I looked down at my watch, thinking a mere fifteen, maybe twenty minutes had passed.
"We've been playing for an hour and a half!" I exclaimed to my trusty sidekick. She turned to the PR person from 47 Communications, who handle PR for Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, and asked, "Can we please take this home right now?"
Yes, LEGO Batman 2: DC Heroes is just that much fun. It takes the now-classic LEGO formula that started with LEGO Star Wars and has been perfected across ten games, giving a gameplay experience that is all-ages in the truest sense. It was nearly impossible to tell whether the hoots of joy and bursts of laughter were coming from the children who attended the event for an early hands-on or the adults with their own hands on a controller.
The game has some big changes from last time, or even from any prior LEGO game. The first thing you'll notice comes in the introduction video scene. These minifigs (the name given to LEGO people) talk. Full sentences, full voice acting, full script for this one, forgoing the grunts and questioning "hmm"s of the previous titles. This time around it's an all-original story that features The Joker and the rest of Batman's gallery of villains teaming up with Lex Luthor and other nefarious do-badders from the DC Universe. Of course, with the new villains also come new heroes, and as the title implies, the Justice League is showing up to backup Batman and the Boy Wonder in their quest for justice.
Starting out with Batman and Robin, we jump immediately into action that has us battle countless goons along with Harley Quinn, The Riddler, Two-Face, and The Joker – all in the very first level of the game. You'll learn the basic mechanics in case your LEGO skills are a little rusty, or if this is your first time playing one. Batarangs that can target multiple spots, grappling hooks, and of course new gadgets that come with unlockable suits are all present, giving a surprising variety of gameplay for the core team. Levels are absolutely enormous, with more twists, turns, and special-suit-needed areas to reach than in any prior LEGO game. It makes Robin as fun to play as Batman, and that's important in this co-op encouraged experience.
In our extended gameplay experience, we also got to explore the open-world Gotham City a bit, cruising around in the Batmobile, Robin Cycle, and in fact any car you find on the streets (call it comandeering I suppose). We took to the air for a flying chase through an amusement park. Oh, and we saw how Flash's fast run and build, Green Lantern's awesome construct-based combat and flight, and Cyborg's powerful eye beam really make the thugs of Gotham quiver with fear. All of Gotham City is your hub this time, with missions you can pick up all over, rather than the traditional smaller hub in an enclosed space.
The fully voiced videos in-between missions had us laughing out loud, and the voices cast have a new feel with a twinge of familiarity (some are ones you'll absolutely recognize). The classic Superman: The Movie theme playing when Superman first shows up (with Robin ooing and ahing at the Man of Steel) demonstrates how music plays into the experience.
In addition to the heroes you expect like Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash, there are some pleasant surprises like Supergirl, Cyborg, Huntress, Hawkman, Shazam; the roster gets pretty deep into the DCU with tons of unlockables on both the hero and villain side (Zod, Sinestro, Gorilla Grodd, oh my!). Each character does genuinely play differently; even the multiple fliers have their own unique attributes, or the members of the bat-family who have unique power-ups and gadgets. What's better is the level design actually encourages use of all the different characters and gameplay types.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Heroes is so much more than just a sequel; this is a game built as a brand-new game, and really almost as a brand-new franchise. Across ten games, it seemed TT Games had virtually nowhere new to go with the LEGO brand, but an hour and a half of LEGO Batman 2 shows they're just getting started. Kids, adults, DC Fans, LEGO fans, actioners, puzzle-solvers: you all want to pick up this game the day it hits shelves, June 19, 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, and portables.