Revealed at E3 and looking like, essentially, Grand Theft Legoland, the upcoming Lego City Undercover on the Nintendo Wii U stands as a clear indication that developer Traveller’s Tales are looking to expand their massively popular Lego franchise, into something considerably more hardcore-friendly. Although they certainly won’t abandon the linear, none-more-accessible PEGI 7 romps any time soon – Lego Lord of the Rings is due later this year – Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes displays not only that TT definitely have the chops to pull off something more ambitious, but also that they can handle chatter as well as any other contemporary dev team.
This is the first Lego game to feature actual dialogue, and the transition is silky. Crafting all of their previous adventures around mute Lego figures means that Traveller’s Tales mastered the most important aspect of comedy – timing – aeons ago, and even when the prattle in Lego Batman 2 isn’t overtly amusing, the line delivery almost always is. The game also loses none of the series’ boundless charm in the process, and the package is so confidently delivered that it’d be wise not to bet against “talkies” becoming the new franchise norm.
There’s slapstick and cheesy one-liners to spare, but also brilliantly funny comedic concepts. In terms of character, Superman is the game’s biggest success; an arrogant, absent-minded buffoon, the way in which he interacts with Batman (perennially unimpressed and sarcastic) and Robin (awestruck) is the stuff of classic comedy. The villains fare almost as well, and the absurdly warm-hearted portrait of Gotham’s Arkham Asylum in the opening may make you wish that the the entire game had been set there.
This is TT Games’ first ever sandbox environment, and it’s filled with all of the obligatory collectibles and side-quests. Lego Batman 2 has fifty unlockable characters to choose from, and (as usual) several of them have access to more than one costume, and costumes are essential for solving some of the game’s craftier puzzles. You’re free to run around Gotham however you please, but you’re always clearly directed towards your next primary objective by a trail of ever-present translucent blue studs; ever-present when you’re in a vehicle, at least.
There are a couple of hiccups. Robin’s Magnet suit (which comes in very handy during the opening) is extremely finicky and briefly turns Lego Batman 2 into a more demanding game than any Lego title has the right to be. Too many characters pop up in the opening hour and aren’t really seen again after that, and once you’re finally given the opportunity to play a few missions as Superman – who’s invincible, and has several different tricks up his sleeve that don’t demand an outfit change – reverting back to playing as the dark knight is a bit of downer. Bring on Lego Superman.
This is a surprisingly lavish production, and technically immaculate; no small achievement given the massive leap in size and scope. The main story mode is roughly around ten hours long, but as with all sandboxes, post-campaign distractions are everywhere. And as with Rocksteady’s utterly delectable Arkham City, a disarming number of those morsels bear the same joyful magic that features so heavily in the main game. Parents and casual players may have a few teething problems whilst adapting to the open-world format, but after a while (and for everyone else) this is surely the finest Lego game released to date.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is available now on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita and PC.
Watch the official launch trailer for LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes below: