If you’ve played one LEGO game, you’ve essentially played them all. It’s a phrase that’s been heard a time or two since Traveller’s Tales started recreating blockbuster movie hits into block-buster video games since LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game released back in 2005. Their ease of play and whimsical storylines are told through hysterical mannerisms, never resorting to spoken words. But that’s all changed now, because LEGO characters have finally found their voices in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.
The basic gameplay of the LEGO games is essentially the same: run, jump and bash buttons to eliminate enemies; use the multiple characters’ unique abilities or suites to solve simple environmental puzzles and collect studs to purchase the vast amounts of additional content. It’s the way the games recreate the beloved series in LEGO style that provides charm and lasting appeal. By giving the characters voices, LEGO Batman 2 doesn’t just find its charm, it breathes fresh new life into the LEGO titles.
For the first in the franchise to feature voice acting, it’s done extremely well. All of the characters sound just as we know them from their respective animated series, many of which were obviously the inspiration for the game’s storyline. Ironically, two of the most evil masterminds, the Joker and Lex Luthor, have formed a friendship and they’re out to do what they do best – take over the world. With the help of Joker’s toxins, they’ve set out to sway Luthor’s presidential campaign in the attempt to gain ultimate power, and only Batman and friends can stop their quest for world domination. Of course, in typical LEGO fashion, the storyline and characters are completely hysterical. But, now that the characters can speak, we find the funniest and most entertaining cut scenes ever witnessed in a LEGO game. For example, when Batman takes a bit of a beating shortly into the game and Superman flies in to save the day, his sidekick Robin becomes overly infatuated with the flying superhero, instead of his long-time partner – much to the Batty Boy’s chagrin – who then gives his sharp rebuttal after locking himself inside his Batwing. On occasions the dialogue's so good that you’ll likely find yourself blasting through levels in excited anticipation of seeing what laughs the cut scenes will conjure up next.
While the character cast starts out primarily with the Batman series, it quickly delves much deeper into the pages of beloved DC Comics characters of old: Wonder Woman, The Flash, Mad Hatter, Brainiac and Cyborg are only but a few – all of whom can be purchased to become playable characters in Free Play mode once the level is completed in the main Story Mode. Even though the game’s named for Batman, it’s Superman and his icy breath and fiery eyes that become the star of the show. Maybe Traveller’s Tales wanted to give Superman his long overdue videogame respects after the abysmal Superman 64 all those years ago? Whatever the inspiration for this, Superman stealing the show and Batman’s jealousy of him doing so makes for some hilarious moments, and is simply not to be missed by fans.
While LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 on Vita was nearly an identical version of its PS3 counterpart — minus the online cooperative multiplayer — in LEGO Batman 2 this isn’t quite the case, even though both versions only offer local ad-hoc multiplayer support. Here, the stories are exactly the same, but the level layouts are somewhat different, and are only slightly based on the HD versions. This creates a more streamlined approach and an overall more portable-friendly game. Of course, the boss fights against Lex Luthor and Joker strapped into giant LEGO robot mechs are still intact, as well as the handful of vehicle based levels thrown in for variety. But the open world extra of the PS3 version is replaced with several Justice League levels that find you fighting off horde after horde of baddies with a preselected line-up of Justice League heroes. While it lacks the personality of the main game, it’s still a fun and better fitting option for the handheld. Touch screen controls are also featured in this version, but they’re counter-intuitive and feel like a tacked on addition instead of an actual gameplay mechanic. Thankfully, they’re optional – with the exception of one simplistic hacking mini-game – and never hinder the gameplay experience.
The game looks great on the Vita’s OLED screen during gameplay, but once again, while extremely entertaining, the cut scenes are displayed in a much lower graphical resolution than the gameplay – something that should’ve been fixed since LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7. While the graphics take a dip in spots, the audio presentation never wavers. The Batman movies have always featured an outstanding orchestral soundtrack (possibly one of the best in Hollywood) and from its brooding undertones to its power themes, they’re just as fantastic here as always. You’ll definitely want to grab your gaming headphones for this one.
PlayStation Vita has been negatively criticised for its “carbon copies” of PS3 games, but LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes sneaks itself out of this category like a bat in the night by featuring a different – portable friendly — game with its own unique set of features and extras. As expected, all of the family friendly, charming LEGO themes and gameplay are fully intact, but now that the LEGO characters have found their voices, the game brilliantly comes to life like an animated television show like never before. While the PS3 version is superior, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes on Vita crosses the finish line right on its tail.