Review

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

Two-Face

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes can’t figure out if it’s an Adam West goofball or a Christian Bale brooder.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 25, 2012

As Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes enters its third act, plastic-block versions of Batman and Superman walk into Lex Luthor’s corporate headquarters and demand to see the man himself. The hassled secretary demands to know who’s asking to see the boss. The heroes are bemused. Superman says, “I’m Superman. He’s Batman.” The secretary asks if those are last names. “No, they’re just single names. Like ‘Madonna,’” Batman says. Then the secretary turns into an evil silver robot and tries to kill them.

That interaction tells you what you need to know about the game. The goofy dialogue and absurd action is Lego Batman 2’s stock in trade, with the heroes thrust into all kind of improbable situations in the big cities of DC’s comic book universe. But like Madonna, the game never settles on a single identity. As a result you get an experience that’s often as fun and off-the-wall as a lively pop act, but sometimes as bafflingly serious in tone as Madonna’s fake British accent.

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

A bout of vanity kicks off all the supervillain trouble. Secretly evil presidential candidate Lex Luthor and secretly heroic playboy Bruce Wayne are both up for Gotham City’s Man Of The Year Award. Wayne wins, but in the middle of the ceremony, Joker and a horde of criminals crash the event. While Batman and Robin put the kibosh on the mayhem, the seeds of a Luthor-Joker alliance are planted, as Luthor seethes over losing the award. Superman eventually teams up with Batman and Robin to deal with this formidably evil double threat. (The other DC heroes sit out the majority of the story.)

Every time Joker and Lex enact a new stage of their evil plot—piloting a giant evil robot shaped like Joker into downtown Gotham to spread some brainwashing gas, for instance—another level begins. You can either control both Batman and Robin by yourself or play alongside a friend.

This being a Lego game, most of your enemies and surroundings are made out of the Danish blocks, and it’s your job to punch the ever-loving hell out of them. Smashing up the environment reveals valuable studs, and there are other surprises. Inside the wreckage of a chemical tank, you might find Robin’s Magnet Suit, which lets him walk up walls à la the old Adam West series. The game abounds with gadgets and special abilities like this, and much of the fun is figuring out which tools to use and when. The levels are too long, though, and as they drag on, puzzles that seemed clever at first become a chore.

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

Lego Batman 2 also places more dramatic weight on these puzzles than it should, given their inherent silliness; exploding blocks do not create much tension. Adding to this dissonance is the fact that not everything is made out of Legos. Some parts of the world are rendered in the grim, exaggerated gothic tones characteristic of the Tim Burton Batman movies.

And in a first for the Lego video games, all of the characters talk, a departure from the series’ tradition of grunting pantomimes. The flippant dialogue can be hilarious, like a scene in which a sulky Batman complains that he doesn’t need Superman’s help escaping the rooftop of a burning building. But all the while, the booming orchestral scores from the Batman and Superman films blast away, lending an out-of-place gravity to these scenarios. Instead of a nudge and a wink, you get elbowed in the ribs and told to stand up straight.

You have to play through hours of this story before you get to the other game hidden inside Lego Batman 2. Once you have Superman at your disposal, you can more easily explore the broader Gotham City. There is less to do here than in your average Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox game—you’re mostly just picking up more bricks—but this mode is where most of the game’s playable supervillains live. Flying to the top of a skyscraper and fighting the Riddler without the burden of cutscenes and puzzles is a good time. (You’ll have to spend a fortune in those little collectible studs, though, to play as the Riddler himself.) There is fun to be had in Lego Batman 2. It’s a shame you have to dig so deep to find it.

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360—$50; Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Wii—$40; Nintendo DS, PC—$30
Rating: E10+

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2,548 Responses to “Two-Face”

  1. dreadguacamole says:

     Wow, is there a serious side to this game? I’ve only finished the main story so far, but I didn’t get that vibe at all. Nothing that wasn’t instantly deflated by having it be enacted by minifigures, at least.
     I loved the game. My main problem with it is that the dynamic split-screen moves all over the place, completely disorienting the five-year old I (ostensibly) bought this game for and making it impossible to play it together.
     However, he loves to play as superman and kick anyone who comes into the screen to pieces – friend, superfriend, or foe.
     (He loves freezing batman and then punching him to pieces. Over and over again. Maybe I should be worried.)

     The sense of humor in display throughout is great – a little bit of charm is lost, but it’s honestly made me laugh harder than any of the previous Lego games. And they’ve been mixing more realistic, detailed environmental renders with the lego blocks since the first one, so I don’t get that complaint at all either.
     The levels are too long, though.

    • doyourealize says:

      I read an article once (maybe AV Club, but don’t remember) about a father who let his young son play a GTA game (under supervision, of course). All he did was get into ambulances and save people’s lives, and was distraught when he accidentally ran someone over once…

      It seems your son (nephew? little brother?) has taken the opposite approach.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         He (my son) tends to pit any two of his toys to fight each other, so I think it’s just an extension of that, really. He’s not really doing elaborate stories in his play yet (though I’m prompting him in that direction.)

      • Girard says:

         I started my first GTA game ever earlier this year, and for someone not used to its style of gameplay, I found it REALLY hard to play the way the game assumed I should. Like all of a sudden I’d need a car for something, and was expecting the mission to have provided me one, but no, I need to steal it (that’s literally the name of the game, of course). Actually driving like a non-maniac was also punishingly boring, inefficient, and sometimes impossible.

        Eventually I loosened up and started stealing cars rather than hailing cabs, and careening down the median to the next mission rather than staying in my lane like a  sane person. But it kind of took a while for me to overcome the urge to roleplay a lawful/good (or chaotic good, at least) character in a game where that simply isn’t an option.

