Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ringing in the new year with a video game

So, I spent most of New Year's Day playing LEGO Batman 2, and I'm okay with that. I don't get many chill days (read: I don't give myself many), and I'll take this one. I was off for two days straight, so I got to veg one day and still have another to get back into the I've got to go to work tomorrow mindset.

Anyway, about the game. I was mucho excited when I first heard about this game, so we of course had to make it a Christmas present to the whole family (they've been really excited about it, too). We got a little taste at my friend's house a couple or so months before Christmas playing a demo, and it just got us all even more excited. My oldest kids played it Christmas night (which I largely missed out on due to having to freaking work), but this was my first time playing.

And it is awesome. Alright, so I'm the prime audience: Love comics? Check. Love LEGO? Check. Love beat 'em ups? With platforming, puzzles and rpg/adventure elements? Quadruple check. I could probably keep going here, but the point is, I was going to love this game unless they completely screwed it up (which Traveller's Tales hasn't done for any of the Lego games I've played).

Tt has been adding general gameplay elements for each successive game in the LEGO series. This is the (so far) culmination of close to a dozen games-worth of development. The first LEGO Batman was one of the earlier games, making this feel like a major upgrade.

The newest feature for LEGO Batman 2 is the voice acting. None of the previous games had any voices. While I quite enjoyed the pantomime and pictionary of the earlier games, I'll say this: having the characters talk makes it feel a lot more serious. The miming was cute, but that's the thing. It made it all very slapstick. Or, rather, it made it much more about the slapstick. It's hard for cute to be serious.

Of course, the biggest deal in this game is the much wider variety of characters from across the DC Universe, not just Batman's (very large) corner. We are all sooo excited to play all the different characters. Seriously, just seeing some of them in the trailer that plays at the main menu is enough to give us goosebumps. I've just gotten to play as Superman for the first time, and it's crazy cool. They did a very good job with the flying and his other powers (freezing breath, heat vision, and x-ray vision). They play really well, and fit into the game seamlessly. I can't wait to use other characters.

The biggest upgrade from the earlier game is the story. This one has a large, even epic, story where the first had kind of three little ones from two perspectives each. Maybe? In any case, the stories in the first game felt more like they were invented to fit the game scheme rather than the other way around. And the looser, more exploratory in-betweens (level select is more adventure game than fancy, walk-around menu) are a great improvement. I find myself wanting to roam around, exploring Gotham City and figuring out the challenges at least as much as playing the story. (I haven't tried the villain levels where this or that villain is in a certain spot in the city, but I'm pretty pumped for them, too.) This game has a lot more to do outside of finishing the story and then slaving to get all the red & gold bricks.

I could go on for quite some time on all the details, but I'll close with just one more: the new suits. In short, I love them. The first LEGO Batman game had little variation in powers or abilities for the characters outside of the different suits Batman & Robin could use. In fact, the only difference between most of the characters outside the supervillains was their appearance. And the suits were mostly single-purpose. This game has at least two uses for each suit which are either combinations of two of the old suits, an enhancement of one of the old suits or a new suit from whole cloth. One of the latter suits is the inspired Acrobat Suit for Robin. It gives you a staff with which you can fight, swing (attaching it to special hole in some walls), wall jump (on special walls), and use as the center of a ball you roll around in. I'll ignore that it should be for Dick Grayson, and this Robin is really Tim Drake.

So, yeah, I really love the game. I also really love that I had the downtime to — and let myself — just have fun with it.

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