Top critical review
Lost some of the charm of Lego games
on 3 May 2016
As a big fan of the Lego games, it was only a matter of time until I came around to playing Lego Batman 2. It's definitely my least favourite out of the ones I've played so far (HP, LotR, Batman 1, PotC, Star Wars, Marvel, Indiana 1) by a very long way. Quite a lot of the story felt like a drag, and whilst 3 stars may be a bit harsh, it's how I'd rate it compared to other Lego games.
Firstly, the cut scenes are long, frequent and tedious. I don't play Lego games for the story - I enjoy the fun casual gameplay, ability to smash *all the things* and collect 100%. Having each level preceded by (what feels like) a 5 minute cut scene, a loading screen, multiple non-skipable video clips and 2 mid-level cutscenes ... it all just felt like padding.
The level design was also poor compared to other games. At the start, the majority of levels seemed to go: Use character A to destroy blockage. Swap to character B to destroy next blockage. Swap back to A to destroy next blockage .... and repeat. After the game progressed a little, it seemed to require to to swap back and forth between two suits on the same character (not for bonus cannisters, but actual level progression). Whilst this is fine in freeplay, in story mode required you to run across a level multiple times, normally with a frustrating obstacle in the middle, which again was boring and tedious.
The levels also lacked a lot of the charm you normally see in Lego games. I love how you normally end up building things out of the blocks to solve problems in a jokey way. This game had none of it. You used the suit powers to hit targets, turn off forcefields and pull levers. The game also featured a number of vehicle levels which required you to do nothing but move crosshairs to shoot targets. As someone who is rubbish at aiming, these levels just seemed to take forever, especially when the boss regenerates health if you are too slow.
The game also had far fewer powerup suits than Lego Batman 1 which caused the same gameplay to be recycled over and over. Whilst the name of the game is 'DC Super heroes' you don't get to play with any other heroes (with the exception of Superman) until 2 levels before the end. At the start you end up facing multiple villains per level (which is just confusing) and then spend 10+levels fighting the same one over and over. It just didn't feel balanced and didn't continue to change things up.
The AI also didn't help. The second character wasn't very good at following you, especially through sections of the level which were difficult/time consuming to complete. At times you would be pounced on by more enemies than you could fight, only for the AI to be sat twiddling his thumbs or being beat up in a corner on the other side of the map.
The special powers were also more frustrating to use than in Batman 1. Super strength now requires you to press the action key in quick succession to activate it. Grappling requires you to aim. The magnet suit required you to be facing in juuuuuust the right direction for you to be able to activate the blocks. There were also a lot of times where you had to use x-ray vision to complete minigames (mazes, switches, twist the pipes) which just made the process slower and didn't add anything - I was perfectly happy with standing in a spotlight and pressing circle, as seen in other versions and the Gotham map. And flying seemed to have two separate sets of controls dependent on whether you were in or outside of a level.
Overall the game was a lot darker and a lot more serious. It lacked in jokes and the story seemed more like a movie than a Lego game. The art style was changed to be more realistic. Whilst other games clearly show a difference between realistic items (which are background features you can't destroy) and Lego bricks (which make up gameplay features/things to smash) everything seemed to be rendered in a similar art style making it harder to work out what you could/couldn't break and where you needed to go.
The game wasn't all negative. The Gotham map (in places) was very good, using a range of powerup suits to climb up buildings in interesting ways. When you started one of these goals, the path was clear and easy to follow and the puzzles were varied and fun. It was just a shame more of this wasn't included in the actual levels. The map wasn't difficult to navigate, the beacon system was useful for directions and the races weren't ridiculously difficult.
I did however feel that some characters were under used. Green Lantern, Flash and Wonderwoman served no actual use in Gotham, as their powers weren't ever needed to obtain Gold bricks. Likewise, many of the bad guys were useless - it would have been more interesting to see how you had to purchase them to make some puzzles achievable. I was also disappointed that the 'citizen in peril; only had 4-5 variations, with the same thing repeated over and over. Similarly, I disliked that some missions were as simple as 'hit 3 trees'. It added nothing except padding.
Overall it seemed like they tried something new with this game, and it lost what I love about the Lego games. I haven't yet finished it 100%, but it definitely seems to be one where I'm going to have to grit my teeth and get through it, rather than being happy to complete it multiple times over.