"Far from Dynamic"
With 12 games released since 2005, you'd think that Travelers' Tales' LEGO-themed spin on popular franchises would be losing steam fast. Then came LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, which, so far, has wowed critics with the way it has shaken up the regular formula, from the inclusion of full-on voice acting to the introduction of an open world to play through and explore.
Sadly, that is not the case for LEGO Batman 2 for the 3DS and PS Vita. In the transition to handhelds, many of the new and welcome additions of the console version (mainly the explorable open world) are left out, making for a more traditional LEGO experience that doesn't do much to freshen things up.
One thing that remains intact for this version is the story (voice acting included). Lex Luthor is running for president, and with the help of the Joker and other villains, is set on getting elected through less-than-wholesome methods. Naturally, it is up to Batman and Robin to put a stop to that, with help from Superman and eventually others heroes like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern.
As a whole, LB2's plot is pretty standard stuff, but it's made much more memorable thanks to the finely-executed voice-acting and delightful sense of humor (the interplay between Batman and Superman made me chuckle particularly). The one downside about the plot, in my opinion, is how the other superheroes don't show up until the end. For nearly the entirety of the adventure, it's just the Dynamic Duo and the Man of Steel. I'm more of a Batman fan than, say, an Aquaman or Martian Manhunter fan, so I shouldn't complain much, but considering that the game is called DC Super Heroes, the lack of screen time for most of DC's heroes was a bummer.
Gameplay in LEGO Batman 2 is… pretty much what you'd expect from a LEGO game. You run around and navigate levels (in this case, scaled down versions of the story levels from the console version), beat up goons, switch between two playable characters, and, most noticeably, break objects and collect LEGO studs, which act as currency. If you've played one of the previous LEGO games, or even so much as tried one at the mall, then you'll find few, if any, surprises here.
Puzzles of a rather simple nature abound throughout, most of which can be solved via the specialized suits that Batman and Robin can use to turn invisible, withstand electricity, walk up metal pathways, chuck bombs, etc. Usually, solving these puzzles results in rewards, such as "minikits" that unlock more characters, red LEGO bricks that give you various cheats, and musical notes that come with voice samples from the game's cast. Not all of these rewards can be attained using Batman, Robin, and Superman, however, often requiring abilities that none of them possess.
That's where LEGO Batman 2's "Free Play" mode comes in. Here you can play through levels that have been cleared in the story mode, but this time with any of the 50-or-so characters, both good and bad, that you have acquired. As you expand your menagerie of heroes and villains (whom you can buy at the Batcave, which acts as main hub), you'll be able to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles that you were unable to before.
As I noted before, LEGO Batman 2's plot features fewer heroes than one would expect or hope for (and it's still a bummer). Someone at Travelers' Tales must have noticed, as indicated by the inclusion of handheld-exclusive "Justice League" missions. Each of these missions sets you up with a group of DC's finest, as you take on eight waves of baddies, switching to a new hero with each new wave. Combat is the focus of these missions, though fighting in this game is pretty much button-mashing until the opposition lies in pieces on the floor (LEGO pun intended).
All these modes and gameplay elements make for an experience that, while it does entertain, cannot hide rather unsettling flaws. The most jarring of which is the game's rather intense simplicity. Yeah, I know that this a game designed for younger players, but the puzzles and platforming segments, in most cases, were so simple that I question whether little kids playing will find it challenging a lot of the time. Since these elements are the meat of DC Super Heroes, it's a bit of a disappointment that the challenge is practically nonexistent. I was almost offended by how easy it was at times.
Another issue I had was with the roster of playable characters, as most of them were pretty much carbon copies of the more famous heroes and villains, rarely featuring an ability that set them apart from everyone else. This means that, unless you're a fan of these lesser-known DC characters, you'll probably stick with the A-listers like Batman and Superman for the long run (why would an average Joe play as Lucius Fox, Captain Cold, or Vixen in a game staring the Dark Knight?).
Lastly, there's the inclusion of the cutscenes from the console version, which sometimes come out muddy and blurred on the smaller screen (especially on 3DS) and were occasionally inconsistent with the in-game action. More than once, for example, Robin is shown in a blue-and-white suit which does not appear in the handheld version. I don't mind a mild oversight every now and then, but to me it seems slightly lazy.
This kind of sums up LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes on handhelds. It feels almost as if Traveler's Tales went through the motions and hastily put this version together in an attempt to get the game to as many platforms as possible. True, it can be fun to break things and collect studs, and going back to levels to collect rewards you couldn't get before can amuse for a few hours, but LB2 does nothing to make itself stand out among the ever-growing pack of LEGO games. If you have to pick one version of this game, the choice is obvious. Stick to the console version.
GameDynamo's Score for LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PS Vita)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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