Monday, 30 July 2012

Lego Batman 2

“Lego-Gotham welcomes fans of the series to an open-world adventure filled with charismatic characters and enjoyable dialogue. Unfortunately, the same problems persist and little has changed to expand the Lego franchise.”

There’s no doubt that in recent years the emergence of Rocksteady’s Arkham games and Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the caped crusader on the big screen, have certainly ignited a new found love for Batman. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes captures the dark knight’s wonderful charm and uses the Lego universe to give it a friendlier vibe. An enjoyable story intertwines with fantastic narrative and run-of-the-mill gameplay that while having some shortcomings still makes this instalment in the Lego universe, a thoroughly entertaining one.

The story revolves around Joker and Lex Luthor joining forces in an attempt to create political turmoil in Gotham. While the story itself isn’t particularly breathtaking, it’s the manner in which the story unravels that makes Lego Batman 2 so amusing to engage with. Wonderful dialogue filled to the brim with clever DC jokes that will surely make even the most hardcore of fans grimace with excitement. In particular Batman’s relationship with Superman is a joy to behold as the childish side of Bruce Wayne fails to bottle up the jealousy he has towards the man of steel. Robin’s admiration for Superman also plays into this dynamic, making for some amazing on-screen moments when the three characters are together.

When the game begins you will notice that unlike previous Lego games, Lego Batman 2 gives you an open world to explore at your own desire. This new change of direction is certainly welcome, if it was executed a little better. The prospect of exploring Gotham, helping needy civilians and collecting valuable goodies is very exciting, but a lack of a mini-map, poor vehicle control and awkward map design makes Lego’s first attempt at mimicking Gotham a let down unfortunately.

When you begin playing Lego Batman 2’s levels you will be glad to see that a tightly knit linear design is implemented to bring the game back from the initial open-ended Gotham. A plethora of recognisable locations are on show as Batman and any of his available DC sidekicks begin taking down thugs and arresting iconic bad guys from the comic books. Lego Batman 2 continues the series tradition for puzzle solving and the pacing here is actually very impressive. Puzzles are scattered at just the right places, often are never too difficult to get stuck on and require the use of a variety of different gadgets and abilities, making them a lot of fun to engage with. It’s just a shame that the actual combat is nowhere near as fun as the puzzle solving in Lego Batman 2. This is obviously no surprise to fans of the Lego games because let’s face it; combat has never been this franchises forte. Nevertheless, any expansion over the simple melee attack and context-based counter-attacks would have been a welcome treat because it felt boring and monotonous.

Other issues continue to frustrate Lego Batman 2 as well. The poor combat is supplemented with an awkward camera angle and lacklustre AI. The series has always been known for poor AI but considering we are now numerous games in, I refuse to believe that I’m seeing the same issues and mistakes over and over again. Superman may just stand idol while getting beaten up or even get in the way of a key location, impeding your progress. AI stupidity is scattered across the whole game and with only offline split-screen available for help, you will find yourself frustrated at the lack of continuity and consistency here.

It’s frustrating that all of these issues are visible pretty much straight away and just so happen to be some of the very first few things you notice. Lego Batman 2 is actually thoroughly enjoyable, if you can accept these shortcomings that pretty much all Lego games come with. You will find exciting end-game content, including the ability to play as villains all while discovering all the secret nooks and crannies Gotham has to offer.

If you’re invested in Lego games by this point and enjoy them, there’s absolutely no reason you won’t love Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes because it is arguably the best Lego game so far. If you’ve liked the idea but never got on with the gameplay, then things haven’t changed enough here for your opinion to differ. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes has its flaws but it also shows off some wonderful moments that make it very difficult not to smile and have a good time.

7.5 | Gameplay |
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes implements a very enjoyable assortment of puzzles that are scattered perfectly across the story mode. These provide challenge, entertainment and help spread out the game. On the flip side, basic Lego-based combat still remains that is coupled with really bad AI, making the action nothing more than a drag. If you can get a buddy to play offline split screen with you, the endeavour is a lot more enjoyable.

8.0 | Presentation |
This is absolutely Lego Batman 2’s strong point. A wonderfully woven story incorporates beautiful narrative, dialogue and character relationships to really invest you as a gamer into the world of DC comics. Alongside this and I failed to mention in my review, Gotham itself and all the locations are beautiful. A dark an ominous vibe contrasts with the hilarious nature of the Lego characters, making Gotham’s eminent danger rather comical, which is highly enjoyable.

7.5 | Replay Value |
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes ensures there’s plenty to get stuck into right off the bat. Gotham is an open world with plenty of hidden goodies to get your hands on. Not only does this include collectables but secret characters, optional bosses and other cool stuff. There’s every reason to go back and explore Gotham.

7.5 | Final Thoughts |
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a game that has one foot through the door yet the other seems stuck in a room of the past. The same issues persist from other Lego games including the horrific AI and at this point, it’s simply unforgivable that they just can’t fix these issues. However, opting for an open world scale to Gotham does show that this Lego universe is taking steps in the right direction. Overall Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a lot of fun and it’s simply unfortunate that all of its issues are surface level and clearly apparent. Nevertheless, plenty of entertaining content intertwined with an awesome story makes it relatively simple to make your peace with these faults and enjoy the game for what it is, a light-hearted dash into the DC universe.

Igor Kharin.

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