A few months back I wrote a post for United We Game called The Wiimote and Me: An Onerous Ode in which I expounded upon my dislike of that particular controller. In that post I also made a passing reference to LEGO Batman 2, one of two games (the other being Epic Mickey 2) that was the impetus for those thoughts. As I’ve been recently considering some Wii games that I’d like to replay, namely Super Mario Galaxy, I can’t help but be saddled by the really bad Mickey and Batman experiences. While Epic Mickey 2 was hampered by simply being a crappy game in which having to use the Wiimote didn’t help, LEGO Batman 2 was a great game that, for me, we ruined by having to use the Wiimote. (Suffice to say, if I replay that game it’ll be on a different system.)
The recent LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (LB2) was my first foray into 3D LEGO games. It presented an expansive and twisty plot involving members of the Justice League (together and separately) as they fought against a host of DC villains, including the Joker and Lex Luther, to save Gotham City from certain doom. And all this happened in a open world setting rather than a platform, level-based setting like in previous LEGO games. You primarily took up the reins as Batman (and later Superman). Trusty sidekick Robin was in tow controlled by the AI unless you had a real-life partner playing alongside. Just like in the original LEGO Batman, LB2 included everything about being Batman, just in LEGO form — the Batcave, the Batmobile, all his bat gadgets and accessories. There were also different suits for both Batman and Robin that gave them special abilities like immunity to hazardous waste or invisibility. And it was all great, fun, colorful…and, uh…cool… Um… Okay look, I’m stretching, I know. I’m trying to avoid the fact that I know I’m about to dole out a considerable load of crap on this game mostly because of the goddamnsonofabitch Wiimote. But, it was my own fault for believing that the Wii version of the game would be awesome, and that’s the experience I have to work with. So, you better get that fan started cause some shit is gonna fly.
I encountered three major problems when playing LB2, two of which primarily involved the Wiimote. I’ll cover them in order of least to most important/annoying: movement: aiming, and perspective.
And I should point out here that my overall experience, with this game or any, was colored by a few personal issues that I regularly harbor and have touched upon before, like poor depth perception, impatience, and clumsiness. I’ve read reviews of this game by seemingly normal people who don’t mention any of the problems I had. I can only assume that’s because I’m a terrible gamer. (However I have read about the game’s glitchiness, which makes me feel a little less terrible.) But I digress….
I like limits in games. Yes, you read that correctly. I like knowing what I can and can’t do, who I can and can’t interact with, and where I can and can’t go. One of the things I liked about the original 2D/3D LEGO games was that it was pretty clear where your characters could go — back and forth mostly, occasionally up and down. As an open world game, in LB2 you could go just about anywhere; but I found that maneuvering Batman and/or Robin in the space of the game was so damn clunky. It was especially apparent during fight scenes when enemies had seemingly unlimited movement capabilities while my poor Batman was stuck trying to figure out how to get to them all. Sure, many of the environments contained destructible elements, but that only went so far. In one particular scene, I spent more than enough time just trying to figure out how to get to an enemy that was way off in a corner. No matter where I tried to go, I couldn’t maneuver close enough to him. I became so incensed that I eventually restarted the level. (Things went better the second time.) But battles notwithstanding, even traversing the game’s open world “hub” was difficult. When Batman was running, he felt leaden. When I was driving something, it was all I could to to maintain some level on controls without veering off the road. Could be that I was too zealous with my gigantic thumb on the teeny joystick of the Wiimote’s nunchuck. Could be that the controls in the game sucked balls. Speaking of which…
Aaarrgh, arrrgh, and AARRGH! Just thinking about this issue pisses me right off! If there was one thing in LB2 that really made me want to punch things in the throat it was using the Wiimote to aim, which was one of the MOST IMPORTANT tasks in the game. After all, what’s Batman with his batarangs and grappling hook? Like in many Wii games, in LB2 you had to use the wiimote to aim at grapple spots and enemies. And good goddamn if I could never aim properly or well enough. There was a spot, again early on in the game, where I was completely and utterly stumped as to how to progress. I had done everything possible in the scene — collected every brick, defeated every enemy, destroyed everything that could be destroyed. I spent the better part of that session simply traversing the space. I went as far up, over, and down as I could go, aiming at everything in sight. Seeing as how the game offered shitty autosave points, I knew that if I quit at that moment, I’d have to start the whole scene over again. …which is what I ended up doing after nearly cracking my Wiimote in frustration. A couple days later, I returned to the game with a clearer head. I replayed the whole scene up to the point I had gotten stuck. Only this time, I spotted a very obscured grapple point that I hadn’t seen before. AH HA! YESSSS! Well, let me tell you, it was another 15 minutes before I finally got the Wiimote to somehow lock onto the point long enough for me to grapple it. For some reason, the aiming “target” kept flicking on and immediately off whenever I aimed at the point. It was just…so sad. And even after I finally progressed past that scene, I was way too angry at the game to continue. So I had to leave it alone again for a couple more days. Of course, a lot of this hassle could have been avoided if I’d only seen the grapple point in the first place, which brings me to…
By far the worst thing about LB2, and the one thing that had little to do with the Wiimote, was that many of the levels lacked clear and defined perspectives. Again, I have poor depth perception, so maybe me encountering this was inevitable, but far away objects looked pretty much the same to me as those that were close up. This led to some flat-out awful scenes that involved my clumsy Batman stumbling between platforms, slipping off slopes, and defeating enemies on pure luck. See, in non-LEGO open world games, perspective is a big deal. You generally know how far away from you most enemies are. The proportions of objects relative to you appear as they normally should. This helps you form strategies about how to best tackle obstacles. In LB2, I swear that the developers ignored math. Different heights, widths, and depths (especially depths) were poorly presented, and I often second-guessed myself because I just couldn’t tell how close or far away any given obstacle was. And as with that grapple point I previously mentioned, some necessary elements were hidden, either in plain sight or with bad graphics choices (i.e. placing a dark gray/dark red grapple point on a black background) or behind badly placed environmental objects. I generally couldn’t play LB2 for more than 30-45 minutes without getting a headache, either from eye strain or the running series of expletives that wanted to burn through my frontal cortex.
I made it about halfway through LB2 on the Wii before calling it quits. It’s not something I’m proud of as LEGO games have consistently been among my favorites. But the moments of perfection in the game (the cutscenes and voice acting were top-notch) were way too overshadowed by the crappy controls and design for me to get any joy out of playing it. I really do plan to give the game another try on another system, and I’m extremely hopefully that that experience will turn out much better. But LB2 was one of the last games I tackled with the Wiimote. It’s that controller and that controller alone that’s currently preventing me from playing any Wii games at the moment. It’s just…so…unlikeable, unhelpful, and unhappy.
Man, oh man, is that Wii U looking ever so tempting right now…