The next Lego Batman game comes packed with superheroes. Enough to form a Justice League, even. And that's great for the adults who already know those characters and will be playing with children.
But if I were a seven-year-old kid playing the not-out-yet Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, the first thing I'd want to do after an adult pried the controller from my hands would be to go to a comics shop.
As digital comics pull people away from brick-and-mortar, the experience of walking into a comics shop is becoming more and more rare. But Lego Batman 2 reminded me of what it was like to enter a superhero-centric space and get blown away by the colour and concepts at play. The character select screen presents dozens of tiny icons for characters like Cyborg, Flash, Aquaman and Hawkgirl. That smorgasboard of possibilities automatically makes me go "ooh, what can they all do?" — even though I already know all their superpowers — and I imagine that kids who aren't lifelong readers would have the same reaction.
But the problem is with what a seven-year-old would find in a comics shop. Superhero comics take themselves too seriously nowadays and things like DC Comics' New 52 reboot cater to an already-converted audience, banking on their curiosity about the changes to long-lived characters. And while the kid-friendly offerings from major publishers have gotten better, the ratio of cape comics geared to the pre-teen set are still pretty slim.
So it's good that dev studio Traveler's Tales is putting together a huge list of playable heroes and villains together for a Lego Batman 2. Traveler's Tales has honed a distinct approach over the last few years whe it comes to their Lego games: destroy-and-build gameplay, slapstick humour and catchy animations. This new game adds big, open-world structure and voice acting to the mix. Nevertheless, Lego Batman 2 should still be a great example of what superhero adventures can be at their most whimsical best. Which is great, considering how many of the adult versions of these same lack that editorial energy.