I need to make an admission. It’s an admission that I’m afraid will do nothing but enhance my current level of nerdosity in the eyes of my friends, colleagues and peers (my family already know the score.)
Ahem……I’m a big fan of all things mysterious.
There, I said it. UFO’s, Nessie, Yeti’s, Bigfeet (that is the plural of Bigfoot isn’t it?), Beasts of Bodmin and other remote moorlands, ghosts, aliens, conspiracies, the successful career of Keanu Reeves, Wayne Rooney’s hairdo, the allure of plain crisps and Lego.
You see, as mysteries go, the fact that Lego games have been one of the shining lights of gaming’s recent past is astounding. This is a past that has seen games grow up, has seen the ever more frequent use of adult themes and language, has seen graphics blur the lines between reality and virtual reality and has seen what we used to consider the gaming norm now frequenting the Xbox Arcade rather than the store shelves.
But the Lego games have swam strong against the tide and time after time have managed to delight, entrance and charm the very souls of gamers everywhere.
And now they’re back.
Traveller’s Tales’ latest, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, could well be the greatest and most adventurous outing for the franchise yet. That’s no small feat considering the brilliance of what has gone before. Indy, Harry Potter, Star Wars and those Caribbean Pirates to name but a few.
Great games one and all but prior to this latest release the question of whether Lego games had run their course had to be asked. It isn’t a question without foundation either. As much as the games are a joy to play they are also very, very samey. The settings may change but the action remains the same and was it all becoming a little too predictable? Had the Lego series lost it’s mojo, or as the case may be, simply worn it out?
Well, fear not, although it’s true that Lego Batman 2 does follow the same grand blueprint as previous games it also unveils a whole previously unseen print, one that includes the exciting word, ‘sandbox’ and blows all that had gone before clean out of the toybox.
Kicking thing’s off at the illustrious ‘Man of the Year’ awards the game’s opening gives us a first glimpse at the crossover into other superhero territory. Bruce Wayne is going head to head for the gong with the one and only Lex Luther. Wayne wins out and just as he’s about to break in to an acceptance speech, that’s right folks this time the Lego folk talk, everyone’s favourite super villain, The Joker, disrupts the show in his usual grandiose style and the adventure is on.
And what a joyous romp it is too. The classic Lego action is present and correct. Smash the place up, build all manner of goodies from the blocks, beat up the enemies and laugh out loud at the cutscenes.
In the opening encounter alone, as batman and Robin you’ll bump heads with not only The Joker but also, The Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Catwoman and Bane, and all this is within the opening half hour.
Also during this early action you’ll get to pilot Robin’s helicopter, Batman’s Batplane and tear along the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile and I haven’t even mentioned the special suits yet.
Along the way, as in the original Batman, you’ll have to put the thinking caps on to solve all manner of puzzles, the ‘eureka!’ moment for a few of these will come after donning one of these special suits. It could be Batman’s Power suit, it could be Robin’s Acrobat suit or it could be a one of the number of others but once worn these outfits become vital to proceeding along the game’s path.
So what makes Lego batman 2 such a special game?
The simple answer to that question is scope. This is one seriously huge game and I’m not just talking about the play area. The game is packed with unlockable goodies, hidden surprises and ridiculous numbers of playable characters. The open-world of Gotham City is enormous and can be free-roamed to your heart’s content. Racing the dimly lit streets in the shadowy Batmobile is a thrilling experience in its’ own right.
Each character has their own unique powers and each handle slightly differently, unlocking them is a little too easy to be fair but there are that many you’ll probably end up grateful it isn’t too extreme a challenge. Flying through the skies as Superman is every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be and even if that does get tiring there are so many other alternatives, The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash and so on and so on. I could easily see this one still finding its’ way into the console for months to come.
The graphics are as lovely as ever, nothing we haven’t seen in previous Lego games, but still very easy on the eye. The first flying section is a particular visual feast as you chase down The Joker’s speedboat over a night-time Gotham, the lights bouncing off the water look stunning and for a moment I almost lost myself in the scenery and ‘the smiley one’ into the Gotham night.
The inclusion of vocal chords this time around works really well, largely thanks to a genuinely funny script and solid voice work. I was worried that it might fall flat but it was so seamless and well written, I almost didn’t realise when the first line was delivered.
2 players can join up to fight side by side in the one screen/ split screen mode, stray to far from ech other an split screen kicks in. This again adds further legs to a game that already has the potential to run and run. Playing as a dynamic duo is a great deal of fun and the fact that each character has an important role to play is good to see.
Any problems then?
Honestly? Not really, or at least nothing so significant it could deter from the pleasure of playing. The AI is very simple and knocking the enemies about is an easy task, even the super villains can be taken down without really breaking a sweat.
Also of course, it’s a Lego game, so while it’s true it could be the cream of the crop, a lot of what’s going on is still going to seem very familiar. The deja-vu effect will begin from the opening minutes of play but to be honest I don’t think we really expected anything else.
All in all then, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a wonderful game. Traveller’s Tales’ have delivered a masterclass in what makes playing games such fun. All the new bits like real voices, open-world play and the inclusion of vast numbers of heroes work brilliantly. The script is so sharp and cutting it’ll have you laughing along like The Joker himself and the whole experience oozes polish and quality from every colourful brick. Just when you thought Lego had run its’ course, Traveller’s Tales’ swoop from the skies like Super Heroes to save the day again.
For more information or to join in the chatter why not check out the official Lego Batman 2 Facebook page right here: http://www.facebook.com/LegoBatmanUK