LEGO Batman 2 is LEGO City: Undercover's dark-horse alter-ego. Clean plastic makes way for Gothic spires as perpetual sunshine becomes blackest night and common hoodlums step aside for the kind of criminal scum who would murder Frank Honey in the blink of an eye.
If you found LEGO City too tame, too tempered, too... unlicensed, then Gotham is a better bet. It's hard to agree with arguments that Traveller's Tales is stifled in its licensed work when there's a surprise villain cameo on every street corner and Danny Elfman's epic score is honking from your TV speakers.
Perhaps it helps that there's no source film to parody, letting TT deliver a game with the broad humour of Adam West's 1960's TV masterpiece (the character voices certainly mimic those actors) but an epic scale of the studio's own devising. A brilliantly paced story kicks off in the same territory as the first LEGO Batman before adding a Kryptonian twist and building towards a tremendous bit of fan justice (league). Much of this hinges on the masterful LEGO-fication of DC stalwarts, whether it's making The Flash faster than any in-game vehicle, or giving Green Lantern special green LEGO builds.
The Man Of Plastic
The real standout is Superman, a character whose previous gaming career ranks from mediocre to The Worst Videogame Of All Time. By turning his laser eyes and ice breath into puzzle tools and leaving his invincibility be (LEGO games have never punished death), TT has given us the best digital Supes yet. His flying lacks finesse, but it's made up for by the blast of John William's rousing theme that plays every time he does it. And before you worry about this overpowered show-off dominating the action, hundreds of character-specific puzzles force you to diversify in the open world.
As in LEGO City: Undercover, action splits between contained stages and a free-roaming hub. LEGO Batman 2's solo stages are better - chemical plants and robot clowns are more novel than generic museums and banks - but its open world has the air of a prototype about it. It's there in the way obstacle courses lead you around the houses to find a gold brick, or how taking a car can trigger a time trial.
In some ways, it's a backwards step. The choice to hide many of the gold bricks inside clumps of bouncing objects shows a distinct lack of imagination and the in-vehicle camera sits uncomfortably close, preventing you from drinking in the city.
Iteration is key to the LEGO games; mistakes made here improved LEGO City, just as mistakes made there will inevitably feed back into LEGO Marvel. What's important is how Wii U iterates on the earlier Wii release, justifying spending £30 when you could spend £15. HD gloss is part of the appeal - this often gorgeous game was severely beaten with Wii's SD ugly stick - as is a genuinely helpful touchscreen map that cuts through the fuss of hunting down some 300 collectibles (a massive sticking point in last year's version). Best of all? True TV/GamePad split-screen co-op. LEGO games are best with two and this is two-friendlier than any other version. Lovely.
It won't convert the anti-LEGO brigade (what would?), but it's more than enough to make this a worthy Robin to LEGO City's Batman.