Sony Senior Social Media Manager Jeff Rubenstein has announced alongside a video trailer that Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes assembles on both PS Vita and the PS3 console today.
To quote: After seeing Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes at GDC this year, then playing the PS Vita version at E3, I've found myself anticipating its imminent release (it's out today).
With a huge Gotham City hub world and a cast that reaches far beyond the Caped Crusader, Lego Batman 2 appears to be the most ambitious entry in the venerable Lego series.
A few days ago I caught up with Matthew Ellison, a Producer at TT Games via transatlantic cable, er, telephone. We talked at length about PS Vita, the plethora of playable DC heroes, and bat nipples. Do read on:
Jeff Rubenstein, PlayStation.Blog: After seeing this game over the past few months, it's occurred to me that the title "Lego Batman 2" really sells the game short...
Matthew Ellison, TT Games: This is a sequel to the first game (Lego Batman: The Videogame), and that's a key point for us. We've learnt lessons with the first game and when we wanted to make Lego Batman 2, we thought how can we make it bigger and better.
The idea of bringing in Superman and other Justice League characters just seemed like a great way to improve what is an original story. The story basically has Batman and Superman, and Robin as well teaming up to take on Lex Luthor and the Joker, and that's something that we're really excited about - getting to tell this story and bringing all these characters together and the different relationships that they have is something that we've loved getting to work with.
Batman and Superman are in the story throughout, but we have these other Justice League characters who do play their part towards the end of the story.
PSB: Beyond the breadth of characters, which is a common thread in Lego games, this seems to be the most ambitious Lego game from a design perspective.
TTG: The Gotham City hub is on a different scale to anything we've ever done in the past. To be able to create a lego version of Gotham City - which is still a quite dreary, quite dark place - we've been able to put a Lego spin on it... which just sort've gives it a different feel to previous representations of Gotham City. Hopefully we'll sort of surprise people with that once people get to play it and enjoy it.
PSB: Of course people will be eager to try out Batman, with his plethora of tools, or Superman, who can fly. Who's the sleeper character that people should be looking out for?
TTG: The Flash is one that instantly jumps to mind. He's got super speed - naturally - and it's something that's really, really cool to run around, especially in the hub where you realize how quickly he's moving, jumping around and collecting studs at super speed. Green Lantern seems to be very popular among the people we've shown him so far.
Any green Lego in the game, he's the only character that can interact with that Lego, so that's unique to him, and it makes him a bit cooler. With his ring he can build objects that no other character can build. Cyborg is another one that's pretty cool.
Much like Superman's heat vision, he's got laser eyes, and he also has a magnetic ability, so he can climb up magnetic walls. And there's a number of flying characters as well. Flying's quite cool in the game.
PSB: This is your 2nd PS Vita game, with a 3rd in development (Lego The Lord of the Rings). What have you learned from Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 that you're applying in these next two announced PS Vita titles?
TTG: We have been learning very quickly on Vita. Harry Potter was a very good learning experience, because - as I'm sure you're aware - whenever a new platform comes out it takes some time to get the grips on how to get the most out of it.
Just simply from a development point of view, learning all the tricks and how to optimize things and get the best results does take a little bit of time and can't be - or is rarely - done first time.
The guys at Tt Fusion who make our handheld games, it's the same guys who will then be making this one, so all the tips and tricks to get the graphics looking sharper and all that sort of stuff will have been learned from previous titles so we're able to put together a better quality thing quality, and enhance it further as move forward working with the platform.
The other thing with Vita is it has a few extra features. We're using Near functionality, we also have touchscreen and back touch for targeting, like Batman's Batarang, for example.
PSB: How are you using Near? Do you mind elaborating?
TTG: The way the feature works is that when in game you can go up to the Batcomputer in the Batcave and choose an item or character that you have unlocked and set it as a gift. Anyone that then goes to that Geographical location can obtain the gift.
PSB: We put a note out on Twitter asking for some questions, and we had a couple of funny ones - one reader thanked you for not including "Bat nipples" on the costume - not a fan of the Joel Schumacher movie, I guess...
TTG: To that point, with the character designs, we do work closely with DC. The character outfits, a lot of those decisions will come from talking to DC and how they want characters to appear.
We also obviously work very closely with Lego, so where there's a Lego toy available, we'll use their design for the toy wherever possible. The idea behind that is simply when kids have the mini-figs in the toy set, they like to see the toys come to life in the video games.
PSB: The other question that came through on Twitter - by about 90% of the respondents - is how similar is the PS Vita version to the PS3 version?
TTG: There are quite a few differences between the PS3 and the handheld. The things that are the same are the story. The story is told through cutscenes primarily, and those cutscenes are shared between the versions.
The other things that are the same, more or less, are the levels. There is one level in the console game which doesn't appear on the handheld due to technical limitations. The console game does have the big Gotham City hub, while the handheld has the Batcave hub, but the thing that the handheld game does have is the JLA mode, which is basically bonus missions.
There's 5 bonus missions, and each one is divided into 8 different rounds, where you take control of a different Justice League character. You'll either have to have a big fight with a series of enemies, or have to cross some platforms or just get into a different mode.
So there'll be sort of challenges that make up this Justice League mode, and that seems to be something that'll be very popular.
PSB: You've done quite a few of these games - what have you found that people want in a Lego game?
TTG: I think the thing that people want most is, working with the different IPs people love to see how the stories are told through Lego. Our games are very much character driven, I think, and the personalities of those characters and how they interact with each other.
For example, the relationship between Superman and Batman in the game. Superman is quite brash and arrogant and Batman doesn't want any of Superman's help, and a lot of the humor comes from that relationship and how they interact with each other. I think people like seeing that in our games.
Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes ships for PS3 and PS Vita today. The Vita version will be available for download later today on the PlayStation Store. Of note, the Vita version of the game will feature ad hoc multiplayer support for the campaign, and couch co-op on PS3.
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