that, these segments are suitable and vary the pitch adequately.
The boss fights, on the other hand, aren't all that impressive. I enjoyed how one particular encounter had you jumping from one corner of the environment to the next to deliver points of damage through different means, but that was about the only one that stood out to me. The rest aren't necessarily bad, but they aren't particularly fun either. And then there are some that don't really emphasize co-operative functionality very strongly. Whenever you are introduced to a boss, there's an almost immediate feeling that you can take a light approach and not have to concern yourself over coming up short. The game also has a tendency to use what I'd refer to as theatrics to extend otherwise lame fights into affairs that are more drawn-out. This, however, doesn't make them more memorable by any stretch. In a similar vein, mini-bosses found in Gotham City away from the main set of missions are similarly not memorable, and they also have the added fault of not being challenging. If you're looking to build up your repertoire of selectable characters, I don't think you'll mind all that much until you start to get to the halfway point. But even still, with the entire package having this goal of leveraging heroism, I was both surprised and disappointed to find that these boss encounters didn't meet expectations.
Just to touch on the hub world itself as it serves as your central access point for discovering new places to visit, it certainly is appropriate to find that Gotham City allows for great freedom and exploration. Players are given free rein to do just about anything that normally wouldn't be allowed in levels, like freely using your flight abilities to skip over huge chunks of land, or jumping into one of the many unlockable vehicles and just going for a casual drive through the streets with your equipped weaponry. The overall expansiveness is quite something and it goes a long way in encouraging you to explore. That might seem like a contradiction in itself given the sheer magnitude of it all, but the reality is that there are many sights to see, and the setup of Gotham City is such that players feel mostly invited to venture down new territory without any hint of apprehension; only interest and curiousity.
Looking at the design in broader terms, there are definitely some highlights along the way, both big and small. The game sparingly asks you to complete small puzzles, like guiding a magnetic ball underneath the floor, to get past a barrier, and those are nice to have as they are treated with clear restraint. And then you have little things like watching a dinosaur toy briefly come to life as you move Robin forward while inside a ball socket. But truth be told, in its commitment towards driving that heroic aesthetic all the more deeper through the supporting of varying character types and abilities, there has been a noticeable pulling back in the department of creativity, and because of this, truly noteworthy moments are few and far between. There are relatively few surprises here and there to break up the linearity of paths, but if you're hoping for any kind of hard-hitting, special feats of level design, you won't really find them here.
With the intent of encouraging a spirit of curiousity, there are definitely bread crumb trails laid out in the different levels you visit. And while the level designs sure do offer back doors for players to come vis-a-vis with bonus collectibles and other rewards, LEGO Batman 2 hesitates to open its doors wide open to creative opportunities for further perusal. More than that, the absent razzle-dazzle with some of the key moments highlighted earlier is something that can be said about the entire experience. The design may not be muted, but it lacks the very excitement necessary for instigating the blissful reactions that players long for. This imperfect feeling prevents to some degree the extension of the very qualities the game hopes to deliver within players of all ages. By no means am I suggesting that with such endeavours, there has come about a limited expansion of certain principles. But at the same time, LEGO Batman 2 doesn't do a great deal in the way of challenging pre-existing and familiar-feeling structures, and as a reflection of such decisions, the game's lack of imaginative design does hold it back from aspiring to true greatness.
The game still does its part in allocating more than enough room for continued play sessions, and anyone adamant about collecting everything will be pleased to see LEGO Batman 2 hasn't moved away from this custom. After completing the main storyline, there's still a long way to go, with countless civilians to rescue and harass, and new Gold Bricks to seek out. In light of the above, I must express that the game doesn't drive that feeling of accomplishment as strongly as does LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. Yes, there is the inflation of content through the added presence of side quests, hub discoveries, and minor villains spanning the different represented universes. And to be fair, the hub world does have more interesting aesthetics and attractions to it. But all of this is accomplished with a level of ease and friendliness that doesn't go so far as to push for deeper levels of engagement. So ultimately, the game goes about extending the experience in a way that doesn't perfectly speak to any high level of curiousity-driven inclinations.
One final point has to do with the matter of presentation, an area that I can't say is one of the game's finer points. I want to reiterate that the role of voice acting in this game coupled with the good story progression has a considerable effect on the charm of the experience. That said, there are issues worth mentioning. Though they are not terribly common, I had quite a few glitches occur in my experience where I went straight through a metal gate that was supposed to be activated by a switch, found myself stuck in parts of the environment, and also ran into a series of invisible walls that prevented flying characters from proceeding in a linear fashion even in an open area. The visual resolution is a bit on the grainy side, as seen during some of the cutscenes, and the framerate, while not too meddlesome, does act up more than I would have liked. On a more positive note, I did appreciate the visual diversity of the levels encountered and the tone-appropriate colour schemes that were used in the given situations. And of course, having powerful music playing in the background definitely helps make the experience that much more real atmospherically. So overall, I do think there's some good effort here, but there are also flaws that take away from the impressiveness of it all.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is, in its own right, a fairly entertaining time, and on that merit it comes with a fair recommendation. The improved dynamics surrounding the game's presentation have made for a more memorable progression, and that's great to see. But due to such drawbacks as the lack of creativity and jive in its design, I can't say everything comes together in a perfect, harmonious way. While devotees will feel serviced in multiple respects, they will also find themselves wanting more in other places. At the end of the day, it's still very possible to have an enjoyable time regardless, so with that said, there's a good chance you'll find LEGO Batman 2 to be worth your time.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Controls aren't always great, suits and gadgets carry influence, weak combat, slight resistance towards creativity, additional drawbacks
Presentation 6/10 - Great hub world, voice acting is a great new addition, technical issues present, graphics and framerate aren't the greatest
Enjoyment 4/5 - Good execution of the vision has created a balanced atmosphere, direction encourages curiousity but not to a superior degree
Extra Content 5/5 - Tons and tons to set your sights on, mini-bosses and side missions, made replayable because of hub's many different attractions
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System