“A Talking Bat?”
Lego Batman 2 is the second Lego game I’ve played that’s replaced the signature grunts and playful vocalizations of past games with actual voice-over dialog. I’m not sure that’s a change I like. When Lego LOTR did it, it made some small amount of sense, seeing as how they simply piped in the dialog from the actual movies, spoken by the original actors. But the important thing to consider here, to me, is that it simply isn’t needed.
Part of what gave the Lego games so much charm has always been its silliness, including the way the characters had to pantomime to each other and bring across a sense of story in imaginative, often humorous ways. Bringing in spoke dialog in large part closes the window on opportunities for comedy, and – let’s face it – Batman hasn’t historically been a sizzling hotbed of hilarity. While developer Traveller’s Tales have injected some slapstick fun into the proceedings (mostly in Robin’s googly-eyed adoration for The Man of Steel), the whole thing feels so much more grown up than the Lego games of yesteryear. And that’s simply not the way that a Lego game should feel.
Don’t get me wrong: Smashing bricks, collecting Lego coins, and unlocking bonus characters, vehicles, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink is as much fun as ever! If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, and Traveller’s Tales has left the gameplay largely unchanged since the original Lego Star Wars back in 2005. Maneuver an open-world map, smashing structures to gain coins, and make your way to levels based on key moments of the movies, where you smash more objects for coins. It’s so simple, any child could pick it up and master it (which they do; that’s what it’s meant for!).
However, where most other Lego games – and I’ve played each one with the exception of the second Harry Potter game – make the hub world a fun but relatively small playground used primarily to connect the different story levels, Lego Batman 2’s Gotham City feels entirely too large to explore properly, larger than most actual levels. The amount of things to do in the hub world – quests, coins, items, unlockables – is prohibitive, and honestly turned me off really wanting to go back to it after completing the story to find all the game had to offer, as I’ve done in many other titles up to this point. The sheer size of it made me feel that at all times I was simply wandering around aimlessly, without a clear sense of purpose, and that just isn’t fun.
Of course, the Lego games are still all about the co-op fun, more so now than ever before. And with a roster full of super-heroes and villains to play as, with a variety of super powers to use, it’s hard for any gamer parent with gamer children to resist. Nor should they. The game still plays well, and offers as much 2-player fun as any of its precursors. But whether it’s the small changes in game design or the fact that I may have simply reached my tolerance threshold, Lego Batman 2 didn’t draw me in the way these games once did, and I haven’t taken it back off my shelf to reach 100% completion since the day I beat the story mode.