Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes review (PS3)

The Lego games are the undoubted masters of product placement. Almost every aspect of their titles is built on the famous Danish invention: the characters are their mini-figures, the collectables are their studs, the buildings and vehicles are straight out of their play-sets, and the iconic Lego logo is digitally moulded into every brick in sight.

In fact, after spending a good amount of time playing through Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, further similarities to the legendary blocks became apparent…

Every brick tells a story

It’s amazing how much you can get from a handful of Legos and some imagination. Most of us will undoubtedly have fond memories of a youth spent fashioning entire worlds out of a box of mismatched sets, but having a video game do it for you is better than anything the 5-year old you could’ve dreamed up.

The story follows Batman and Robin as they chase Lex Luthor and co. who have hatched a sneaky plan to make synthetic Kryptonite, bust out Arkham Asylum ,and destroy the hallowed Batcave itself (amongst several other villainous activities). The plot is as simplistic as that of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is complicated, but like the rest of the game it’s something that never needs to try too hard to keep you engrossed. Normally this type of narrative might be difficult to follow with the silent minifig sign language we’ve come to expect from the Lego games, but…

They are most definitely not foot-friendly

Anyone who’s ever accidentally stepped on a Lego brick (read: anyone who’s ever owned any Lego) will tell you that it’s a surprisingly painful and scream-inducing experience for a child. Who would’ve thought that such a quiet and passive plaything could cause so much noise and agony?

Likewise, the characters of LB2 have acquired voices of their own; a series first. The witty script is brought to life by veterans like Nolan North and newcomers alike, and so much comedy and character are brought through in the dialogue that it’s a wonder that voice acting hasn’t been implemented in the Lego games sooner.

It also allows for the more detailed plot to shine, and so seamless are the voices to an already great gameplay experience that I’m certain this will be a series staple going forward. And speaking of staples…

They still make them like they used to

Despite some cosmetic additions along with a few highly questionable endorsements (that means you, Burj Khalifa playset), the basic construction of Lego and its mechanics hasn’t changed one bit: we put our little plastic inventions together one brick at a time just like the kids of yesteryear did. Similarly, LB2 isn’t much different from any of the other Lego games that came before it.

Now, while it could be argued that Lego, like its games, is all about simplicity, it’s disappointing that there’s not really much innovation here. You’ll still run around collecting studs to unlock stuff, you’ll fight enemies with the same rudimentary combat system, and you’ll solve similar types of basic puzzles that you’ll feel you’ve somehow played before.

The one notable addition, however, is the inclusion of an open world aspect where players can travel around Gotham and its surrounds as they please, locating missions and points of interest while scouring for secrets and hidden characters.

While developer Traveller’s Tales should be commended for bringing a bit of freedom to the series, the open world is let down by a painfully useless mini-map system which refuses to let you zoom and pinpoint anything with accuracy. It’s also only unlocked after a fair amount of play through the standard levels; an odd concept considering how much content the open world offers.

Still, once you’re there it’s a blast flying around the city as plastic Superman, and finding the 50 playable characters alone is enough incentive to keep putting the hours in. And, if said hours alone are just not enough…

More fun with a friend

I was always more of a solo builder back in the day; I never really cared for those who followed the instructions to the letter, and I tired of being reprimanded for dismantling their creations to claim bricks I deemed more useful for my own constructions.

Things haven’t changed much in LB2 as I finished the campaign entirely solo, though the perpetually flashing Player 2 option nagged me to at least give the co-op a try. After testing a few levels with another Lego-loving friend, I wish I’d tackled the whole game that way: the experience is a very different one when Batman is assisted by a not-completely-useless CPU player.

Solving the puzzles, however basic, is a lot more rewarding when you’re working in a team, and because so much of the game relies on switching between characters it feels a lot more natural to have another human helping you along. Plus, you’ve got one heck of a lot of ground to cover…

Not your grandfather’s playset

Anyone who cobbled together the puny playsets of old will no doubt be in awe of the monstrosities that Lego is putting out today. Some sets are upwards of 10,000 pieces, but it’s the cosmetic additions that make these sets as unique as they are.

LB2 is just like one of these humongous sets, and while almost everything is made up of the traditional bricks there are all the art-directed cosmetic bits that make Lego Gotham look like Lego Gotham and not Lego Middle Earth.

Impressive visual effects make plastic look real and shiny, and the minifigs looks great as they swim through realistic water and refuse to look back at striking explosions. It’s a careful blend of chunky blocks and beautiful set-pieces, but the balance is just right between a video game world and one that could actually be put together if you had enough bricks and patience.

Another brick in the wall?

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a fun, good-looking, and superb entry into the Lego game series. Despite feeling “samey” in many aspects, it sticks out slightly from previous games in the series thanks to the well-executed voice acting (please keep this, developers), and the attempt at a more open world style of hub (please tweak this, developers).

Aside from the tried and tested gameplay there’s an absolutely ridiculous amount of studs, Gold Bricks, and unlockable characters to find, and even a less-than-compulsive playthrough should keep the average player busy for a good 15 hours or so.

My conclusion: If you’re looking for something groundbreaking then you’d probably be better off replaying one of the many previous games instead of forking out your cash, but if you’ve never played a Lego game before or you’re a series fan then I highly recommend you skip the real Legos and instead hit your local video game store to break out the plastic.

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Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes review (PS3)

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