The Caped Crusader’s video game history has been a rough one. Many felt that the classic DC hero had never gotten the proper treatment until Rocksteady Studios’ excellent Arkham Asylum. Is Traveller’s Tales’ latest sequel worthy of such praise, or is it doomed to fall into a pile of other forgettable Batman games?
In LEGO Batman 2, Lex Luthor teams up with the Joker after losing the Man of the Year Award to billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. They wreak havoc on Gotham City and it’s up to Batman and friends to stop them. While the story setup is quite adorable and funny, the real charm comes from the cutscenes. In previous LEGO games, the characters were all silent and the humor was brought out through a vaudevillian style. LEGO Batman 2 puts voices to these characters for the first time, and to great effect. Each character has their moment to shine through the story and I got a laugh out of just about every one of them. LEGO Batman 2 gives me confidence that the writers at Traveller’s Tales not only can do slap-stick humor, but are capable dialogue writers as well.
Getting from mission to mission is a bit different this time. Instead of a hub world with individual level doors, Gotham City is depicted as a freely explorable open world environment. The camera pulls in close to the LEGO characters who can run, drive, and some can even fly through the world as well. It is incredibly fun to fly around Gotham City as Superman while the Superman movie theme plays as he flies, which was incredibly amusing. I did have a few issues with the camera while flying, but with other modes of transportation I had no troubles at all.
When in a mission, LEGO Batman 2 plays how you would expect a LEGO game to play. The environmental puzzles are fun and engaging, even a little challenging. Batman and Robin each have different suits they use to traverse the levels and solve puzzles. These different suits can put out fires, turn Batman invisible so he can bypass security cameras, and give Robin greater athletic abilities. Combat itself isn’t challenging at all, one hit will take out all enemies. The boss battles are a little more involved, having the player use different suits and abilities to defeat them.
Side activities are available all throughout Gotham City. These either take the form of environmental traversal puzzles, or taking out a villain on the loose. There’s enough content to keep me playing after the story is complete, not to mention all the unlockable characters and replaying of levels to get a 100% completion rating.
LEGO Batman 2 is also the best looking LEGO game Traveller’s Tales has made to date. Gotham City has a level of detail that almost matches Arkham City. Each area has a distinct look and feel to them, giving a breath of life to Gotham City. This Gotham has a style pulled from all the famous incarnations of the city, including giant LEGO men holding up buildings as a nod to the Joel Schumacher movies.
Traveller’s Tales has been working on LEGO games for seven years and two generations at this point and it’s great to see them taking chances, but they just don’t take it far enough. LEGO Batman 2 is a great LEGO game, but it doesn’t achieve much more than that. The inclusion of an open world and voice acting are steps in the right direction, but the game itself is far too similar to its predecessors in combat and puzzles.
Second Opinion by Ryan McGinley
LEGO Batman 2 is Traveler’s Tale’s first couple of steps away from the formula they have held so near and dear for many a LEGO game. They have taken the fun of tearing down everything while running through brick built levels and moved it to an open world game. Story missions surrounding the time spent in Gotham City take place in the familiar linear levels, and the entire story takes about ten hours to complete. Given the collect-a-thon nature of the game, players will be revisiting levels time and time again to fill up their completion bar while gathering more studs to purchase different characters and vehicles to use back in Gotham. Even though this is the first LEGO game to be fully voiced, the signature pantomime humor is still hilarious, and the dialogue is written to compliment that in all the right ways. The large cast of characters to choose from and interactive world keep the game fresh, even though it is short compared to other open world games. While LEGO Batman 2 proves itself in it’s writing and scope, especially for a LEGO game, it has a few minor problems that hold it back: the camera will need to be fought with when using faster characters as you make turns; the controls for flying heroes are not very precise, which makes for some frustrating attempts at grabbing collectibles; and the combat is starting to feel far too repetitive, even with the combos and finishers. Despite any problems, Traveler’s Tale has done an outstanding job of making a game that both a younger audience, and a more adult crowd, can find enjoyment in.