We’ve always had Batman down as a bit of a solitary sort. Doesn’t want to play well with others, has a load of emotional baggage, that sort of thing. But LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes sees our brick-based Dark Knight sharing the spotlight with a number of other characters from the DC universe, such as Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash.
It’s the sort of thing you’d imagine the caped crusader to get a bit narked off about, but in this game he really is going to need all the help he can get. You see, Bruce Wayne has had his Man-of-the-Year award stolen by his arch nemesis, The Joker and Harley Quinn. Things take a twist when Lex Luthor later teams up with Joker to force the populace of Gotham City to vote for him as President. Surely these events aren’t linked?
Whether they are or not is besides the point really - what matters is that it all stays pretty true to the light-hearted, comical approach that UK studio Traveller’s Tales always uses with its LEGO
games. And in the gameplay sequence I saw, which featured Batman and Superman teaming up to infiltrate Luthor’s office, I can say that it has done just that.
One of the new features of the game’s story is the inclusion of voice-over work. The LEGO versions of Batman, Superman, Robin and everyone else in Gotham City are no longer mute. I was concerned that the talking LEGO heads might have ruined some of the charm and humour that was present in past LEGO
games, but this doesn’t seem to be the case - as Bats and Supes approach the lobby of Luthor’s office, a receptionist asks for their names before informing them they’ll need an appointment. “Even the receptionist is evil,” muses Batman in authentic gravelly voice.
This kicks off a boss battle with the Evil Receptionist, which is completed in waves. Every character has their own special abilities to take out the waves of bad guys that you encounter - Batman fights with his own brand of fisticuffs, but can augment his powers using one of several suits that can give him the edge. The Power Suit, in particular, has rockets that blow enemy bricks into tiny little pieces.
Superman, on the other hand, is invincible. Which you’d think is rather game-breaking. That, and his ability to fly. And his laser vision. And his freeze breath. But TT have worked around this by including co-op elements that require the assistance of another character to overcome. In the boss battle, Superman could destroy golden bricks with his laser vision, but Batman was needed to blow up the silver bricks necessary to get an advantage over the boss.
Using Batman’s Power Suit, a back wall could be blasted which then allowed Superman to connect circuitry together using his X-Ray vision. This activated an escalator that takes you to the next stage in the battle. It’s this kind of teamwork that TT has perfected over the last couple of years that really makes each game in the LEGO
series a fun experience for both co-op players.
The most impressive part of LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
is in the open-world brick-based Gotham City. It’s the first time the studio has dared to include a hub area of this size, and even though we’ve been treated to Rocksteady’s Arkham City
already, it’s still pretty breathtaking to see the scale of the LEGO version of Gotham (which actually does include Arkham Asylum if you explore for long enough).
Again, different characters’ abilities can be put to work here in order to tackle side-quests and collect hidden treasures throughout the world. Green LEGO bricks can be discovered and used to build special tools and vehicles - but only if you’re playing as the Green Lantern. Some areas require you to be as quick as The Flash to pass, and Robin’s Acrobat Suit allows him to climb specially-coloured poles and ninja his way around buildings to unlock treasures sitting on the rooftops.
To stop people from cheating in these segments, TT has made character suits disappear whenever they have been switched out. So if you wanted to skip a difficult Acrobat challenge by flying to the roof as Superman, you’d be locked out of the prize without the right suit when switching back to Robin.
There are a huge number of characters that can be selected in the game - obviously, most of them have been kept secret from us, but I was told that you will be able to beat bosses and add them to your squad. So you can fight Killer Moth in a brutal boss fight and then play as them afterwards.
Although Gotham City is usually a dark and foreboding place, the LEGO version has taken a few creative liberties in order to lighten the mood for family players. Namely, a set of giant LEGO statues holding up key buildings within the city.
Perhaps the best thing to do in the game world, though? Switching into Superman, and flying into the night skies - the original Superman movie theme song starts powering through your speakers as you do so. You ARE Superman!
LEGO Batman 2
looks like it’s doing all the right things to improve and update an otherwise engaging and charming series. It’s hitting Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, 3DS, Vita, Wii and DS on June 22nd.