If you’ve been reading my “Final Thoughts” on video games, you’ll notice that recently I’ve been doing a lot of indie games. Today I’ll be taking a break from that and doing a game that is a bit more popular, one of the Lego game, in particular Lego Batman 2.
Now if you’ve ever played any of the Lego themed games before Lego Batman 2 you know basically what to expect. While Lego Batman 2 does do a few things a bit differently, it is largely the same and you can probably stop reading here because you already know whether you like this game or not. If you haven’t played a Lego game before or just enjoy reading people’s thoughts on video games continue on, I mean it’s not like I’m stopping here.
Well let’s be honest. This is Batman geared for kids. The story is not going to be the greatest ever. However, it is worthwhile to say that I believe that this story is fairly original. Instead of seeming to loosely use frameworks of Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Returns, and Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever we’re given something a bit different.
In other Lego games like Lego Star Wars or Lego Batman you have the game split into parts for each movie it is directly or loosely based off of. You can access these pieces of story from a hub location, or base where the levels are accessed. Lego Batman 2 changes this and moves to an open-world environment with a continual story. What this means is that instead of having a main base where you access levels (although this kind of does still exist), you get to travel around Gotham City and have to travel to a certain locations to start a level.
The story focuses around Lex Luthor and the Joker as they team up to try to win Luthor the election for President of the United States. So it’s up to Batman, Robin, Superman, and other members of the Justice League to stop their plan. It’s a fun story, but remember this is a Batman story focused for a younger set. It’s going to be a little absurd. It has a weapon that destroys black bricks, a giant Joker robot, and maybe a Lex Luther that lacks a lot of confidence.
As I’ve said gameplay is pretty similar to other Lego games, but let me give you an overview. The basic concept behind the game is to get to the end of the level. To do this you’ll have to fight enemies, jump over obstacles, or use the particular skills of a character. Each character typically has at least one special ability or in the cases of Batman and Robin have suits that give them different special abilities. For example, Batman has a power suit that allows him to lift heavy objects (designated by orange handles), and shoot bombs that blow up shiny silver Lego blocks. Or take Superman who can fly, is super strong to allow him to lift heavy objects, has freezing breath that can freeze enemies or water, shoots lasers from his eyes that are used to melt gold Legos, and also has X-Ray vision which is used to see through certain walls.
If you’re expecting a game that is straight forward that only involves fighting bad guys and jumping over holes or something, this isn’t really what the Lego games deliver. They do have those things, but there is also a bit of a puzzle element to the games as well. These parts make you have to figure out what you need to do to get to the next area. Sometimes it is just destroying some Lego creations in order to uncover Legos you can use to proceed. Other times you have to figure out how to use a characters ability to get you past a segment. Maybe you need to blow up silver Legos with a bomb or melt some gold Legos to get to the next section.
This puzzle part of the Lego games is an even larger part of looking for the various hidden collectibles that are in the game. Because there are two ways to go through a particular level. The first is “Story Mode” which is how you have to play through first. This only involves the characters that are in the story, which is largely just Batman, Robin, and Superman, with some Justice League members joining much later. However, every level usually has puzzles and unlockables (like minikits which build a vehicle or item from the batman world, gold blocks which can be used to enable certain characters to be unlocked, or red bricks that unlock extra “cheats”) that can only be reached with abilities that the story characters do not possess. To get these unlockables you have to play in the mode called “Free Play” which allows you to play as any of the characters you have unlocked so far. This mode also allows you to rotate through a set number of characters that will include any character who have abilities you need to get the unlockables for a particular level.
There are three more random things that I want to note about gameplay. The first is that like any of the other Lego games this is a two player game, which is nice. You can have a second player join or leave the game at any time. Second, is that as I mentioned above the game now has an open world environment, this means that there is also a lot to find and unlock on the map itself and not just in the various levels. The third is that this is the first and only one of the few Lego games that actually includes voice acting. Maybe that’s more a point to place under the story, but I’ll stick it here. This means that instead of just pantomime you now have some pretty funny dialogue in the game.
- More Lego fun – I’ve always enjoyed the Lego games. They aren’t exceptionally difficult games by any means, but they are loads of fun. Even more so they are games I can play that my young children can watch, and my son is now able to play.
- Problem solving skills – I didn’t realize how puzzle centric the Lego games were until my wife and son started playing the first Lego Batman together. Watching them try to figure out what they needed to do made me realize how much this game really develops some problem solving skills. Admittedly, we’re talking video game problem solving skills, but still.
- I Can Hear You – The voice acting being added to Lego Batman 2 was really well done and made the game even more funny than usual. The Lego games have always had a lot of humor in them, but adding the voices just added more character to it all. Whether it was Batman grunting answers back, Robin being the butt of jokes, or the news reports at the beginning of levels by Vicki Vale they all just accomplished things that previous games couldn’t.
- More Lego DC Than Lego Batman – In order to make the sequel even bigger and better, you know the character roster was going to increase. However, I really felt with both the direction of the story and the roster that this game was more of a Lego DC than it was a Lego Batman. In some ways it wasn’t, because Batman was still a front and center character throughout, but it neglected another element of Batman and that is his roster of villains. Besides the Joker they were more used as very minor characters than any sort of major players.
- Who Needs Villains Anyway? – In connection with my previous point, I felt that compared to the first Lego Batman that the villains weren’t even all that useful to unlock in the game. The only ones that had purely unique abilities were the Joker, Lex Luthor, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler. I just felt it led to having more characters, but not really utilizing the characters very well or making them very unique in the process.
- Rats in a Maze – There are some puzzles in the main map of Gotham City that require you to use particular Batman or Robin suits to obtain an unlockable. This makes it so that you have to use some of the costumes you might forgo when you can use some of the characters with flight to get anywhere. However, at the same time this really felt kind of awkward too. You have Superman who can do like tons of stuff, but then you have these puzzles that seem to be there simply as a counter to how badly Superman and characters like him skew the game.
- Not Stronger than a Camera Angle – Some of Superman’s (or any other flying character’s) flying is just painful. Especially trying to get some of the Gold Bricks. You need to go into some crevice while flying with Superman only to be met with Superman veering off or the camera going nuts.
- I Choose You Joker Goon – One of the things I’ve always wondered about the Lego series of games is the inclusion of fairly useless characters. These are characters that have no abilities and aren’t even characters with any real place in the universe other than nameless thug. So I wonder why they’re included. Are there that many people who want to be Joker Goon rather than the Joker or Poison Ivy Goon over Poison Ivy? They just feel like fluff. Characters to pad a roster in order to say that you have x many characters to unlock. I write this, but also have to admit that my three year old was at one point very excited about being able to be a random henchman, but if you’re going to have them at least make them be able to do more than just attack people. Otherwise to me it’s just a waste of space.
I’ve already said that I’ve enjoyed the Lego series of games. I’ve played both the Lego Stars Wars series and the first Lego Batman before playing Lego Batman 2 so it should come as no surprise that I enjoy and recommend Lego Batman 2. Is it taking the Lego series of games in a radically different direction? No, but it is a fun little game that can be enjoyed by old and young alike at the same time since it allows for two players to play at once. It’s not a game that has deep themes or anything like that, but it does work out your mind a bit as you try to figure out how to get through levels and try to find all the unlockables (if you so desire). It does have its annoying moments, but overall it’s a solid experience that I think most anyone could enjoy, although fans of the DC universe (or at least those with knowledge of it) will have a leg up.
These thoughts are based on the PS3 version, but it is also available for pretty much any current system out there however their may be some differences between these versions particularly between console and handheld versions.