|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS, 3DS, Vita|
|Dev: Traveller's Tales|
|Pub: Warner Bros.|
|Release: Summer 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
LEGO Batman: The Videogame was the best-selling LEGO game in history, so it should surprise precisely no one that there is a sequel, entitled LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, due this summer. It will be tough for this game to stand out—there have been so many LEGO titles lately that it's hard to keep track of them, and it's even harder to top Arkham City for Batman-themed video game awesomeness. But longtime LEGO developer Traveller's Tales is stuffing enough new content into LEGO Batman 2 that it might be worth taking a look at.
For starters, the LEGO Batman games are unusual in that they feature new stories rather than retelling well-known tales. The first game drew inspiration from the entire Batman universe—the comics, the animated TV show, the movies, etc. The second game will cast an even wider net. Just look at the subtitle, "DC Super Heroes."
Yes, this means that the entire DC universe—in particular the Justice League—will be fair game for Batman 2's brand-new plot. The story involves Lex Luthor and the Joker teaming up to wreak havoc, with Batman and Robin as their main adversaries. Batman 2 will feature 48 playable characters, with more than 50 comic-book characters making an appearance of some kind. In addition to Batman, Lex Luthor, and the Joker, players will encounter Wonder Woman, Robin, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter (whoever that is).
And Superman. Don't forget about Superman. This superhero will come equipped with his trademark heat vision and freeze breath, not to mention his cape and flying ability. Flying will be especially useful given that the game takes place in an open world—while there will be a linear succession of missions to complete, you can spend as much time as you want seeing the world from above, Arkham City-style.
Of course, it's strange for a LEGO game to be based on an entire universe, and to tell a fresh story, instead of running through the plot of a single film. In other games, the franchise tends to draw its humor from parodying well-known movie scenes, but in LEGO Batman, the creators are forced to be a little more creative. And as the first game showed at times, it can be difficult to tell a fresh story while sticking to another LEGO game rule—the rule that the characters can't speak.
So for LEGO Batman 2, Traveller's Tales is throwing that rule to the wind. For the first time, LEGO characters will be voice-acted. There's not much information yet about the voice actors who've been hired, but the trailers reveal a convincing Joker, and it's hard to do worse than Christian Bale when it comes to voicing Batman. Hands-down, this is the gutsiest step that Traveller's Tales has taken with the LEGO series, which has become rather predictable in recent years. It could mark the beginning of an exciting new era for the franchise, or it could ruin the whole vibe and be remembered as a costly mistake.
Batman 2 will also feature a few gameplay upgrades. The Batcave will play a greater role as a hub than it has in the past. Batman will have access to all of his famous vehicles. Also, you can switch between playable characters easily, and you'll have a wide variety of suits you can wear to change your abilities. An electricity suit comes straight out of Infamous, allowing you to absorb electric shocks and use them to power various kinds of equipment. And Robin's acrobat suit will allow you to reach new areas via trapeze.
Even with all these changes, we're expecting many elements of the LEGO formula to stay the same. LEGO games have always been child-friendly, with low difficulty, simple puzzles, and very little penalty for dying. They also allow you to break objects into tiny LEGO studs for points, and to put together new items out of LEGO pieces. The cutscenes are always light and humorous, even if the source material is rather dark—in fact, that contrast is often the reason the scenes are so funny. All of this should make a return for LEGO Batman 2.
Since LEGO games broke onto the scene with Star Wars seven years ago, the series has slowly lost its sense of innovation. Many recent titles seem to have been churned out according to a very specific formula. Those of us who didn't write Traveller's Tales off entirely imagined that it would continue to pump out decent-but-unremarkable games until people stopped buying them. It looks like the developers are aiming to prove us all wrong with Batman 2.
Date: April 13, 2012