Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Reviewer: Andy Astruc
If you had asked me to play a Lego video game ten years ago I would have laughed in your face.
Playing games about children's toy bricks wasn't exactly on my mind when I could be shooting dudes and infiltrating nuclear bases.
The same applies to Batman, who has had some genuinely atrocious video games attached to his super name.
So it is with a touch of unfriendly nostalgia and appreciation for how far the world has come that I tell you to go and play Lego Batman 2. Immediately. You can make Superman ride a giraffe.
The lengthily titled Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes will be instantly familiar to anyone and everyone who played previous Lego titles by Traveller's Tales.
You control instantly recognisable, Lego versions of classic characters and take them on adventures, breaking all the block-based scenery and collecting thousands and thousands of shiny studs to unlock various unlockables.
Key differences quickly emerge, however; the most notable being the inclusion of voices. I was extremely skeptical when I heard the previously mute Lego characters would get all chatty, as a big part of the charm previously has been seeing slapstick pantomime versions of scenes we know and love.
Those fears turned out to be completely unfounded, however, as not only do the voices not ruin the experience, they provide some of the funniest moments in any Lego title.
Part of why this works is that Lego Batman 2 has an original story, rather than anything aping the films or other media.
Lex Luthor has broken The Joker out of Arkham Asylum to enlist his help in becoming the President of the United States.
In return he will let the clown prince of crime use a special Kryptonite-powered laser gun that only works on unbreakable black objects - you know, like everything Batman owns.
This deliciously obvious villain ex machina is just one of a constant stream of hilarious setups and one liners found in the game, which includes casual phone calls to the Justice League Watchtower in space, Batman and Superman being forced to make an appointment at an office building, and Robin lovingly stroking Superman's perfectly coiffed hair.
The game plays out with you controlling Batman and one or two others, with the power to instantly switch between them as is necessary for puzzles and combat.
Robin is your partner for a lot of the game, but thankfully the Boy Wonder is a lot more useful than he sounds.
Both he and the bat start with their normal complement of throwing weapons, but by picking up different suits they gain various abilities.
Batman can get a power suit to shoot rockets and break large objects and a stealthy suit for avoiding security cameras, among others.
Robin can pick up his acrobat suit to swing across gaps and -- strangely -- encase himself in a ball that can activate switches, or he can pick up the absurd magnet suit and walk up special blue walls.
Almost every room and sequence in the game requires liberal switching between characters and suits to get past various obstacles, but being a kids game it's always laid out reasonably simply.
The constant changing also keeps the levels from ever getting stale.
One minute you're bashing couches for extra studs, the next you're trying to switch off poison gas switches.
You'll freeze water spouts to make platforms, spray deadly chemicals into pipes, creep through underwater lairs and climb surveillance towers.
Just as you're starting to come to terms with your young ward, the game gives you Superman.
The mere existence of Superman in an environment like Gotham is hilarious, especially when he's placed in a level designed for a man whose power is having a cool belt.
Superman can fly, he can freeze people and objects by breathing, he has laser eyes. Oh, and he's invincible.
For a good while it's slightly embarrassing to run around with Batman when you could be a god.
It's all part of the joke, though, and since the Lego games aren't about difficulty it doesn't mess with any sort of balance, just makes for more fun.
Speaking of more, the other fancy new wheel on the Lego bus is Gotham City. As in the entire city.
Lego Batman 2 is open world, with all the bells and whistles that entails.
Heavily based on the gothic wonderland of the Tim Burton Batman films, Gotham is your blocky playground to explore.
The city looks amazing, with hulking, rusted skyscrapers and train lines held up by gigantic metal Lego-style statues.
All the landmarks are present, from Wayne Manor and your Batcave hub, to the devilish towers of Arkham, to the Ace Chemicals and Wayne Enterprises buildings.
It's legitimately impressive that the environments have as much personality as those in Arkham City, if not more.
It helps that the music is also wonderful, and soaked in feelings from the past.
Much comes from the aforementioned 1980s Batman films, with that iconic theme appearing often as you explore.
When you fly across the city as the Man of Steel, his complementary orchestral track seeps in and quickly makes you forget you're inside a game for kids, controlling a man made of plastic.
There's a ridiculous amount of activity going on in Gotham, and far too much business to conduct in only one playthrough.
Just like previous games, once you finish the story you'll likely have completed less than 20% of the game itself.
There are hundreds of thousands of studs to collect, of course, as well as gold and red blocks which can unlock further bits and pieces.
Being an open world, there are also vehicles to find and play with, beginning with the classic Batmobile and less-than-classic Robin Copter, but quickly opening up to include Harley Quinn's monster truck, Bane's drill machine and Killer Croc's speedboat. Don't ask why a crocodile needs a boat.
Speaking of the bad guys, they're all wandering the city just waiting to cause trouble.
Exploring will uncover various famous villains from the Batman universe and if you confront and defeat them you have the option to use some of those studs to purchase them for use in free play.
Add in the equally famous DC heroes on the other side and you've got a roster that would make any comic book geek pass out.
Most heroes and villains have their own specific way of fighting and getting around, such as The Flash's speed and Wonder Woman's lasso.
Once you complete the story the entire city is opened up for free play, so all your dreams of leading Poison Ivy and Green Lantern on a crime spree can finally come true.
It's all the little touches that really sell Lego Batman 2.
When Superman stands still he does muscle poses and flicks his hair back. Robin makes casual comments about being left out and unappreciated. News reports and characters make casual references to previous Batman comic -- and even video game -- events.
You can make Batman drive a school bus to the zoo and then commandeer a lion from the zoo. Lex Luthor's entire reasoning for starting his master plan in Gotham is that Bruce Wayne beat him to a Man of the Year award.
The game is just so damn fun and charming that I'm resisting the urge to go play it again right now. Traveller's have made major changes to an established formula by adding voices and an open world, and it paid off.
Lego Batman 2 might actually be my favourite Batman game to date, and certainly my favourite sandbox title this year.
Only the blackest of hearts could fail to enjoy the adventure.
Game Review: Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Published: 2:01PM Friday July 27, 2012 Source: Gamefreaks
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
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