It’s hip to be square!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock with a sheet over the top of it, eye mask applied and donning a set of ear plugs, you’ll almost certainly have played, or at least heard of he Lego series of computer games. Built on the simple principle of collecting as much as possible, smashing everything to bits and extremely light puzzle solving, Traveller’s Tales have created a series of charming games that appeal to adults as much as they do to children. In a world where most games are dark, depressing and difficult, the light hearted humour and tongue-in-cheek attitude of the Lego series, along with the extremely easy difficulty level make for a somewhat polar opposite to what the majority of games today offer. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is the five thousand, six hundredth game in the Lego series, and while little has changed from game to game, it’s safe to say that Traveller’s Tales have honed the magic formula that makes these games so enticing to a fine art.
Unlike it’s bigger console brethren, DC Super Heroes is not an open world game, nor is it built on the same engine. What we have here is a direct port of the 3DS version, which features 14 levels that tie in with the same story, but are much more sparse and scaled down in comparison. Being a game that was aimed at the 3DS, it’s also very noticeable that considerable cut backs have been made, which is a massive shame as I’m sure with a little effort the PS3 version of the game would run on our beefy Playstation Vita’s. If Bend Studio can fit Uncharted into one tiny cart, I have to wonder why Traveller’s Tales couldn’t be bothered to achieve similar with the Lego series. What we have here is the second of three decidedly lazy ports, and although it’s still a fair bit of fun, Vita owners are yet again missing out on a fully fledged console experience, the likes of which we know the Vita is more than capable of. But let’s ignore the fact that this is a lazy port and delve into the experience that we have on offer here. Is it worth your money? Well that really depends on how much of a Lego fan you are.
The plot for DC Super Heroes is quite simple . At the “Man of the Year” awards, Bruce Wayne is awarded the title with Lex Luthor coming in as runner up. Joker and several other villains then proceed to gatecrash the party, and Batman defeats and captures them all. Lex Luthor, feeling sour from only receiving runner up in the awards, uses his “deconstructor”, a cryptonite powered invention capable of (yep, you guessed it) deconstructing black blocks to break Joker free. Joker then uses the Deconstructor to free all of the prisoners in Arkham Asylum, and it’s up to Batman and the other DC Super Heroes to round up and defeat them. For the first time in a Lego game the cut scenes are fully voiced acted (which has since been echoed in Lego: Lord of the Rings) and it is handled very well. The voice over performances are brilliant, though I have to admit I didn’t discover as many laugh out loud moments like I have done with previous Lego games. Unfortunately, as this is a port of the 3DS title, the animated cut scenes are extremely blurry and as a result I found it really difficult to engage in or care about the story, instead finding myself battling to focus on what was happening rather than focusing on the terrible compression that is displayed here. You have to wonder why Traveller’s Tales let this abysmal state of affairs happen, because the cut scenes are from the console versions and the Vita memory card is more than big enough to have bigger and clearer videos.
Elsewhere the graphics are functional, but lacking. The framerate is smooth enough, but the environments lack detail and are sparse. Lego games thrive on bringing their subject matter to life in a quirky way, but I found the game quite boring to look at. I actually searched youtube for a video of the PS2 Lego games to remind me what they look like, and the standard here is even below that of the initial entries in the series. It’s a shame that it all looks so bland and there isn’t more to destroy, as breaking and collecting is still fun, even after so many entries in the Lego franchise. The platforming is a little floaty, but generally the game controls fairly well and touch screen controls are purely optional (I didn’t bother) only being used for aiming. Each level basically involves going from A to B, destroying C, fighting a few baddies, putting key D into door E and moving to the next area. There are several bosses which I actually quite enjoyed defeating (often you switch between characters so you can use special abilities, for example, Superman melts away armor, revealing handles that Robin uses his grappling hook to destroy) to mix things up a little, and an absolutely atrocious level that you are in vehicle in a chase, which didn’t work at all for me due to bad handling and rubbish objectives, which basically involved killing wave after wave of baddies.
There are heaps, and heaps of characters in the game (more than you could realistically remember), and each has their own set of abilities which puts them in a specific class. For example, some characters can fly, others can use grappling hooks and so on. Your initial playthrough of the game is with a strict set of characters in Story mode, and so the majority of special bricks and collectables cannot be obtained on your first run. The game doesn’t take long to complete, probably around five to seven hours for most people, but the option of freeplay where you can repeat levels and switch to any character you wish on the fly makes a second complete playthrough compulsory if you want to see and unlock everything. Nothing is really hidden in-game, so it’s more a case or switching to a character to activate something you couldn’t first time through as you lacked the ability in order to access the secret, which range from stud multipliers, to sound bites (Character voices) and new costumes. If you’re a big fan of DC characters you’ll have lots of fun collecting everything, though not everything needs to be collected to platinum the game, which is good as there’s so much here the game would have gotten old for me long before I reached platinum status. Outside of the story and freeplay modes are the Justice League missions, which are basically a set of waves where you have to defeat enemies, and these don’t really add a lot to the game but can be fun initially. The problem is the combat lacks any real depth so in order to destroy almost all of the enemies it’s simply a case of grabbing and throwing them into one another. The Justice League mode does throw in a few of the main game’s bosses, and makes you play as one character at a time rather than switching between two like you do in the Story mode (here you can character between waves) but by the time I had finished it I was bored.
Musically the game holds up very well indeed, with a fantastic score of orchestrated pieces, which really help add a cinematic feel to things. Luckily, the music is all of high quality too, it seems the blurry compression of the cut scenes didn’t extend to the music. There really isn’t a great deal more I can say. If you don’t like Lego games you won’t find anything different here, but if you do like them, be cautious. This is in essence a soulless lazy port when it could have been so much more, and yet the gameplay we’ve seen so many times before still remains addictive to this day. I’d advise picking it up if you can find it for under £20, like I did. If you’re itching to play Lego games then it’s not a complete failure as it manages to scrape by at being a reasonable game to play. If we were looking at this as a release that was made exclusively for Vita the score would have been lower, but knowing it was a direct port of a 3DS title and having low expectations, I had more fun than I was expecting (partly due to the absolute slating it has received on many websites). Pick it up if you’re stuck for something to play and want a bit of mindless fun on a low budget, just don’t expect anything like the graphics, open world and depth of the fully fledged console Lego we love.