By unlocking various costume-change pads, Batman can put on a Power Suit, with super-strength and bombs, an Electricity Suit, which resists shock damage and can be used to store and release useful currents, a Sensor Suit, which cloaks Batman and allows him to see and manipulate objects through certain walls, and a final suit which allows Batman to glide short distances and fire off sonic beams.
Robin, meanwhile, gets his own Acrobat, Ice and Hazard suits, all of which have their own specific capabilities. Midway through the game you’ll unlock Superman, who doesn’t need a suit because he comes so stuffed with powers, and by harnessing all these capabilities and switching characters or suits, you’ll discover strategies to deal with anything the game can throw at you.
In-between there are a few chase sections, a handful of on-rails shooting sequences and a clutch of boss battles, none of which outstay their welcome. As always, the beauty of playing a Lego game is that you simply cannot fail. Die and you’ll lose some studs – maybe enough to prevent you from reaching Superhero status and getting a coveted gold brick – but you’ll never be expected to restart a level or a section.
That’s partly why the Lego series make such great family games; they work exceptionally well for split-screen co-op play, and anyone aged around five and upwards can join in and have fun. While some of the more complex vehicle controls in Lego Batman 2 make it not so appealing for the youngest gamers as, say, Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, all of the above still holds true. In fact, the larger levels, characters with flight and the different superpowers all make it a bit of a riot.
No More Heroes?
There may be some disappointment that the story focuses so heavily on Batman and Robin at first, adding Superman halfway through then introducing the rest of the heroes only right at the end, but then Lego series fans will know that completing the story is only the start. As always, there are vast numbers of collectibles and characters to find and unlock, and it’s only through exploring Gotham City and replaying the story missions with different characters that you’ll get a chance to find them all. This boosts the running time from the eight hours or so it takes to play the story mode into the stratosphere.
There are grounds for criticism. With two-players the split-screen view and fixed camera angle don’t always make it easy to see where you’re going or what you’re doing, and a few of the jumps and platform manoeuvres are hard to pull off as a result. An ongoing battle against a giant robot drags when spaced over so many levels, and Gotham City isn’t as easy to navigate as it should be, thanks to some hard to see markers and a less-than-ideal route-tracing feature.
The open world structure makes it harder to flick from level to level than in some of the more hub-based games, and it’s a shame that you have to wait so long before you can unlock any meaningful characters. Meanwhile, those wanting something more radical or hardcore from a Lego game will still have ammunition. Lego Batman 2 is stuffed with new and interesting ideas, but that doesn’t mean it’s a radical departure from previous games.
Yet all of these pale when you set them against how much fun this game is, the polish and artistry in the game’s looks and sounds and just how charming everything is. The move to add voices to the characters was always going to be controversial, but the voicework is excellent and the dialogue funny, with running jokes about Batman’s level of misanthropy and Superman’s superhuman smugness going down particularly well with our test audience. There are some very nice in-jokes to do with superhero clichés and certain recent Batman games, and the time spent playing the game flies by.
With some new twists on the established gameplay, Lego Batman 2 is the most ambitious Lego title yet. Not everything works all the time, but the gameplay is as addictive as ever and the fun just as infectious. Plus, by harking back to the Tim Burton movies the sequel has found its own personality. This is the Lego series at the top of its block-busting game.