E3 Snap Judgment: 'LEGO Batman 2' and 'LEGO Lord of the Rings'

The Games: In LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Nintendo DS, 3DS, and PS Vita), you can play as most of the major DC characters — Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, etc. — as well as the famed Dark Knight and his trusty Boy Wonder, Robin. The reason all hands are on deck: The Joker has teamed up with Lex Luther for a diabolical plan that involves both Batman and Superman. LEGO Lord of the Rings (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS) is much more straightforward: It’s Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but in LEGO. (Batman 2 is out summer 2012; LOTR’s release date is TBA.)

What We Played: Much of the opening sequence of LEGO Batman 2, after the villains of Arkham Asylum crash a banquet honoring Bruce Wayne (much to Lex Luthor’s chagrin), and Batman and Robin have to subdue them one by one. In LEGO Lord of the Rings, I played the sequence in The Fellowship of the Ring when our heroes must battle a cave troll, up through Gandalf’s standoff with the giant, flaming Balrog and his subsequent mid-air battle with the beast as they plunge into the inky black depths of Middle-earth.

The Good: Both games maintain the LEGO franchise’s great family-friendly humor, with everything from witty jokes about Batman: Arkham City to silly jokes about the Balrog’s smelly burps. And both look spectacular — Batman 2 features a gorgeously rendered open-world Gotham City, and LOTR has come up with some inventive ways of transforming Middle-earth’s more outré creatures into LEGO form. The biggest innovation in both games is that the characters all talk for the first time — LOTR even draws directly from the audio in the film’s themselves — which breathes new life into the storytelling possibilities and the humor.

The Not-So-Good: Beyond the fact that the LEGO games remain an acquired taste, there were a few times I got stuck playing Batman 2 with no clear idea of how or where I was supposed to go next. LOTR has a more fundamental issue: In the early stages of the game, all nine members of the Fellowship battle together, and keeping them straight — including when a specific character is necessary to advance the game — can quickly get confusing.

Excitement Level (on a scale of 1 to 10): Full disclosure: Though I’m not anti-LEGO (unlike some), I’ve never been a giant devotee of the LEGO franchise. But I was pleasantly won over by both games’ thoughtful puzzles and expansively detailed level design. I’d give both games a 7.

Read more:
E3 2012 preview: The Wii U, ‘Call of Duty’ goes to the future, and the return of Master Chief and Lara Croft
LEGO announces deal to reimagine ‘The Hobbit’ universe
‘Harry Potter’ reaches another end: See the trailer for ‘LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7′ — EXCLUSIVE

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