When the credits rolled on LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, I honestly thought it was going to be downhill for the series from there. All but one of the great DC villains had faced off against the minifig Batman and his Justice League pals in the series so far and I couldn’t see a way to up the ante for the super heroes any more than they already had. Turns out, TT Games didn’t need too. In LEGO DC Super Villains, they totally flipped the usual premise for the series and instead of having Hero vs. Villain, they pitted Villain vs. worse Villain instead in what is the most humorous and engaging title in the series so far.
The setup is simple. The Justice League were out doing what they do best, preventing Lex Luthor and a bunch of other villains from escaping Strykers Island when a new band of “heroes” arrive, the Justice Syndicate, who all look suspiciously like alternative versions of the League. The villains retreat, knowing they can’t beat back 2 groups of Super Heroes but as they do, Harley Quinn witnesses the Justice Syndicate making the Justice League disappear. This triggers 15 levels of anarchy as the usual rogues gallery – Luthor, Joker, Harley Quinn, Grod, Sinestro etc – face off against this new band of “heroes” who are actually working for a much more evil villain from the shadows. It’s up to you, the created “Rookie” villain, working alongside DC regulars to uncover the plot and put an end too it using an ever growing power set.
The plot itself is really fun in LEGO DC Super Villains as primarily, it gives the spotlight to the rogues gallery which have always been the primary comedic relief in the LEGO Batman games and are on top form here. Secondly, because you’re playing as villains, you’re never quite sure who’s side anyone is really on and who will betray you. Lastly, you get to create your own villain which becomes the central MacGuffin to the rest of the cast. This last point, having your own created character in the action, not just in Free Play but also throughout the game, even in cut scenes, adds a new level of involvement to the plot, above and beyond anything TT Games have ever done before. Sure, you’ve always wanted Batman/Supes/Wonder Woman to win in all the other games in the series, but here it’s your character in peril, a character that, if you’re like my kids and I, you spent half an hour putting together. It’s a smart way to get people more invested in the plot and it works really well here.
I’ve mentioned in past reviews of the LEGO games that the “create-a-minifig” functionality in these games has been coming on leaps and bounds through each new iteration but here, the system is profound. You can change everything about your villain – the colour and design of every LEGO piece, capes, weapon, personality, face design, glasses, logo and more – and can even change the colour, visual effect and source of your powers. The creation tools that TT Games have incorporated into LEGO DC Super Villains are incredible, allowing any LEGO or DC fan to go as wild as they want. As you unlock other characters through story progression, new pre-sets are unlocked too so you can create a Villain akin to any of the other 170+ heroes and villains in the game too.
As for game play, LEGO DC Super Villains is a tour de force of the tried and tested TT Games formula, including everything that has worked in previous games with a few added extras. The same rules apply in this game as they have in all the others – if it’s built of LEGO, you can interact with it. If it’s not, you can’t. Gold bricks can be melted with lasers/heat, silver bricks can be destroyed with explosives, sparkling bricks can be moved with magic/telekinesis, some characters can shrink to fit through vents and big orange handles can be used by large/strong characters. If you’ve played any previous TT Games LEGO title, you’ll be instantly familiar with the character power driven interaction’s on display here (and the game gives you an option to skip otherwise necessary tip videos with an option this time around when starting the game). The improved combat, with the red highlight around characters when they’re invulnerable to attack, joins this title from LEGO The Incredibles and Boss Battles (of which there are many) have been shortened, while still feeling very much like a boss battle. The puzzles in LEGO DC Super Villains are well varied, ranging from collecting items from the environment to create Laughing/Fear gas with The Joker/Scarecrow, to memory puzzles and simple pipe puzzles. There’s barely any repetition here which is a massive step up for the series too. One new addition is the ability to graffiti on some character portraits and to take a selfie in front of them which always raises a laugh out of my youngest kids. The last and biggest addition is the new combo meter which multiplies the value of studs but only increases when foes are defeated in a variety of ways. No more mashing the Square button, this pushes players to mix up their combat.
