Having played through LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, one question keeps running through my mind: Is this a game meant for kids? Well, it certainly is meant for kids, I thought, but not today’s kids. I convinced myself that LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, if I can be selfish and protective about this, was meant for those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. It was meant for the Toonami kids. It was meant for Snick kids.
The aesthetic of the game draws directly from Batman films of twenty and thirty years ago, when Uma Thurman pranced around with her old-timey, “yeah, see” accent, Danny DeVito rode around in a giant duck and Bane was more mindless thug meat and less monologuing fur coat. The Schumacherian architecture of Gotham is alive and well in the game. And it is still a vibrant clash, its neon luster pouring across Greecian LEGO statues. The rain is constant. The Riddler does his best impersonation of Jim Carrey. Danny Elfman’s theme music soars throughout. The list goes on and on.
It makes sense to take this route. The Batman of today’s films is a brooding recluse, not the sly, rubbery go-getter of ’80s and ’90s. It wouldn’t fit the mood of the game to have the Christian Bale growl. LEGO Batman is a simple beat ‘em uppin’, puzzle solvin’, gizmo usin’ romp. The baddies are easily dispersed into LEGO rubble by tapping the X button several times. Thousands and thousands of LEGO coins spill out of destructible environments. Hours can be spent on collecting them alone. It’s a bright, buoyant time. New batsuits are given out like candy, prompting Batman and Robin to pose momentarily as the Bat-theme plays. The effect is lifting.
The puzzles of the game are less impressive, usually ending by using one of the special suits to reach a new area. I anticipated to the next cut scene and introductions of more characters more than solving another room. It’s entertaining equipping the different suits and using the special powers, such as the Electricity Suit, which can absorb electric currents and use them to open doors or leave the plastic remains of your enemies at your feet. Still, when a new environment was rolled out — with numerous switches to press and glittering LEGO pieces to assemble — I’d rush through to the next cinematic. I often gave up on finding extra collectibles and unreachable areas. The voicework, which is a first for the series, was refreshing. It livened up the experience and gave each character, especially the villains, more opportunities to engage the silliness of it all in the best way possible.
Outside the cluttered interiors of Gotham’s underbelly lies a loud, kinetic city. LEGO Batman 2 is open world, which gave me plenty of room to test out all my new Bat gizmos. While it was enthralling to take the Bat-bike for a spin or hop into the Bat-boat for some Bat-crusin’, I preferred spending my time as Superman. I’d waste more time gliding above Gotham and her bustling streets than seeking out wrong-doing. The air was nicer up there, with John Williams’ timeless score in tow.
Navigating, either by flight or by car or by foot, had me stumped more often than any puzzle. Without an onscreen map display, just a compass with some symbols to indicate where the action was taking place, I never knew if I was going the right way. Still, being able to move around and locate new villains had me riveted. I never got tired of discovering the LEGO version of the bad guys from my childhood: Penguin, Poison
I’m not sure if kids today will fully get the references made in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Their sights are more likely focused on the gameplay elements rather than, like me, the bits in between. As someone who grew up with this music and the hokey camp of the Schumacher and Burton films, LEGO Batman 2 kept me intrigued with its humor, characters and style. I can’t blame the game for trying to blend the “old school” Batman world with kid-friendly gameplay. Maybe this game wasn’t meant for me. Maybe the developers at Traveller’s Tales just want to nod at their own inspirations. They, and the game, brought me back.