Over the years, Travelers Tales has really taken it upon themselves to make some of the best Lego games out there. Last year’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 was a fine example for the company, but some fans felt that the developer didn’t take enough risks with the formula. But fortunately for them, it looks like good ol’ TT Games has a turnaround in store, thanks mainly to being...bad?
Yep, Lego DC Super-Villains focuses on the pure scum and villainy of the DC Universe, but in the most lighthearted and entertaining way possible. And, surprise, there’s a strong story to go along with it, so the bad guys aren’t just being the bad guys because it’s in their nature. There’s actually a plot afoot, and how it ties together so many memorable baddies (Clayface! Two-Face! Joker!) in one package is a thing of beauty. Even if what the Legion of Doom itself is anything but.
The game begins by introducing you to a rather unfamiliar character -- yourself. Yep, the customization engine is in full effect as you can create your own dastardly ne’er-do-well from the ground up. Granted, some features are locked away until you progress through the game, but you can find a fashionable outfit that instills fear and chaos with each brick-y step you take. To boot, TT Games also incorporates your character into the cutscenes. No cut corners here!
Then we’re introduced to foes like Lex Luthor and the Joker as they make their escape from the Justice League, only for the heroes to suddenly vanish and the copycat Justice Syndicate shows up in their place. They have their doubts about these newcomer heroes, and soon a nefarious plot surfaces, forcing the bad guys to do what they do best, but this time in an effort to save the world. Yes, you can be evil and yet do some good, apparently.
This all ties together into a story that gets more and more entertaining as time goes on, introducing us to a number of fun locales, such as Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge (which, surprise, is actually run by penguins). Along the way, you’ll collect bricks, look for hidden collectibles, and utilize each villain’s strengths to get through a stage, solving puzzles and beating up the good guys into bricky piles. All the characters stand out in their own way, but there’s something spectacular about watching Clayface melt his way through grates, only to reappear, absorb a rival into his body, then spit them back out and knock them into the sky. (Chances are you comic book fans will have your favorites as well.)
The gameplay is very responsive. In fact, TT Games even goes and introduces a few exploratory ideas, such as controlling a vehicle to get around an open world or trying to find hidden items to complete objectives, like putting items into a drum so Scarecrow can make a few bothersome guards go away with a ghoulish figure. It can take a little bit to find all the hidden goods in the game, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Plus, who knows, you might just find some new villainous faces to join the cause, as the game has over a hundred unlockables.
The puzzle solving is much easier now, as you likely have characters that are better suited for getting through particular objects, like your villain being able to melt gold objects and so forth. On occasion, you will see an area where a particular foe is needed, but that adds to the replay value, as you can come back and see what it has to offer once they’re in your arsenal. I’m also a fan of the platforming, and how the game doesn’t rely on you to make split-second decisions with combat and jumping so that you end up meeting an untimely demise afterward. Lego DC Super-Villains is much more streamlined.
Oh, and there’s an element of the game where law enforcement can get on your case if you do too much -- like a “Wanted” meter, if you will. It goes away pretty frequently, so it’s not perfect; but it can be fun to take on police forces and put a few extra bricks in your pocket. Just remember, kids -- in real life, crime doesn’t pay.
The area is divided up into three big hubs, including Metropolis, Gotham City, and Smallville, and each one has something to offer when you’re not following the main story, including a bevy of side missions. They pile on to the replay value, along with the fact that you can go it alone or team up with a friend in split-screen. It’s still an imperfect process with a screen that consistently shifts around depending on your location -- but the fun that comes from teaming up with a buddy or family member more than makes up for it.
Lego DC Super-Villains’ visuals are beyond impressive. In fact, this is probably one of the best-looking Lego games in years, with its beautiful environments, small brick-based level designs, fluid animation and hysterical comical touches. The puzzles also pack a punch as well; and having new villains offer something is excellent, as you can try someone and see how they fit. The loading time’s not too shabby, either. The game loaded pretty quickly on the Xbox One format, though it may vary.
As for the audio, you’ll hear a number of familiar cues from WB Films, as well as tunes inspired by the classic comic books. And the sound effects are winning as well, including a lot of toy noises for Joker’s abilities, as well as other little nuances that round out the package.
The dialogue, though, is awesome. The voice actors here really deliver their best stuff, particularly Mark Hamill as the Joker, who’s still a hoot; and Tara Strong, who’s wonderful as ever as Harley Quinn. And, yes, that’s Kevin Conroy as Batman. Because of course it is.
We’ve seen some really good Lego games over the years, but I’ll be darned if we play anything as good as DC Super-Villains for some time. Everything just comes together into a wondrous package here, from the gameplay to the visuals to the music to the voice acting to the abundant replay value. And it’s something kids and adults alike will enjoy, especially those that live for a good comic book or two and wonder, “Hey, what if I were the bad guy?” Well, now you can find out and keep your real-life record clean.
Sometimes it’s good to be bad, and, boy, did TT Games prove it this time around.
WWG’s Score: 4.5 out of 5.
(Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.)