Younger fans of the Dark Knight unable to witness his more mature exploits in the upcoming live-action movie still can appreciate their favorite crime fighter and plenty of his associates in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and TT Games, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, reviewed for Xbox 360, $49.99).
More than 50 playable comic book legends come to Lego minifigure life in an epic adventure and stud-collecting bonanza loaded with quirky humor and rampant destruction.
Story: After the Joker busts up a party celebrating the competition between presidential candidate Lex Luthor and philanthropist Bruce Wayne for Man of the Year honors, an insidious team-up between Luthor and the Clown Prince of crime results.
It will take Batman, Robin and eventually the combined might of members of the Justice League to stop the nefarious schemes of the criminal masterminds and their trusted accomplices as they attempt to control and wreak havoc on the citizens of Gotham City and beyond.
Play the role: One or two players (more about that later) mainly control pop-art stars such as Batman (in his black and gold costume), Robin (in traditional red) and Superman as they explore Gotham and a bit of Metropolis through a 15-chapter story and a seemingly endless amount of free play levels and areas.
Stopping the plans of Joker and Luthor will require visiting famed locales such as Arkham Asylum, the Batcave and Ace Chemical for encounters with foes including Harley Quinn, Bane, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and Mr. Freeze.
Goals often involve breaking apart and building parts of historic places such as Wayne Tower or shooting down aircraft and chasing vehicles.
And, just like the last game, the Dynamic Duo has access to a great selection of functional costumes (available at buildable stations in each level) to help with specific tasks. For example, Batman’s Power suit (shoots timed missiles to explode metallic objects), Robin’s Acrobat Suit (leap onto poles and get encased in a translucent ball to solve puzzles and roll around).
The soothing voice of Alfred the butler is also always available to offer hints or access, via opened computer terminals placed around the city, to a map and vehicles.
Although I understand the game is about Batman (his Batarang is always a lifesaver in group fights), I wish I could take control of Justice League members, including Flash, much earlier on in the story. Their powers are often the highlight.
Take the always-posturing Superman (complete with hair curl). He offers heat vision, freeze breath (freeze waterfalls for teammates to climb on), extra strength, X-ray vision (to solve puzzles hidden behind walls), awesome flight abilities and the head butting of enemies.
Or, how about Wonder Woman? She uses a golden lasso to whip enemies, a tiara-rang to throw, can fly and harnesses super strength.
Green Lantern is equally impressive. He can assemble translucent green pieces that turn into items such as a giant hammer, train, biplanes and spider. The emerald hero can also fly and pull off some slick spins in the air.
Get to the action: For the first time, developer Traveller’s Tales offers an open world to explore. In this case, it’s a big Gotham City with too much space that’s desperately in need of more varied tasks.
Most players, however, will enjoy the freedom. They can either hone into missions using a poorly implemented mapping location system (it really takes getting used to for pinpointing areas) or simply walk, run, climb, swing, glide, grapple and drive or fly around the town with eventual access to 25 modes of transportation including the Batmobile, Robin’s motorcycle, Bane’s Mole Machine, the Batwing and even a plain ol’ fire truck.