LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Review (Xbox360)

If Batman: Arkham City is Christian Bale then Lego Batman 2 is Adam West. Both perform their roles as Batman well, entertaining audiences in entirely different ways. Sure, we might want the brooding tortured soul of Batman at times, but another time we just want Batman to not take himself so seriously. After all, he is essentially a rich man dressed up as a bat even if he does make it look rather cool.

Lego Batman 2 has no real connection to the comic books and rarely takes itself seriously, but it is immensely enjoyable regardless of your age. While kids will favour the simplistic gameplay that means they can easily complete the game unsupervised, adults will revel in its fun and frivolous nature. Comic book fans will enjoy the game's interpretation of classic characters and the partnership between villains such as The Joker and Lex Luthor.

The hero Gotham deserves, even if his hair is interchangeable

Shaking things up of old, Lego Batman 2 introduces three key changes to the tried and tested formula that Traveller's Tales has succeeded with frequently in the past: the addition of save points mid way through certain levels, voice acting and an open world city to explore. Additional save points are far from pointless, given the length of certain stages and the proliferation of parents setting time limits on their young offsprings' gaming time. Alone, these save points should reduce the number of arguments in a household. The voice acting is a risky move, given much of the Lego games' personality is tied into their silent slapstick sense of humour, but it pays off. Anyone who's played most of the Lego games will know that it's all been done before so the prospect of spoken humour is a refreshing concept. Indeed, the relationship between Batman and Robin benefits greatly from this conversational aspect, and there's no sign of filler in the script.

The true pivotal improvement is that of the open world scenario. Gotham City provides a huge portal to the 15 story levels while also being a grandiose place to explore in its own right. It's relatively simple enough to avoid anything to do with the city by simply following waypoints to the next level, but why would you? It's a marvel to behold and the best example of Gotham City in recent gaming. Even better, it allows you to control the Batmobile. Rocksteady: Take note, vehicles are what we want from future Batman titles.

An awkward menage a tois

Of course, the best way to explore Gotham City is by air using Superman. Superman steals the show here, easily turning Lego Batman 2 into the best Superman game bar none. He offers few weaknesses, as he should, with flying abilities, super strength and the ability to freeze and heat things up in equal measures. He sounds overpowered to fit adequately into any game but Traveller's Tales has done a masterful job of ensuring that Batman and co are still just as valuable, thanks to each character offering different strengths and weaknesses. He also provides some of the best lines through Batman's blatant jealousy of his skills.

As in other games in the franchise, Lego Batman 2 is strongly focused on team work and puzzles that require switching between characters to complete. Batman and Robin are equipped with the ability to change suits at set points, thus unlocking new abilities. Batman, for instance, can harness the power of electricity and reactivate switches, while Robin can leap further using his Acrobat suit.

While the focus might be on Batman, Robin and Superman, other DC Comics favourites are catered for, also. Near the end of the story mode, the rest of the Justice League come together, thus exciting every comic book fan around. Green Lantern is able to use his constructs to knock down certain obstacles while Wonder Woman offers an Indiana Jones style whip attack. Each is used in the prevailing section of the game, as well as in the Free Play mode to unlock additional extras. Hardly a puzzle taxed me during the story mode but it still felt rewarding to complete certain ones that required multiple changes.

Teamwork at its very best

It only takes around ten hours to complete the story mode but things hardly end there. There's plenty of reasons to go back through the levels in order to collect mini kits and save citizens in distress. By doing so, gold bricks can be acquired which then go on to unlock further characters and vehicles. Gotham City itself offers 22 villains to hunt down as well as a plethora of custom vehicles and characters to purchase. These villains can be used to unlock new secrets within the levels, as well as defeated for fun and achievements. A lot of enjoyment stems from simply wandering around the city, ideally by air, and checking out what's going on. It's huge but it maintains that feeling of wonder throughout the metropolis. It's also incredibly easy to spend hours exploring the city and discovering new nooks and crannies while also enjoying the exploration focused achievements, which encourage experimentation. One particularly inspired achievement involves climbing to the top of Wayne tower while riding a Gorilla and playing as a female character.

In recent times, it'd be fair to say that the Lego franchise has felt a little too safe and comfortable. While Lego Harry Potter and Lego Star Wars have been fun, being so closely tied to their respective storylines has constrained the imaginative spirit of Traveller's Tales. Lego Batman 2 has ably demonstrated what can be done with free reign and the inspiration that such iconic comic books can bring. It's not perfect, with slightly clumsy partner AI and awkward flying mechanics for Superman featuring prominently, but any game that makes you continue to smile long after you've finished it, is a special game indeed.

Top Game Moment: Driving through Gotham City in the Batmobile for the first time. Sure, it's Lego based but it's still the stuff that dreams are made of.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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