The LEGO series makes its return to the DC Universe after a four-year hiatus following the cross-generational release of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. As the name suggests, LEGO DC Super-Villains casts the spotlight over DC’s rogues’ gallery with the heroes taking a backseat to The Joker, Lex Luthor and friends. The game sticks to the tried and testing franchise formula with a whole lot of wholesome fun smashing blocks and solving puzzles, whilst in a franchise first allowing the player to take centre stage with their own created character.
LEGO DC Super-Villains’ unique and original plot focusses on the disappearance of The Justice League, leaving the blocky LEGO world’s inhabitants’ protection to a group of heroes from a parallel universe that calls themselves “The Justice Syndicate”, with each member a quirky off-brand version of their Earth-One counterparts. The Legion Of Doom come to learn that this new group may not be the heroes they claim to be. Despite the absence of the likes of Superman, Batman and The Flash there are still plenty of DC heroes for the Legion to tangle with aside from the Syndicate, including Nightwing, Batgirl and members of the Teen Titans crew.
The game begins with Commissioner Jim Gordon travelling to Metropolis in order to parley with Lex Luthor at Stryker’s Island. Upon arrival, Gordon shows Luthor the file of a notorious super-villain that then boots into the game’s create-a-character suite. The player is able to fully customise their character’s appearance, abilities, accessories and give them a suitably villainous name. The range of customisation options are pretty sparse (though do offer room for creativity and customisation through the use of colour sliders), after half an hour of tinkering I’d created an eye-patch wearing, moustachioed fiend that I dubbed “The Dazzler”. Further items and abilities are unlocked as the plot progresses which allows for greater customisation.
Once created, the character becomes an integral part of LEGO DC Super-Villains’ plot as they team with the Legion Of Doom to take on the evil threat of The Justice Syndicate. The created villain feels like a throwback to the semi-mute characters of early LEGO games communicating with gestures and grunts, which the other villains are all too aware of including Harley Quinn’s comment that the character should be called “Dr Never Speaks”.
Aside from the create-a-character we’re in familiar territory in terms of gameplay: block smashing, beating up enemies, puzzle solving and exploration using a small group of characters with specific abilities in order to clear areas; though I was pleasantly surprised to see that Traveller’s Tales had found a way to recycle the potion-mixing mechanic from the LEGO Harry Potter games in order to make The Joker and Scarecrow’s venom and fear toxins. The Joker and The Riddler are also able to gather henchmen to do their bidding to form human ladders and bridges to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of certain levels.
As with every other LEGO game cut-scenes progress the plot and as ever the quality is amazing. Metropolis, for the most part, is bright and glistening, whilst in contrast, Gotham has a dark, brooding atmosphere – the two cities also double as sandbox hubs chocked full of side-quests and missions that help to pad out the game. Hardcore DC fans will be pleased to hear that the franchise’s voice acting stalwarts Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong reprise their respective roles of Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn; as you can imagine the lines are delivered with style and really help to draw you further into the plot.
Whilst LEGO DC Super-Villains has a lot going for it, the series still has a few little flaws that Traveller’s Tales are yet to overcome in my eyes. My first major gripe is one that has been present since the very first LEGO game well over a decade ago – unskippable opening credits. Whilst they are each unique and help to give you a flavour of what’s to come there should be an option to skip in this day and age.
My other issue is the atrocious vehicle handling as they all feel incredibly cumbersome, should you crash into a wall you’ll generally need to perform a multiple point turn in order to get yourself back on track, and as some parts of the plot necessitate the use of a vehicle it quickly becomes a chore. On a minor note to LEGO DC Super-Villains in particular, whilst making their way through Gorilla City in order to recruit Gorilla Grodd my group encountered a cluster of lower order enemies that were impervious to prolonged bashing, though I’d put this down to a glitch that will likely be patched in the near future.
In summary, whilst some of the series’ ever-present flaws remain, LEGO DC Super-Villains is a fun, engaging entry into the series; whilst finally giving DC fans a game to call their own rather than making do with MCU-related titles for their LEGO comic book character fix. The game feels fresh with the minor tweaks to gameplay, the player’s own created character is an integral part of the plot and the voice acting makes the cut-scenes an absolute joy to behold. When it comes to LEGO games (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again) – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.