DC Comics' stable of super heroes has had a tough time finding a foothold in the world of video games. Sure, Batman and his rogues gallery have been well represented in "Arkham Asylum" and "Arkham City," but when was the last really good game that prominently featured any DC hero not named Bruce Wayne? Go ahead, I'll wait ...
Thanks to developer Travellers Tales, DC fans finally have an answer to that question.
"LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes," the follow-up to 2008's well-received "LEGO Batman," keeps much of its focus squarely on the Dark Knight and trusty sidekick Robin. But Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash and other members of DC royalty make appearances as well, elevating what was already an enjoyable game into a must-play for any self-respecting DC fan.
The addition of many Justice League regulars to the list of playable characters is but one of several significant changes made to "LEGO Batman 2." Gone is the traditional hub that has served as the jumping-off point for past LEGO games, replaced by a fully realized Gotham City that gamers can explore, complete with such familiar landmarks as Ace Chemicals and Wayne Tower. Travellers Tales also opted to give Batman and Co. a voice, ditching the cutesy LEGO-ese of past games in favor of full-blown narration. A smart script and quality voice acting help make this move a success, and hopefully future LEGO games will continue to include actual voice work.
The gameplay, itself, returns relatively unchanged. "LEGO Batman 2" is still about smashing everything in sight in order to collect studs, solve puzzles and discover all the hidden characters, gold bricks and other secrets the game has to offer. To help them on that path, Batman and Robin gain access to a variety of suits that grant them special abilities and powers, such as a costume that allows Batman to store electricity and then discharge it in order to activate switches. Other characters you can unlock have many of the same powers granted by the Dynamic Duo's various costumes, thus opening up the game's Free Play mode to whomever you like.
The campaign clocked in at around six hours for my kids and I to complete, but after that there were levels to replay in Free Play mode and the streets of Gotham to explore with some of DC's elite. And that's where the real fun lies, be it taking to the skies as the Man of Steel (complete with John Williams' unforgettable score), using Green Lantern's power ring to build constructs out of special glowing green blocks or zipping around Gotham as Flash. Each of the unlockable heroes and villains has their own special abilities, and my kids and I quickly established our own personal favorites. While "LEGO Batman 2" can be played solo, I couldn't imagine enjoying it any other way than via split-screen co-op.
As much fun as I had with "LEGO Batman 2," there are some areas that caused some frustration. Flying created the most consternation, especially when trying to guide a character onto or around a building. Often the camera would force my character to turn away from the building I was trying to ascend, causing me to stop and readjust my focus. Another odd issue involved a strange pause that occurred when the game would auto-save each time you discovered one of the 250 gold bricks. Your characters remain frozen in place until the save completed, but enemies are free to wail away on you relentlessly.