'LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes': when more is less - review

Tuesday, 03 July 2012 04:12 PM Written by 

The LEGO brand games have evolved slowly over the years. The development team, Travelers Tales, have had seven years and nearly a dozen movie-based games to improve the LEGO formula, but they’ve generally played it safe. Each LEGO game based on a movie or comic book is similar to its predecessor, with an extra feature thrown in to justify the new iteration. “Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes” fits this mold, but is actually diminished by some of the game’s added elements. 

 

One thing the LEGO games have never been short on is charm. We’re used to seeing characters like Batman or Indiana Jones in their serious settings on the big screen, but the LEGO games usually reduce them to quirky, and silent, caricatures. “LEGO Batman 2” is the first LEGO game based on a movie or comic book to have actual dialogue between the characters.

It’s no surprise that the script and presentation are the best parts of the game--these are the two areas where the LEGO games have always excelled. Lex Luthor and The Joker have joined forces to defeat Batman and send Gotham City into chaos. Lex invents a device called The Deconstructor, which destroys all of the LEGO structures around the city. It’s up to Batman and Robin to keep the LEGOs intact.

Don’t expect Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill for the voice work. The developers went for a more cartoonish approach, and it works. 

The game’s strong presentation makes a good first impression, but things quickly turn when you actually have to play the game. “LEGO Batman 2” switches between an open-world universe and the typical linear level design used in the other LEGO games. You have to travel to points in the open world to begin a level.

The levels, being exactly what we’ve seen in other LEGO games, remain enjoyable. You control two characters, or you and a friend each control one. Each character has a specific skill set that must be used in order to solve puzzles and progress through the level. Along the way, you’ll don new suits that provide extra abilities, and collect studs for points and unlockables. Various DC Super Heroes will make appearances, but Superman steals the show. He can literally do it all. 

(Superman steals the show)

The formula is familiar unless you’re playing locally with a friend.  “Lego Batman 2” uses the split-screen system found in other LEGO games where the split rotates depending on the location of the two characters. If the characters are diagonal to one another, the split will cut the screen diagonally. If one character is above the other, the screen will split horizontally.  It’s constantly rotating as the characters move. This may seem like a novel approach on paper, but it’s a disaster when implemented. It’s nearly impossible to focus on a specific point when the divide is perpetually moving. Communication with your teammate becomes frustrating because the point of reference changes as the screen does, not to mention it also gave me an awful headache. Including a setting to disable the moving split-screen would have been an easy out, but unfortunately it’s forced upon you and it ruins the co-op experience.

The open-world parts are equally disastrous. Vehicles can be unlocked to travel from A to B, but the controls are clunky. You’ll see landmarks like ACE Chemical and Wayne Manor, but it all blends together. The open-world experiences are just boring, and the poor controls don’t help. The LEGO vision of Gotham is so very dull.

(Split screen will make you want to break the game or the person you're playing with)

It wouldn’t have been such a big hindrance if I didn’t have to spend as much time in the open world as I did, and that’s partly because of the useless compass and map. The pause menu will get you to the world map, which is either inaccurate or provides no information at all. The compass, which can be seen above the character in the open world, has seemingly random icons that appear and disappear without giving any indication as to what they are, nor do they show up on the main map. The LEGO games are made for a younger audience, so maybe the game’s navigation is better suited for young eyes. For me, 20 minutes of tediously wandering around a lackluster open world made me want to turn off the game and never return.

“LEGO Batman 2” is indeed geared towards children, but the gameplay is a little too advanced for the target audience. No, you can’t ever die or lose, but you will get stuck, and that is much more frustrating to me. I can’t fault Travelers Tales for attempting to add new ideas to the LEGO franchise, but these new additions consistently take away from the game’s experience.

 

6.75 out of 10

 

Pros:

Entertaining story and presentation
Fun and familiar LEGO game level design

Cons:

Horrendous rotating split screen
Awful open world gameplay mechanics

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.