Open-world exploration is new for the LEGO series, but despite all the Batmobile and Batwing fun, Gotham City isn't the innovation that stands out most: for the first time ever, the characters actually talk, rather than mumbling their way through limb-flailing melodrama. It could have been a misstep, but it's a huge improvement. Great voice acting and a witty script amplify Traveller's Tales' flair for comic timing, resulting in sustained hilarity.
This improvement allows the game to tell a decent original Batman story, and helps give the game a unique sense of character. The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent is superb, painting Superman as a do-good dullard that the moody Dark Knight can barely tolerate. Clever jokes and sharp writing will keep grown-ups amused, and there's still plenty of silly slapstick for the kids.
Batman & Robin's suits have been tweaked and upgraded since the last game, giving each outfit a variety of functions. Batman can turn invisible or knock out foes with an electric punch, while Robin can splatter them with acid or crush enemies in a plastic zorbing-ball. Superman can fly, fire lasers from his eyes, and freeze things solid with icy breath, but the other two characters are equally satisfying, which feels like an achievement in itself.
The 15 main story missions are designed with co-operation in mind, requiring you to use the skills of each character to solve puzzles and progress. Out in the open-world of Gotham you're encouraged to split up and explore alone, with plenty of mini-puzzle areas designed for the skills of a specific character. Whether you're saving citizens, collecting golden bricks, or squaring up against rogue DC supervillains, there's plenty to keep you busy in Gotham.
The vehicle physics won't win awards, but still feel like a vast improvement on the wonky efforts of previous games. Our only real complaint is Superman's open-world flight, which feels harder to control than we suspect was intended.
The new scale and scope bring some teething problems, but LEGO Batman 2 is still fantastic stuff. The combo-multiplier gives you a reason not to get yourself killed, and the level design is interesting and varied. New ways to interact with the environment ensure that you don't feel like you're just repeatedly smashing everything to pieces, and puzzles are great fun despite their simplicity. It's all far less whimsical this time, too: You'll solve puzzles because you understand the problem, not because you gave a monkey a banana.
Trimming off dead-weight as often as it adds something new, this is the strongest LEGO game yet. We've had seven years' worth of iterations, but these cheeky blocks of plastic are still fantastic.
The best Superman game you'll ever play
- Dialogue is genuinely funny
- Awesome DC characters to collect
- Batmobile + Batwing = Oh boy
- Improved puzzles and level design
- Flying feels imprecise