STAFF REVIEW of LEGO DC Super-Villains (Xbox One)

Saturday, November 17, 2018.
by Chad Goodmurphy

LEGO DC Super-Villains Box art Since 2005, we’ve been inundated with block-filled video games featuring the LEGO brand. In fact, they’re so common that each year brings with it at least two, if not three, and little time seems to pass between releases. Hell, since September 22nd of last year, we’ve received four of them: The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, LEGO The Incredibles and now LEGO DC Super-Villains. That’s a lot of very similar games in a short span of time, not to mention the ton that have come since LEGO Star Wars first debuted during the spring of 2005.

When the LEGO games first debuted, they were fun, fresh and comical, and provided a new way to experience classic IPs. Nobody expected them to be that good, so it was a pleasant surprise when they were. After all, back in those days licensed games were almost always bad, and there was an absolute glut of them. Now, though, it’s almost always just more of the same game in and game out, and only the odd one ever stands out.

Truth be told, LEGO The Incredibles was one of those games. Sure, it was another LEGO game at heart, but even then it managed to separate itself from the pack by offering more variety than they usually do.

Given all of the creative freedom that its developers have had at their disposal, I expected even more from LEGO DC Super-Villains. In fact, when both games were still in development, I had more interest in this game than the Incredibles one for that reason. Unfortunately though, LEGO DC Super-Villains is a step backwards after a pretty solid, Disney-themed outing, and fails to really innovate. It’s a shame, because there was a lot of potential here.

In this colourful spinoff of the LEGO Batman trilogy, the Justice League has disappeared and a group from Earth Three has stepped in to fill their shoes, or so they say. This set of impostors, who have familiar but altered looks, names and personalities, calls itself the Justice Syndicate, and it’s honestly anything but. They’ve come to twist Earth to their own ways of thinking, and want nothing more than to get rid of those who stand in their way. This means dealing with the many villains who populate the DC Comics universe, including their leaders, Joker and Lex Luthor.

Things begin inside of a prison, where a shiny-headed Lex Luthor is planning a jailbreak with the help of a new friend. This chummy inmate and newfound ally happens to be the player’s custom created LEGO embodiment, who doesn’t speak.

In the lead-up to LEGO DC Super-Villains’ release, talk about being able to create one’s own personal villain was front and centre. It’s a neat idea too, and one that is brought to life with a rather excellent character creator which lets you customize pretty much anything you’d ever want to, from his or her look and weapon, to their speed and the colour of the lasers they shoot out. More and more options unlock as you progress, and the same is true of abilities, so you can look forward to going back to the creation screen more than once.

The disappointing thing is that, while this create-your-own-villain schtick has been heavily advertised and highly touted, the player’s custom character is underused within this narrative. In fact, it’s not uncommon to be sent on missions without him or her, with your options limited to several of DC’s C and D-list evildoers. This is a real misstep in a game that is supposed to make you feel like one of the group, especially when the character creation suite is so impressive.

The story, itself, is decent. It’s a comic book affair, and an alright one at that. It won’t win any awards, and won’t knock you off your feet, but it does its job. More could’ve been done though, and something better certainly could’ve been crafted given all of the creative freedom that TT Games had at its disposal with this one.

This disappointment carries forth into the gameplay department, where it’s pretty much just more of the same. There’s little variety to be found, and most of what is there gets tedious pretty quickly. Thus, you can expect lots of basic combat, bare bones boss battles and block breaking. After all, the only real way to progress in these games, it seems, is to break something then use its blocks to build something else, or solve an easy puzzle. It’s a shame that the variety that was present in LEGO The Incredibles didn’t bleed into this one, because there was a lot of potential here.

Moving on, there is an open world hub, and it’s comprised of more than one part, although there’s not a lot of interesting stuff to do.

Things start in a dark, rainy and somewhat constricted version of Gotham, which truly isn’t that interesting or that fun to explore. Then, the narrative moves you into always-sunny Metropolis, before visiting Smallville. These hubs are connected, and are not alone either, because you’ll also visit places like Arkham Asylum and the Watchtower. Not all of the hubs are big, or connected though, as some are smaller and self-contained, not to mention less interesting. The Watchtower is one such environment.

The main campaign unfolds over the course of approximately fifteen stages, which send the villains to the far reaches of the DC Comics Universe. Some stand out more, and happen to be more enjoyable than others, but too many are confined interiors that blend into one another. When LEGO games are good, their stages are open, creative and unique, not closed-in interiors like laboratories, space stations and jails, where everything feels cookie cutter in nature. These designs make the games grow old fast and made LEGO DC Super-Villains become boring rather quickly. As much as I wanted to like the title, I had a hard time finding fun within it and struggled to find the desire to play it. Yet, as I mentioned before, I was looking forward to it because it looked so colourful and creative.

It doesn’t help that a lot of the villains you play as are, as noted, B to D level characters. Although I read comics as a kid, and have seen pretty much every super hero movie ever made, there were quite a few avatars that I didn’t know or recognize, and some even felt like rip-offs of Marvel characters. They always fell into archetypes too, which is something that LEGO games are notorious for. You usually have the guy (or girl) who can blow up silver blocks, one who can shoot a laser that cuts into or destroys golden blocks, someone who can use terminals and someone who can dig. That’s pretty much the case here, and it’s gotten old.

There are five bonus missions worth mentioning too, and they show what happened to the Justice League when they were banished at the start of the game. Combined with the main campaign’s stages, they add up to about 20 levels, which is a number that fans will appreciate.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Like all of these LEGO games, replayability is incentivized by secrets, collectibles and character-specific content that can only be unlocked or interacted with by returning to stages in free play mode. LEGO DC Super-Villains also features selfies, races, Joker minikits and other such collectibles that are inventoried upon completion of every stage. If you like this kind of thing then you’ll have a lot more to look forward to. Even if you don’t care about this stuff, you’ll experience some of it as you make your way from cutscenes to stages by way of foot or vehicle, and solve puzzles in hubs to unlock your next story level.

Truth be told, it’s the presentation where this thing shines, because the visuals are solid, the voice acting feels mostly right and there’s some decent comedy to be found as there is in every other LEGO game. None of it feels as fresh as it did years ago, but that’s to be expected after 13 years and so many releases. It stands out as being the best part of this game, though, and includes something unexpected: a licensed song (Wolfmother’s ‘The Joker and the Thief’) that plays over the menu and I believe even appeared during the campaign.

With all that having been said, I must reiterate my disappointment. Although I’ll never claim to be the biggest fan of LEGO video games, I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with quite a few of them and was hoping the same would happen with this one. Unfortunately, LEGO DC Super-Villains doesn’t do enough with its creative licenses and freedoms, and ends up being a very cookie cutter and rather dull game. It’s a shame.

**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.**

Overall: 5.4 / 10
Gameplay: 5.2 / 10
Visuals: 7.2 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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