Lego games have somehow managed to frustrate me more than any game based on the lovely blocks should be capable of. Much like the rest of the world, I haven't been able to resist the charm, the sublime co-op and the humour TT Games has filled their games with, but the puzzles and the pacing have never managed to reach the heights of the rest of the package in my opinion.
It was difficult to spot any changes to the formula during the first hour with Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, especially since it has almost become a hallmark of the franchise that each chapter resembles that last one very closely, but without ever losing any of the charm.
The story starts off with the blocky Bats alter ego Bruce Wayne, who together with a certain Clark Kent, has been nominated for a Man of the Year award. Before long The Joker and a bunch of other villains join the festivities intent on ruining the evening, and it's up to Batman and Robin to save the day.
The rescue mission plays out in typical Lego fashions with enemies to beat up, blocks to collect, and gadgets to build in order to advance. The dynamic duo are given new abilities in the shape of various suits, and this is where it becomes apparent that something has changed.
In most of the previous Lego games solving a puzzle was usually just a question of pulling all the levers on screens, and use whatever blocks fell out to progress. It grew tedious quickly, and instead of focusing on how to progress the brain went into autopilot mode.
Therefore it's all the more positive to experience how the 15 missions on offer gradually offer better and better puzzles that require you to make good use of various super powers and suit combinations. It appears as if the puzzles and challenge is ramping up, and the end result is far more engaging than previous Lego games, at least from this reviewer's perspective.
The latest Batman adventure does not only improve features from previous Lego games, but also offers a few firsts for the franchise. The first of these new features may strike you as rather strange as the Lego characters have been given voices for the first time. TT Games have previously proven that it's entirely possible to tell great stories without a single word being uttered, but this time the characters have been given voices. They're of high quality, and perhaps they are also part of the reason for a better narrative flow than what previous games have managed.
The other all-new feature is also a major one, and instead of accessing the levels from a base, you can now explore all of Gotham City at your own leisure. It invites you to race around with the Batmobile sending missiles every which way, offers up loads of secrets, and all the sights and landmarks you'd imagine. Don't expect this to be a free roaming experience comparable with GTA, but it adds a few extra hours of gameplay to those who enjoy exploration.
If you rush through the game you can expect around 10 or 11 hours here, but much like previous games there is a lot to enjoy beyond that. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is bursting with bonus content in the shape of characters and unlockables. Red bricks unlocks various bonuses, and you'll have to find all 250 golden bricks if you're aiming for 100% completion.
It's even more fun to unlock new characters, and most of them are heroes or villains with special abilities than can unlock secret areas of already completed levels. Apart from expected figures like The Joker, The Penguin, Superman and Catwoman, there are others like Batgirl, The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and many more to discover. If you plan on unlocking everything you probably you're going to spend a huge chunk of your summer holiday doing it.
It's wonderful to see how well TT Games have responded to the criticism their later games have received, and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is without a doubt the best experience I've had so far with a Lego game. But in spite of the new features and improvements it still feels overly familiar at times, and it is more of an evolution rather than a revolution.
Improved level design, far better puzzles, and the wonderful co-operative gameplay we've come to expect result in a game you don't want to miss out on, regardless of whether you're a longtime fan or if you're just looking for a good time.