Let me tell you a story. When I was a kid, I used to stay over at my cousin’s place during the holidays. He used to own one of the most amazing comic book collections I’d ever seen, and—to the ire of everyone around me who told me I was being thoroughly antisocial—I spent every holiday reading and re-reading every single one of those comics. He had them all: superlative quantities of Superman, great piles of Green Lantern, judicious amounts of Justice League, and of course, a buttload of Batman comics. I read them all, over and over again. I first got my love of the DC and Marvel universes from those days back then, and I never really lost it. As you, dear readers, know well, I also have a great love of Traveller’s Tales Lego series, so I was justifiably quite excited to get my hands on Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.

Oddly enough, I never really got around to playing the original Lego Batman: The Video Game, so I played Lego Batman 2 without knowing the details of the first game. As it turns out, this isn’t a bad thing, since Lego Batman 2 is utterly disconnected from the first game. You can safely play this one without feeling lost. Lego Batman 2 is so completely different from the prior game—indeed, so completely different from any of the other Lego games—that it really should have gotten its own series.

The first massive difference you’ll notice from every other Lego game is that Lego Batman 2 has full voice acting now. No more silly grunts and oofs and shouts! Every character now has a proper voice. With words, even! Strangely, this is both a good and a bad thing. On the plus side, the humour can be conveyed with words and sarcasm and vocal inflections. On the other hand, there’s a definite loss in the fun, visual-based humour that was so much a trademark of the Lego series of games. And from the trailers I’ve seen of the two upcoming Lego games (Lego City and Lego Lord of the Rings), this trend looks set to continue.

The other, far more major difference is the size of the hub. It’s freaking HUGE. Well, huge for a Lego game. How huge? How about “all of Gotham city” huge? Yep, you get to sandbox around Gotham as much as your little Bat-shaped heart desires. And it’s surprisingly fun to muck about, just destroying stuff, looking for gold bricks, and generally exploring the immense city.  Traveller’s Tales have stepped away from the screen-based hub of yore and have now given you an entire city to play with. What’s next: sidequests? In actual fact, the hub of hubs is the Batcave, where you’re able to choose your missions and replay story missions.

The story missions themselves are fairly large themselves, and allow you to save at certain points in the levels should you not feel like playing an entire story mission all the way through. As per standard Lego-game practise, there’s the story mode and freeplay mode; essentially you’re playing the story mode twice to get every collectible in the game. And boy, are there a lot of collectibles! Like the Lego Star Wars and Lego Pirates of the Caribbean games, unlockable characters are all over the hub. I never did like the Lego Harry Potter way of doing things (unlock the character first, and then buy it in a shop), and I’m glad there’s a return to this method of unlocking the characters.

Giving you an open city to play around in brings with it its own criticisms. For instance, Traveller’s Tales haven’t made navigating around Gotham easy at all. There’s no minimap, for one thing. Heck, there’s no “map on demand” at all, now that we come to it. Maps are definitely available, but you need to make your way to the nearest Batcomputer to view it. On the other hand, there is a compass in the HUD, and it shows nearby buildings and markers, but it’s definitely not the ideal way to navigate. My other gripe is that, given the massive free-roaming area you have, there’s no option to change the camera controls. Yes, I’m one of those deviants who plays with the Y-axis inverted. Sue me for wanting to change the control scheme.

While you roam around Gotham solving puzzles, seeking gold Lego bricks, or just arbing about, you’re frequently beset by goons representing the various villains. Yes you can fight them off, but the sheer frequency of these random attacks becomes somewhat annoying. There’s no way to switch them off, either. If you’re playing as one of the flying characters, you can simply zoom about the skies unimpeded, but playing on the ground definitely becomes annoying very quickly.

My last criticism about the game is that, Superman aside, the rest of the DC JLA cast only appear within the last two story missions. This gives the entire game a feel that the JLA cast are far more throwaway than Superman and Batman. Yes, I know it’s “Lego BATMAN 2”, but the sub-title reads “DC Superheroes”. As in “plural”. “Many”. “More than one”. I hope I don’t need to dredge out the thesaurus at this point. You get to make minor use of them in Gotham once you’ve unlocked them all, but by and large, you’ll be running around the sandbox using either Batman, Robin, or Superman. It’s a pity, but maybe next time we’ll see a Lego Justice League from Traveller’s Tales. Now THAT’D be fun!

The game’s music is taken mostly from the Danny Elfman rendition of the Batman soundtrack (from the 1989 film starring Michael Keaton). I say “mostly”, because once you take control of Superman and take to the skies, you’re treated to the John Williams soundtrack version from the original Superman film starring Christopher Reeve. And if you’re too young to remember either of these movies, then I seriously suggest you go rent them. If you’re a film score connoisseur, the music is a definite treat.

Overall, Lego Batman 2 is a wonderfully fun game. All the little nods and winks that make the Lego series so much fun to play are all here, and it’s a great game either as a single player or as a co-op game. The AI bugs that I heard plagued the first game are nowhere near as evident this time around, and you can actually complete the game without too much difficulty. If you enjoy the Lego games, I really do suggest you give it a try. If you have young kids, then they’re especially going to enjoy this game. Let me put it to you this way: since this game has entered the house, my non-gamer kids have suddenly become gamers, and I can’t get near my console. You can’t get a bigger endorsement than that.

Final score: Na-na-na-na-na-na-na NINE! dark and stormy Dark Knight prawns out of 10

Detailed information:

Developer: Travellers Tales
Publisher: WB Games
Distributor: Nu-Metro
Platform: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, DS, PS Vita, Windows
Age Rating: 7
Website: http://videogames.lego.com/en-us/lego-batman-2-dc-super-heroes/