Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes Preview
Traveller’s Tales’ perpetual production line of Lego games is quintessentially formulaic by nature: hit that, collect this, chortle wildly through the charming cut-scene.
Frankly, it could continue recycling this dutiful template until the end of existence without so much as a squeaky whine from its core demographic (kids and bigger kids, lest you’ve forgotten).
And Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes doesn’t alter much – quite rightly so – but Traveller’s Tales has been canny enough to realise that its vision was due a slight rebuild, and has taken Gotham and its citizens into a new direction that should make this sequel the freshest offering since Lego Star Wars blasted into space.
Historically, Batman has often been given the short shrift by adversarial maniacal idols of DC Comic’s distinguished Rogues Gallery, and that was certainly the case in 2008’s Lego Batman game.
In the sequel, the risk is that the Caped Crusader could suffer the same fate once again but this time at the hands of his ally. In a divisive turn, Superman (making his Lego debut) could potentially overshadow his Gotham-dwelling foil; as for one he gets all of the best powers (flight, heat vision, freeze breath).
It’s an arsenal of absolute supremacy that videogames in the past have failed to translate, but which doesn’t prove much of a problem for the tongue-in-cheek nature of the Lego videogames.
“With all Lego games it’s about ‘how do we make it fun?’ rather than focusing on making them the hardest experience possible,” says producer Philip Ring.
Superman will, unsurprisingly, have all the coolest abilities.
“So when it was time to include Superman, it was a case of that he has to feel cool, he has to feel awesome. While we’re doing that, though, we have to make sure we don’t make the other characters any less important so they all have their own unique skills throughout the levels. Superman just kind of adds to that as well.”
Aside from the Man of Steel’s inimitable arsenal, Batman, Robin and other DC characters will have a series of suits with tailored functions to expand the otherwise staid abilities that the heroes are known for.
Batman has a sensor suit which enables him to appear invisible and an electricity suit that absorbs charges, while Robin has an acrobatic costume that enhances his platforming abilities.
It’s not just a step to make each of the characters relevant (while creating specific objectives for each hero), but it’s also a measure to keep the focus very much on the Dynamic Duo.
“Because it takes place in Gotham City, it just felt right to keep the focus on Batman,” states Ring. “He is the main key point of the story, so you have Batman and Robin, then Superman kind of joins in with some other characters but it really is more of a Batman story that follows through.”
The story begins as Bruce Wayne is being given the prestigious ‘Man of the Year’ award for his contributions to Gotham, as the Joker pays an uninvited visit.
Inevitably, a fight ensues, but it’s not long before it’s revealed the clown has teamed-up with Lex Luther to break out all of Arkham’s inmates.
For the first time ever in the series, Lego characters will now be voiced.
It’s with this huge cast of heroes and villains that the playground has been expanded, Gotham City once again transformed into a sprawling open-world environment.
Famous locations are spread across the scenery: from above the infamous spot of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death, the Monarch Theatre, can be glimpsed, elsewhere Axis Chemicals and Wayne Tower loom far in the distance.
But this all pales in comparison to the most momentous modification to the Lego blueprint: voices. For the first time in Lego history, each of the characters will utter words from their brick-mouths and while you would expect this to sideline the charming parody, it serves only to enrich the humour.
“It’s really about what we can do with the characters,” smiles Ring. “Take Superman, for example, people have a good idea of what they expect from him.
“But the Lego version of Superman almost comes across as a little bit arrogant and that’s reflected in the way he speaks and the way he delivers his lines but also in the way his animations are portrayed – slicking his hair back and things like that. It’s just a bit different to what you would expect.”