        • Merve says:

          The ironic thing is that Saints Row 2, which is much more focused on gleeful crime sprees, usually gives you whatever vehicle you need for a mission, so there’s almost no need to go around stealing cars.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          Just wait. the game’ll make a prostitute-slapping pimp out of you yet. Remember: when the van starts a rockin’, don’t go a knockin’. (And if someone does, kill them. Run over their body. Back up. Run over their body again.) 

          GTAIV added more realism to the game, which made me feel worse about my own actions, but more empathy for why Nico was facing them. I’m thrilled/terrified to consider what GTAV will have me doing . . . and enjoying, especially now that they seem to have ironed out their check-pointing, quick-driving, aiming, and other major gameplay flaws.

    • Raging Bear says:

      I fully intend to play with my nephew of the same age, and figured Superman would be excellent for him, what with being invincible and all.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         If this is like all the other Lego games, dying really isn’t too much of a setback anyway.  I’m also sure that you can’t really draw a straight line between cartoon murder and real-life murder; The former is just too funny not to do.  There’s nothing quite as liberating as suddenly turning a co-op video game experience into a free-for-all.  There were many times when me and my sister would play Mario Bros. (not the Super kind) and I would wait for the perfect opportunity to flip a crap back onto its legs just as my sister was jumping up to dispatch it.

        • dreadguacamole says:

           The weird thing is that he doesn’t do this in Lego Star Wars (he only turns against me if I turn into Darth Vader!)
           It must be something about playing as superman that brings out his inner jerk…

        • Raging Bear says:

          True; dying doesn’t strictly matter. It’s just that he likes to get the recognition for having the most points (studs) at the end of a level (at least, this is the case when we play LittleBigPlanet), and it’ll be that much easier if he doesn’t keep losing them all by dying.

        • Asinus says:

           “Flip a crap” sounds like casually shitting on someone who’s walking behind you mid-stride. “Dude kept stepping on my heels so I flipped a crap right onto his legs.”

      • dreadguacamole says:

         That’s one of the reasons I encouraged him to play Superman, for sure. Just dumped him in the open city hub and he’s had a blast.
         The game’s a bit too complicated for him, unfortunately (he’s a few months away from five), what with all the suits and abilities and almost-sensical puzzles. And I can’t carry him through the game in free-play, because he can’t cope with the whirly splitscreen. Oh well.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       The Pirates of the Caribbean game is the only one I’ve played, and boy howdy is that dynamic split screen confusing/queasifying.

      Pretty much the only solution was for one player to follow the other one the entire time, which resulted in a lot of yelling.

  2. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    The great thing about Lego Batman is when the villains unmask him, it makes a satisfyingly dramatic popping sound.

  3. Merve says:

    Hmm…sounds intriguing. I might pick it up when the price drops. Would you happen to know if the PC version is significantly different than the XBox 360 version?

    I’ve always thought that Lego games were charming, if a little frustrating, but I never really got into them. Now with this and the upcoming Lego City Undercover, they’re starting to sound like legitimately awesome games. It’s too bad that LCU is a Wii U exclusive.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       The PC version is $30, so you’d be saving $20.

      • Merve says:

        I was hoping for something more like $15 for the game plus a free foot massage.

        Steam sales have completely messed with my perception of video game value.

  4. Raging Bear says:

    So does the Brainiac-related stinger at the end indicate that there’s a second half to the story? Or is the explorable Gotham an excuse for having precisely half as many actual missions as the first Lego Batman? That doesn’t seem right. I mean, I do still have most of the city yet to explore fully, but still, dang.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       I think all it’s doing is setting up a sequel (or a DC Heroes game).
       It’s definitely a shorter game, but the missions are a lot longer. For some reason, I enjoyed it a lot more than the first game.

  5. Chris Holly says:

    Played a lot of this over the weekend with my son and without, and I’ve gotta say… I’m disappointed.

    The big problem is the pacing of the levels – some (Ace Chemicals) just drag on far too long, and the really interesting ones (Batcave) are over before you know it.

    And Jesus Christ Superstar, that split-screen… it is maddening, and at times makes the thing damn near unplayable. It is terrible.

    This also seems like there’s a lot more stuttering in terms of mixing up the puzzles with the combat – the whole flow just seems jittery in most levels. Could be me.

    I will say that this is the first game I’ve ever played where I looked forward to the rail-shooting sequences, though. Those are a blast.

    One more thing: anyone else think the Batmobile takes up too much of the screen in Gotham City? I can’t hardly see where I’m going in that thing! :-)

    • hastapura says:

      A lot of the platforming is based on walking ledges and judging height, but the default, wide perspective screws you over constantly. It’s incredibly frustrating, and combined with that hideous split-screen – aiming grapples and lasers is especially infuriating as your reticle is subject to the whims of the split – I’m ready to return this piece already.

      Also why can’t Batgirl use the suits???

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Why can’t Batgirl use the suits? I think you’ve answered your own question there: because she’s a girl. Sexism prevails in the previously sexless Lego universe! Block-on-block action takes on whole new meaning!

  6. Effigy_Power says:

    It’s certainly interesting that these Lego-games are as a whole better than any movie-based games so far. The Lego Star Wars series was surprisingly challenging and the fact that you play with little toys takes all the pretense of the “full-blown” tie-ins right out. With that, the game can concentrate on being fun to play, which, once again, movie-based games usually aren’t.
    Considering the success of these games, maybe they ought to make the movies with Legos too. Phantom Menace might have been a hell of a lot more fun to watch if someone had popped Jar Jar’s head off and if Darth Maul would have been cut in half with a resounding -pop- sound instead of some shitty CGI.