The 15 story missions in the game are joined by the obligatory hub area and 5 bonus missions detailing what happened to the Justice League once the Justice Syndicate make them disappear. The hub itself is like a distilled version of the DC universe, featuring many iconic locations to travel too like Amusement Mile, Ace Chemicals and Smallville but without any of the usual filler. Of course, this world is filled with gold bricks to find, races to complete and super heroes/villains that need some assistance in exchange for a reward. Some sections of this hub, particularly those unlocked later in the game, are maze like in structure which can be a tad confusing at times but all it takes is to swap to a flying hero then swoop up and over any befuzzling sections.
One of the stand out parts of LEGO DC Super Villains is the vocal work. The first time you hear Mark Hamill reprising his role as the Joker, it’s a spine tingling experience, just as it is to hear Kevin Conroy as Batman. Cissy Jones does a fantastic job as Lois Lane who narrates the framing to each of the main mission, often with comedic relief from Max Mittelman voicing Jimmy Olsen. Anthony Ingruber, fresh off his excellent portrayal of John Doe in Telltale’s Batman, cements himself as a DC favourite as Johnny Quick here. Clancy Brown makes for a truly menacing Lex Luthor once again and Michael Ironside absolutely nails his portrayal of Darkseid. In fact, this game is filled to capacity with wonderful vocal talent that are making the most of some excellent comedic writing from TT Games in and out of cut scenes.
There are a few technical niggles in LEGO DC Super Villains that need mentioning. On 2 occasions, a boss froze up mid fight. They seemed to get snagged on the environment and became statue still, unable to take damage. It took some creative thinking (creating a remote control bat bot to get in close then explode to free them) to free them from their stasis. Other than those issues, LEGO DC Super Villains runs very well.
To me, a 32 year old fan of the LEGO game series and of DC comics, LEGO DC Super Villains is a cracking entry that gives the spot light to some fan favourite villains and a Minifig of your own creation while leveraging the “Forever Evil” and “The Darkseid War” DC comic book stories to tell an interesting story. There’s a tonne of fan service here (especially in regards to the relationship between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn) and there’s even some subtle nods to other LEGO games too (I saw you Red Top mushroom enemy from LEGO Harry Potter. I saw you). Of course, I’m 20 years outside the target demographic for this game so, as is now tradition, this review is fashionably late to allow my own brood of kids to finish it and give me their impressions. And they love it. Ever since the game hit out doormat, it’s all they’ve wanted to talk about. The inclusion of vertical split-screen multiplayer once again means that my twins can play together as a team and even though they’ve completed it, they’re still begging to play more, if only to wander around the hub blowing up cars and attracting the attention of the police. Their only complaint? Playing in co-op means that only one of them is able to play as their created Villain during story missions. We’ve created other super villains in custom slots but only the original creation shows up in cut scenes. My older son? Well, he’s here for the comedy. He played the entire game with a wry smile on his face, shooting me an amused glance when Captain Cold remarks “I’ll add this to my COOllection” when picking up a Mini-kit or when the game goes out of its way to exclaim the Create-A-Character’s lack of vocals in a myriad of funny ways. As family orientated games go, LEGO DC Super Villains ticks all the boxes and is easily my families’ favourite of the year. Asked what score they’d give it out of 10, I was told 11.
You’ll probably read elsewhere that LEGO DC Super Villains is lacking innovation and that “it’s the same game once again”. Sure, this game, much like every TT LEGO game for the past 5 years, uses the same formula – find the character with the right power, use that power to solve problem, repeat until boss fight. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements here – there are a number of quality of life measures included here that do show that TT are tweaking and changing for the better (the ability for one character to collect an item for another character to use, for example). On the surface, it’s “samey” but for kids who have a few hours here and there between school and homework and bed time, being able to make real progress in a game in their free time without having to learn all new systems and mechanics is invaluable. That’s what LEGO DC Super Villains delivers in spades – good, clean, accessible family fun with recognisable comic book villains getting up to mischief. If you’re a fan of the LEGO games, rest assured, this is another fantastic, content filled entry into the series. It’s not the best entry point for new comers and has a few technical niggles but for those in its target demographic, it’s a real hit. If you’re looking for a game for your own little rogue’s to find under the tree this Christmas, look no further than this Rogues Gallery.
LEGO DC Super Villains is available now on PS4 (review version), Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Brothers
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a review copy of the game from the publishers. Please see out review policy for more information.