LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Wii U) Review
The whole third party situation with the Wii U is potentially one of weirdest we’ve seen in the industry yet. Developers aren’t really putting out any original content for the console, and besides a few choice titles coming towards the end of the year, it seems the Wii U is only getting ports. 505 Interactive brought us the lacklustre Sniper Elite V2 a few weeks ago, and many were shocked to find out just how much of the game’s contents were seemingly torn from the Wii U version.
Well, despite being nearly a year late to the console, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is thankfully the full package that was released to other consoles all the way back in June 2012. But the burning question still remains – and the comparison is pretty fair, I feel. Which of these open world LEGO games deserves your attention more? The Wii U exclusive or the multiplatform LEGO Batman 2? They’re both great games in their own right, but before we can make that decision and comparison, we need to judge LEGO Batman 2 on its own merits.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is the same game that you’ve possibly already played elsewhere –there are no major improvements and unfortunately there is no downloadable content included either. It’s worth highlighting, before I even move on into the real nitty gritty of this review, that there is nothing really worthwhile in this package that would warrant a double dip. With that out of the way, let’s get into what makes LEGO Batman 2 so great.
The game’s narrative seems to mimic almost any Batman based video game. Joker has escaped Arkham Asylum and plans to disrupt a “Man of the Year” ceremony. The Man of the Year plot device is actually a clever way to bring together the DC Universe characters – as Lex Luthor is understandably miffed when he misses out on the award, and Bruce Wayne is in attendance to witness the Joker’s return. Of course, this means he joins Joker and they both hatch a plan to do the usual super villain stuff that they’re both known for.
The story has some great moments that will but a smile on your face, though the game is admittedly skewed towards a much younger crowd. Of particular note is the way the team portrays Batman as a very deadpan, humourless character while other zany and over the top stuff happens around him. It’s a very easy way to get the player laughing, but I can’t fault it – it works quite well for a LEGO game. Expect to see all your favourite DC characters making appearances along the way too, including the likes of Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more.
Lending itself to comparison with LEGO City Undercover, LEGO Batman 2 is the first LEGO game released to go open world, giving players a choice in what they want to do and when they want to do it. It’s a good system – it basically replaces the small and enclosed hub in the original games with a more expansive and open locale to explore, as well as masking the flaws with the typical LEGO game structure. The world has heaps to do and feels like a genuine LEGO rendition of Batman: Arkham City.
Progressing in Story Mode through missions unlocks more gadgets, which unlocks more areas in Gotham City to explore – think of it like a crude Metroid-style model of exploration. Despite the model of exploration, however, the missions you have to complete are quite similar to previous LEGO games. That is, they’re linear – you collect items, smash everything, build things and then complete the level. There’s not a whole lot of variation throughout the game’s fifteen missions. Though some on-rails sections where players control vehicles and whatnot are nice, they just become repetitive button mashing sequences. This is great for the younger player, but for the older players it’s prone to getting boring very fast.
The characters themselves are still subject to the game’s shallow combat system, but it’s still (weirdly) a step above LEGO City: Undercover, despite coming out earlier. All characters can punch or kick their way through bad guys. However, as with other games in the series, it never amounts to anything more than button mashing. Each character does have their own individual play style, and can access other areas (as usual). Superman can fly through Gotham City, while Batman uses his gadgets to traverse the cityscape. There are even more variations for some characters – Robin, for example, can wear different suits to gain different techniques and explore newer areas. All in all, LEGO Batman 2 is still the great game that it was last year, albeit quite simplistic in design.
The Wii U version brings a few new things to the table but nothing particularly innovative. The GamePad can be used as a mini-map for the game’s world, pointing out where to go next and allowing for way-points to be placed should the player wish to explore more. It can also be utilised to switch characters during gameplay on-the-fly, but the process is weirdly more cumbersome than just pressing the triggers on the GamePad, so it kind of seems like a pointless addition. Statistics and collectibles for each level are also displayed, which is nice for the completionists.
Other features that add value to the package include a rather interesting splitscreen multiplayer mode. The game can be played across two screens – Player 1 plays on the TV with a Wii Remote and Nunchuk, while Player 2 can play on a GamePad, independently. It’s worth noting that there is no Pro Controller support, and this mode really makes the game’s framerate suffer, which is a bit of a downer. Still, kudos to the developers for trying something different with this port. Of course, there’s lots of costumes and vehicles to collect and unlock too.
LEGO Batman 2 is quite a lengthy game – the main campaign takes roughly seven hours to complete, but anyone looking to find and complete everything could easily take twenty hours or more. New optional content such as the “Citizens in Peril” missions are cool, and give players more things to do in their ever increasing quest to achieve 100% completion, but they don’t quite feel substantial enough. Other optional content includes time trials, obstacle courses and other standard LEGO games fare.
Visually, LEGO Batman looks pretty good, but it is quite clear that it’s not doing it’s best to take advantage of the Wii U hardware. Facial features in particular are great, and give a lot of life to the characters. Despite Gotham City feeling quite atmospheric, it’s missing the “life” that LEGO City Undercover had (which, even then, wasn’t really that much of an accomplishment either). Comparing with other available versions of the game, it’s somewhat disappointing to see the game perform worse than it’s high definition counterparts, with many framerate drops and poor draw distance on certain objects. To be entirely clear – the game looks the same as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions, but doesn’t perform anywhere near as well. Load times are nowhere near as dreadful as LEGO City Undercover, however.
The game’s aural offerings are quite substantial too, but a lack of consistency makes the whole package feel a little bit haphazardly put together. The game itself is fully voiced during cutscenes, with (I think) every character’s animated series counterpart voice actor returning to voice their LEGO counterpart. The writing and the jokes, while good, don’t reach the same level as LEGO City Undercover. It’s very bizarre, to have almost no voice acting outside of the usual grunts and groans of the characters during the actual missions – making the game seem quieter than usual while actually playing it.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is quite good. It successfully fuses the iconic Danny Elfman score for the earlier Batman films with some of the classic orchestral John Williams super hero scores. This creates a very well put together super hero themed soundtrack. The soundtrack really does add another layer to the game’s production as well as some additional authenticity to the whole experience.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is a fantastic LEGO game that, while still suffering from some of the conventions the series previously established, still does a great job at attempting to subvert the same problems these conventions have created. While repetitive and somewhat samey, it’s bound to be enjoyed by the younger generation. The older and more experienced generation are also sure to have some fun with it, but are also more likely to get bored quickly.
Is it worth double dipping? Absolutely not. But it’s worth noting that LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is still as good of a game as it was last year – it’s just marred by incredibly bad timing.
4 / 5