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Lego Batman 2 review: Old ideas marry new ambition

Open-world sequel sticks to what it knows - but, luckily, what it knows, works

With the rate Lego tie-ins are churned out, you'd presume they're like most entry-level games - designed with the least effort possible to extract the most amount of pocket money from your children. You'd be wrong. Since 2005's okay-ish Lego Star Wars the games have, quite simply, got better.

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In fact, we've had twelve ever-improving takes on monster franchises die-casting the universes of Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean in that blocky form. Why the repeat performance? Because they're moulded with care, and someone's noticed. That's clear from the opening moments of Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes, now open-world and fully voiced.

Joker's up to his old tricks, inviting a rogue's gallery to party-crash Bruce Wayne's rather egotistical 'Billionaire Philanthropist of the Year' awards because, well, comic mischief and all that. With the help of DC's Justice League in a campaign featuring Superman, Black Canary, Aquaman, Nightwing and an impressive seventy-strong roster, fifty of them playable, you'll thwart a Lex Luthor/Joker double act. The stars of the show, though, are the Dynamic Duo.

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Batman and Robin's co-op moves are central, and while a real life splitscreen buddy isn't required, those going solo will constantly see a flashing 'Connect Controller' hint in the upper right corner that was probably put in to upset shy people. It's playable either way though, letting loners instantly switch characters to tackle player-specific sections. For instance, characters can change into costumes and utilise power-ups. To fool a soldier at a checkpoint, Batman throws on spec ops gear and uses its invisibility. Robin, meanwhile, is partial to blue spandex, which enables pole-swinging platforming and the ability to summon a giant hamster ball as an enemy-squasher.

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Characters aren't tethered to each other. Later, when levels turn from linear to open-world, the screen splits to let co-op partners go their own way. Computer-controlled characters, however, will follow you like a hungry puppy, acting as mobile extra life platforms (when you die, simply switch to the person more alive than you) and puzzle-solvers. Companion AI is smarter, but the optimum team, of course, is two humans - preferably parent and child.

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Friends and families fresh off any Lego game in the past decade will be at home here. Puzzles are reassuringly familiar: you'll hold a button and watch structures rebuild before your eyes, or double jump across a chasm, or use Batman's grapple hook to swing and zoom. It's the definition of undemanding, even mild peril offset by the fact death lasts half a second and sees you exploding into brightly coloured studs with a satisfying tumble.

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