It must be noted off the bat that I have been playing the PS Vita version of LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, a bit of much needed context when you consider the rest of this Verdict.
I am gravely disappointed by this version of the game, I have dabbled very briefly with the PC version and I can see that the game on the PC and high-def consoles is quite impressive. But knowing what the Vita is capable of, I am left feeling disappointed by the handheld interpretation.
If you have played some of the launch titles for Sony’s handheld, you will know that the system can provide for some very high quality games like Wipeout and Uncharted. So when you start playing LEGO Batman and are presented with some heavily compressed and blurry cut-scenes ripped from the full fat version you know things are off to a bad start.
Of course, this is the first LEGO title to be fully voice acted, previous games have relied on minifig acting to develop the story. In LEGO Batman 2 Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are both nominated for a Man of the Year award, a ceremony which is rudely interrupted by the Joker and his chums. From here, the action kicks off taking place in linear mission-to-mission fashion taking in a variety of locales including Arkham Asulym and Ace Chemicals. The linear progression, broken up by the poorly displayed cut-scenes makes for quite a plodding game, you can exit to the Batcave after missions, but it is nowhere near as enjoyable as having a largely explorable home hub as seen with Hogwarts in the LEGO Harry Potter titles.
It doesn’t help that levels are dull affairs with only rare moments of visual finesse such as The Riddler’s cell in Arkham and the odd level towards the end of the game. You have to go through a lot of dreary levels to get to the more enjoyable ones. When you think about some of the gorgeous jungle sequences in Uncharted and the amazing tracks of Wipeout, you have to wonder why so little was done to bring the Vita version of LEGO Batman 2 up to the limits of what the system is capable of.
There were times when I was unable to progress at any pace because the targets that I had to knock off with my Batarang were so obscure that I didn’t notice them even after staring all around the screen. Moments like this are really off-putting in a game which should be fast flowing and full of action. The bullseys which you have to hit blend so easily into the dull, bland backgrounds of the levels, it just highlights how lifeless the level design is. Too often missions follow the same formula: advance until obstacle appears; smash boxes until suit changer reveals itself; change suit at Batman or Robin to get past obstacle. Things get a bit more exciting when Superman appears as you get a bit more freedom from changing suits all the time.
Even if Superman’s presence gives you the drive to keep playing, the hit-and-miss AI on your partner will leave you exasperated. At times as you control one of the characters making routes accessible for the other, they will automatically catch you up. Other times though you find yourself having to switch characters to get them through a route they would have gone through themselves five minutes ago. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, combat devolves into a boring game of smashing square over and over. You can fire Batarangs in combat, but for this you have to hold down square and choose a target or tap the front touch screen, awkward when you are trying to move around and avoid enemies that are trying to punch you at the same time.
The most damning thing I can say about LEGO Batman 2 is that I have no desire to replay the levels on Freeplay with the variety of unlockable characters. Between the level design, visuals and combat, I don’t want to go through it all again.
I am sure the Vita is capable of delivering a greater representation of the game, but for whatever reason it comes across as an uninspired version of the title. It could have been so much more, but if you want a taste of LEGO Batman 2 you will be better off trying it on the PC or consoles to get the full experience.
Verdict – Off Target
Platforms Available – PC, 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS and Vita.
Platform Reviewed – Vita.
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