Dinner Dinner Dinner...
Batman! With a cataclysmic showdown against steroid-infused terrorist genius Bane due in cinemas in just over a month, it's fair to say that the Dark Knight has never been darker than right now. Thankfully, here's LEGO Batman 2 to remind us that while the brooding drama of the big screen is all very well, it's also OK for superheroes to be, you know, fun.
If you've played any of the previous LEGO games - and given how many millions they've shifted, there's a good chance you have - then what's on offer here won't initially seem all that different. The core gameplay is much as it's always been, as you guide dumpy mini-figures around detailed levels, smashing the LEGO scenery to earn studs while using the abilities of your characters to solve a variety of puzzles.
Once a level is beaten in Story Mode, you can return to it in Free Play, where you're given access to every character you've unlocked, thus allowing you to reach new areas and solve new puzzles. There are vehicle mini-kits to piece together, LEGO citizens who must be saved, and stud totals to beat. You can play solo, or with a friend, though the dynamic camera system that organically separates your viewpoints into split-screen as you move away from each other distracts just as often as it helps.
It's outside of the traditional levels that LEGO Batman 2 deviates most from the formula, and as changes go this one is pretty radical. Gone are the small level hubs of the older games, replaced by a GTA-sized LEGO Gotham City. You're free to drive along its streets, take to its skies and race around in the ocean surrounding it.
In many ways it's here in this plastic sandbox that the real LEGO Batman 2 game can be found. There are 250 gold bricks to find in the game, and most can only be discovered by exploring Gotham. Some are hidden away on the rooftops, at the end of cunningly designed obstacle courses that only Batman and Robin, and their array of special costumes, can navigate. Others are earned by finding and defeating 22 classic DC super-villains, lurking in the city, waiting to be confronted. And yet more are earned just by exploring and having fun. This is, after all, a game where Batman can ride around on a giraffe, take part in carnival games and muck about with remote control cars and boats. You won't be seeing Christian Bale's gravel-voiced caped crusader having this much fun, that's for sure.
Navigating Gotham takes some getting used to, with a rather useless in-game radar, but the map tucked away in the pause menu is a clever thing, revealing the location of every hidden object, albeit only momentarily. It'll point you in the right direction, but the sense of discovery is never spoiled by the breadcrumb trails that other open-world games rely on.
To go with this more ambitious game world, the available characters have been drawn from every corner of DC's sprawling comic book universe. Most notably, the Justice League characters join the Dynamic Duo, with Superman being the obvious stand-out. Virtually invincible and able to fly, shoot heat rays from his eyes and freeze water with his breath, he's a fantastic all-rounder, and swooping and soaring through Gotham in his red undies is a genuine pleasure. That the game uses the classic Superman movie theme whenever you switch to him merely seals the deal.
But the other characters are no slouches either. The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg - all have their own unique gameplay gifts, or else they mix and match existing powers in fun new ways. And, as always, there's a generous selection of vehicles to try as well, from the full spread of themed Bat-transport to goofier items like a UFO or a pumpkin car.
Save The Day
There's always a danger that the magic will be lost whenever a series spawns so many entries, but the LEGO games continue to tweak and evolve in entertaining ways while keeping the core gameplay as fun as ever. The move to an open-world setting means that kids will have a thrilling sandbox to romp around in long after they've achieved 100% completion, but there's plenty here for adults as well, provided you don't mind a little silliness in your superhero stories.
- Gotham's free-roaming LEGO world is amazing
- The classic LEGO gameplay still amuses
- DC fans will love the variety of characters
- Co-op camera can be distracting
- Kids may get frustrated with some puzzles
- Physics is occasionally a bit wonky