Since 2005, Traveller’s Tales has been enchanting us with their wonderful “Lego” series of video games. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Harry Potter, there doesn’t seem to be a franchise that they can touch and not infuse with their trademark tongue-in-cheek style of humour. When The LEGO Group surprised us with an announcement for Lego Batman 2, I had no idea that Lego Batman is actually the best-selling Lego game of all time. (Helped in no small part by that Xbox 360 pack-in, I’m sure.) Lego Batman has always been a bit different than the rest of the Lego games in the sense that it is not based on any one canonical film series. It takes a little from here and a little from there to create a very authentic Batman experience, but with enough creative license to allow for some experimentation.
Perhaps it’s with no surprise that Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is going to be the title that shakes up the tried-and-true Lego formula then. Let’s get one of the major changes out of the way right off the bat – voice acting. That’s right, the era of cute pantomimed voiceless cutscenes comes to end. Rather than gesticulating wildly or relying on cute sight gags, characters will talk. In the trailer for the game, we hear the voice of Clancy Brown – perhaps you might know him better as the voice of Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series. No other voice actors have been officially announced, but dreams of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy (voices of The Joker and Batman, respectively) making an appearance have generated some fairly significant buzz for what might have otherwise been a game that slipped under most gamers radars.
Next up is another first for the Lego series – split-screen co-op play. While two-player co-op has always been a standard feature for the Lego series, both players had to make do with helping each other on the same screen. While single screen still applies for the regular missions in Lego Batman 2, the open world of Gotham City changes to split-screen so that each player is free to explore on their own terms. This should make the co-operative aspect of tracking down the 100 gold bricks much more palatable and fun.
What’s that you say? Open world? I did indeed. In yet another first for the Lego series, the traditional structure of choosing levels is gone in favour of the massive three island hub world of Gotham City. It will be the largest hub ever created for a Lego game. Superman is one of the DC Super Heroes joining the fray, and he provides the ability to fly unfettered through Gotham, heating things up with his heat vision, or cooling them down with his freeze breath. Apparently we will even be able to visit his city of Metropolis, though not as grand and fully realized as Gotham. While it sounds like Superman could break the game (really, what can’t he do), his powers won’t allow him to bypass any of the puzzles or traps. Those will still need to be solved by appropriate characters, such as Batman and Robin and their new suit swapping abilities.
As if traversing the city with super powers isn’t enough, Batman’s full complement of vehicles will be available as well. The Batmobile, Batwing and Batboat have all been confirmed, with “plenty more to choose from” being teased by Traveller’s Tales representatives. The mission/level structure will still remain a linear progression as with previous games, but Gotham City is free to explore at any time between missions. As the city is so large, players will get some assistance by being made of aware of where their next mission awaits.
In Lego Batman 2, The Joker & Lex Luthor have teamed up to make Batman’s life miserable, so Batman is calling on some of his friends – Superman, Wonder Woman and Green lantern amongst them. 50 playable characters are promised, which may sound to be a bit less than what we’re used to in the usual Lego romps. Each character is supposed to play differently, perhaps giving us respite from the seemingly hundreds of palette swaps and meaningless variations we have had to deal with in the most recent games. (Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, I’m looking squarely at you bud.) You can switch between characters at any time in the Gotham City hub, lending a feeling of freedom that the Lego games always seem to promise in expectation, but don’t always quite end up delivering.
Batman and Robin are still the main stars of the game though, and each gains the ability to swap suits to solve various puzzles in Lego Batman 2. For example, Batman can make use of the ‘Electricity Suit’, which allows him to absorb electricity from machinery, and then redistribute it to other devices that require power. He can use the ‘Power Suit’ to fire missiles. Robin can make use of the self-explanatory ‘Acrobat Suit’, or the ‘Hazard Suit’ that allows him to perform super human feats such as walking through fire or under water.
All told, Lego Batman 2 is shaping up to be far more than just a sequel. It appears to be a re-invention of a somewhat tired series – with voice acting, split-screen co-op, and an open world to explore. In addition to Batman and Robin, 48 of their super hero friends will join the fun, as well as all the vehicles we know and love. Apparently characters can even commandeer other vehicles on the street, Grand Theft Auto style!
It will be available this summer, on 360, 3DS, DS, PC, PSP, PS3, Vita and Wii. Basically if you own a video game console or handheld, chances are you’ll be able to play Lego Batman 2 on it.