Over the past few years, the Lego games have become known for perfectly bridging the gap between child-friendly and adult-enjoyable gaming. Following some of the biggest film franchises including Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones there has always been an opportunity for Traveller’s Tales to slip up and ruin a perfectly good series of Lego titles. And yet, it hasn’t happened so far. With Lego Batman 2 quite a few things have changed, and yet they’ve managed to totally nail it again.
Quite a lot has remained and gives fans of the series an instant feeling of familiarity. Everything is still, obviously, made out of Lego and much of what you see can be smashed apart in exchange for the small coloured Lego studs. These studs contribute towards your in-game currency kitty and can be exchanged later on for characters, vehicles and a few other bits. Also in attendance is the split-screen multiplayer option to allow two players on the same PS3 to play together and work cooperatively at the task in hand. But you don’t notice any of this until you’ve noticed something that initially seems very disturbing: the Lego guys speak.
If you’ve played a Lego game before you’ll know that they tend to follow the relevant films quite closely, and as such a series of grunts and physical expressions was enough to give you an idea of what was going on (assuming you’d seen the relevant films, naturally). This time though TT have come up with their own storyline, and as a result this means you’ll get talky Lego people – quite disconcerting at first, but as soon as Batman and Robin start up, it’s instantly clear that it’s a great move. Shortly afterwards when Superman arrives on the scene, the way the three of them interact with each other from that point onwards is nothing short of genius.
In fact, much of the dialogue is very funny, and not even in a funny-for-a-computer-game-funny type way; there are several seriously amusing sections. This is partly down to the brilliant voice acting that pits the smugness of Superman, over-excitedness of Robin and insanity of the Joker flawlessly against each other, but also the way that a humble Lego character can suddenly develop such a strong personality. It points a silent, but very accusing finger at those games that rely on super-accurate motion captured animation to get noticed…
Around the main story, which in itself is great fun and worth following to the end, is an opportunity to experience a Lego Gotham. As opposed to the very small areas used between levels in previous Lego games, you’ve now got the whole city to explore. There’s some great variety in here, from the dark and threatening Asylum through to the luminous chemical plant and greenery-laden zoo, complete with giraffes and apes you can jump on and ride if you fancy it. It’s a living city, with escaped nutters running around throwing dynamite about the place, abandoned vehicles lying on the side of the road and plenty of tall buildings to climb up to find secret stuff.
This is much more fun once you’ve beaten the game and have a few more characters to use. Being able to run around at full-seed as the Flash, or soaring over the streets as Superman is far more fun than only having Batman and Robin on hand, and being able to switch between them at will is pretty cool in the open-world scenario. But it’s the music which steals the show at times like this – walking around the city you’ll have the Batman music chugging away in the background (still one of my favourite film soundtracks) but as soon as Superman takes off and starts flying this fades seamlessly into the Superman score which not only sounds awesome but somehow also gives you one of those tingles that only a perfect musical moment can provide.
Even after you finish the game (which took about 8 hours) there’s still every reason to stick with this for quite some time. As with all Lego games you’ll get a percentage after the credits telling you just how much of the game you’ve beaten. Mine flashed up at 17.3%. That’s quite a lot missing, and it’s a combination of the open world city and replaying the levels that will boost this up to the target 100%. As before you can revisit any level with your newly found/awarded/bought characters which gives you further access to hidden areas in the levels and allows you to operate machinery or levers that the standard characters could only shrug their shoulders at. There’s also the 250 gold bricks to find and the special power-up red bricks to hunt out which award invincibility, pip multipliers and suchlike. There are all of the DC bad guys to find around the city, beat up and purchase for use elsewhere. There are tonnes of vehicles to unlock, both to drive round and fly across Gotham. There are random characters on the street that you can grab and use, random vehicles to hijack and drive around, bizarre achievements like climbing Wayne Tower on the back of a gorilla… it’s a huge, Lego playground. It’s brilliant.
There are small issues that detract from the fun every now and then flying around Gotham is generally an effortless affair, right up until the point when you need to make a tiny movement or back up a bit. Your flying follows a cursor that you aim, so you’re always flying forwards. That can make it a bugger to make an accurate landing sometimes. There’s also moments when vehicles glitch themselves into the floor or scenery, forcing you to start the level at the last save-point. On one occasion my forklift truck got catapulted by nothing at all into an area I couldn’t get out of, forcing me to go back and redo what I’d spent half an hour doing previously. These issues, along with the occasional wonky camera position, aren’t enough to ruin the game but do annoy from time to time.
Luckily, it is only occasionally. Every other moment is fantastic, and makes Lego Batman 2 the finest Lego title to date in my opinion. It’s huge, enjoyable, varied and something you can enjoy with your kids without having to pretend you’re having fun. If you’re a fan of Lego titles then this is a no-brainer, but even if you’re new to the series you’ll probably love it. Roll on Lego Lord of the Rings, but it’s got a tough act to follow.
Reviewed on PS3