RRP: $79 ($68 on PC)
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS and PS Vita
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
At first glance, the Lego universe looks like an idyllic place to live. Smiling yellow Lego men go about their lives cracking jokes and living blissfully unaware of the troubles of reality. But after spending more than ten minutes in the world of Lego, I've realised how terrifying it would really be. As the most efficient way to complete a Lego game is to smash every object in every room (for the precious Lego studs that spill out), a few maniacal Lego people would blast into a room, destroy every single object therein, and shoot their way out again, leaving you sitting on the floor with a dazed look on your Lego face. The Lego police can't do anything because they're cracking jokes in their station and anyway, someone punched your phone into tiny bits.
Playing as the protagonist of a Lego game is, thankfully, far less terrifying than playing as a Lego pleb. The series has touched on a lot of different universes so far. The Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones worlds have all had liberal Lego treatment and the series has only improved with each iteration. The previous Lego Batman was a tantalising taste of what a block Gotham city could be but the concept deserved a more rounded experience, which is what Lego Batman 2 provides.
Even though the Lego games have always been designed with children in mind, and Traveller's Tales (the developer) unashamedly plays to this demographic, this isn't to say older gamers won't enjoy themselves. The various puzzles are firmly aimed at youngsters and the difficulty curve is more of a difficulty plane. Though there are plenty of saving graces for adults who enjoy a sense of simple unadulterated fun.
For the first time in the series, a fully realised Lego city (a condensed Gotham, in this case) is waiting for you to smash into pieces. Previously the levels were linear and the vehicles you unlocked were merely for show. Who knows why it's taken Traveller's Tales so long to implement such a seemingly obvious feature, but the game is far better for its inclusion. The other long missing, and finally included, feature is fully voiced Lego characters. Previously the mini-figures were all mute and the jokes needed to be mimed, but now that the Lego men can speak for themselves the plot and humour are worlds better. There's obviously still the innocent slapstick but the banter between Batman, Robin and Superman is genuinely funny for adults and children alike.
Thankfully this entry also adds a variety of new characters from the DC comics universe to keep you entertained while you obliterate everything that isn't bolted down. Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash and a good selection of Justice League heroes and villains (Bizarro, Sinestro and General Zod to give you an idea) round out the 50 individual strong roster. The different characters have variations on existing Lego powers but the fun of discovering them all and flying around the free-roaming city as Man-Bat or blasting through the streets as a tiny Lego Flash is worth the price of admission alone. Still some of the characters, such as Lois Lane and Vicki Vale, are essentially useless. It's interesting that there are so many characters with little to no powers considering the number of personalities in the DC universe that would suit the game perfectly (was Deadman busy?).
There's a lot of exploration to be had in Lego Gotham, which is handy because the actual storyline is surprisingly short. The campaign could probably be finished in one sitting, especially with two players taking advantage of the handy co-op feature. Playing with a friend adds another layer of fun to the game but some technical issues mean the experience isn't without difficulty. If two players separate in the city (which is very common considering how enjoyable it is to blast around the streets) the frame rate suffers visibly, often to the point where the game becomes unplayable unless both players can find each other again. Additionally, worse than Lex Luthor or the Joker, the Justice League's greatest nemesis is the camera when playing co-op. These issues aren't too frequent but will hopefully be addressed in a future patch.
While the Lego series isn't without its problems, the games have improved with each entry. Lego Batman 2 proves this theory as it's the most satisfying Lego game to date. Players with a passing interest in the DC Comics universe will enjoy the inclusion of DC characters that rarely get their day in the sun and kids will have a blast experiencing the charming humour and visually pleasing aesthetic. In this annual mid-year games slump, Lego Batman 2 is a breath of fresh Lego-y air and is delightfully hard to dislike.