Batman is a stud.
Gamers frequently roll their eyes at sneering grown-ups who believe that video games are only for children, but sometimes they are—and that's okay. The Lego video game franchise has proudly built itself on turning lovable heroes into equally lovable Lego versions of themselves, most notably The Caped Crusader in the first Lego Batman released in 2008. So it comes to no surprise that Traveler's Tales has been busy milling about in their own cave developing this sequel, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, and the result is an open-world title that's appropriate for kids and enjoyable for parents too.
The most apparent point of curiosity is the game's title, which seems confusing at first since it's billed as a Batman adventure that just so happens to have superheroes from Justice League of America as well. In fact, it almost feels like a test run for a potential Lego DC Universe that leverages the Lego Batman brand to mitigate risk. It feels like a smarmy business decision.
At the start, Batman and Robin are undoubtedly the main characters who chase the Joker around Gotham City and attempt to thwart whatever unholy alliance he might have with Lex Luthor. Batman tries to contain the problem without involving Superman, but eventually admits to needing his aid about halfway through. It's not until the tail-end of the story that the other DC superheroes show their faces, to Batman's relief no doubt.
That's because The Dark Knight is no fool. Whenever Superman zooms into the scene with his laser beams, icy breath, godly strength, and awe-inspiring flight, he tends to steal the limelight. And that's exactly what happens: Once you have control of Superman, all of Batman's cool vehicles and suits just don't seem as cool anymore. Not only is The Man of Steel impervious to damage, but he makes it much easier to travel around Gotham City (while stringing Batman along for the ride). If it weren't for kryptonite and some obstacles in levels that only Batman can overcome, he would have been unquestionably the sidekick in the second half of the game.
Luckily, this is still clearly a Batman game, with the open world of Gotham City and the appearance of practically all of Batman's most notable villains, as well as a Lego game at that. It's still about traipsing through linear levels with several segments of platforming, a two-player cooperative multiplayer with an easy drop-in, drop-out system, and piles upon piles of studs waiting to be collected. Nearly everything that's made out of Legos in the game can be destroyed for studs, and the purple studs worth 10,000 are usually hidden away in some nook that's hard to reach or behind a wall that the camera can't pan around.
As you might expect from a kids title, the gameplay is rudimentary in design, though executed well for what it is: an appropriately scaled down version of Batman: Arkham City. Combat mainly consists of mashing the attack button in one string of attacks or holding down a button for special attacks, and obstacles are easily solved by using the correct power or finding the correct suit Batman or Robin needs to progress. Sometimes the platforming can become slippery and switching between characters can feel overly forced by the level design, but that's rather nitpicky for a kids title. The only dramatic improvement that could be made is in the depth perception and control for flight.
Fortunately, Lego Batman 2 packs in a wealth of content, with a light-humored campaign that lasts about eight to ten hours and a spacious open world that hides plenty of golden bricks, which act like the jigsaw puzzle pieces from Banjo-Kazooie. Though the open world is available early in the campaign, it's not until the endgame once all of the key characters are unlocked that exploring the open world is completely, well, open to you. At that time, you can swap heroes on the fly, collect more characters by defeating them throughout Gotham, locate red bricks that unlock in-game cheats, and replay levels for full completion.
Lego Batman 2 is the definitive game for kids. Parents can be assured that their little gamers will be occupied and won't bother them for hours at a time—and that's priceless, isn't it?—and that they won't be bored if they decide to play with them for a short session. Fans of Batman or DC comics in general won't be disappointed either. (Now, where's my Lego Superman?)