I suppose the great thing about Batman is that he works on multiple levels. He works when he’s sad and carrying a bomb out to sea on a helicopter, he works when he’s goofy and carrying a bomb around a shipyard over his head, and he works when he’s a LEGO minifig faced with plastic bombs. The only time Batman doesn’t entirely work, I’ve come to realize, is in LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes when he’s being controlled by a touchscreen device.
What is it?
LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes is the iOS version of LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes, which is available for OS X and pretty much everything else on which you can play a game. And it should be, because it’s rather fantastic.
The LEGO video games, in case you’ve never played one, take popular movie franchises and set them in the world of LEGO toys. Characters don’t die, they break apart to be put back together…along with the scenery and pretty much everything else. Game play is centered around basic combat and puzzle solving, usually requiring specific skills of multiple characters in order to progress.
How does it work?
Although combat is never terribly difficult in LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes (when you do fall apart, the game resumes at that exact same spot), the controls can still be frustrating. Virtual d-pads are never terribly functional, so the developers added a touchscreen control mode that allows you to more or less touch where you want to go and tap on whom you want to fight. This requires a lot of awkward thumb stretches on the iPad, however, and the taps didn’t always result in the action I wanted—the superheroes would often jump when I wanted them to punch, for example. After messing around with this for a while, I gave up and decided to stick with the more conventional control method, where I had better success.
Once you settle on the control scheme that best suits you, LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes is a joy to play. It has a charming sense of humor (Batman’s jealousy of Superman is hilariously played out), the story is action packed, and the puzzles can be quite clever.
Unlocking the 80 characters is oddly enticing, and here you have the option to do so at any point via in-app purchases if you’d rather not wait until they become available through the story. It’s a nice option, but less rewarding, and totally not necessary to get through the game.
LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes looks fantastic and offers plenty of gameplay and replay value, but you’ll pay for that in storage space and performance issues. It’s a 1.3GB install via iTunes, and a whopping 2.6GB if you install over Wi-Fi, for some reason. And although an update released Saturday helps the performance issues, you may still want to reboot your iPhone/iPad before playing to prevent crashes.
Is it contagious?
If you have the opportunity to play LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes on your Mac, console, or other handheld device, I suggest you play it that way. It’s a bigger game there, with controls more conducive to this type of action. If you don’t, the iOS version still offers plenty of enjoyment through a multitude of characters—Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Penguin, and countless others both familiar and unknown—many clever scenarios, and some very funny jokes.
Be warned, though; it’s a game that should appeal to everyone, so if you have multiple iDevices in the family, you’ll need to install it on all of them.