TT’s LEGO DC games have been solid, and hugely popular, for years. After three successful Batman titles—the last of which was more a wider DC love-fest than a Dark Knight-specific adventure—TT is back with LEGO DC Supervillains, a bad guy-centric romp through many of the more bizarre corners of the DC Universe, with many characters who’ve never before been immortalized in this form. I was given access to the game just before release, and I’ve spent the last few weeks playing through it. So how is it? How does it measure up to other games in this space? Should you buy it? Read on to find out.
You get to join the action (sort of)
All of the recent LEGO video games give you the opportunity to build your own playable characters, and it’s a super fun feature. My kids have always enjoyed it, and often end up spending more time with their custom characters than with any others. Supervillains seems to make this feature much more central: you begin the game by creating your first custom, and it actually has a role in the story.
Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that TT either didn’t really know what they wanted this aspect of the game to be, or had a poorly-conceived plan for it.
Your custom character appears in the first level, but then you’re immediately severed from it in the next. In fact, you only get to play as your custom in about half (maybe?) of the levels in Story Mode. If the goal was to make the game somewhat more personal, then it’s very strange that you’re frequently detached from the personal anchor, your custom character.
Along the way, your custom acquires different powers. That sounds awesome, right? Sadly, the powers you acquire are predetermined by the plot, and by the end, your character has acquired an eclectic set of abilities that is incredibly useful, but also incoherent. Maybe if you’re a person who wants a hero that can do it all (except fly, strangely), then you’ll be satisfied; but for a feature that is designed to allow players to personalize their experience of the game, it’s odd that something as personal as power sets are imposed rather than chosen.
One final note on the custom character before I move onto the rest of the game—most of which, by the way, is absolutely delightful. When you first create your character, there are a number of things you can’t change, because they become available later in the game. One of those is the moral inclination of your character—good or evil. It turns out that you don’t get to change this until the very end of Story Mode, when you choose which side you want to be on. And then, as far as I can tell, the only implication of this is the group you’re standing with in the final “photograph” that the game snaps. They should have left this moral inclination feature out of the game entirely. Or gone in a different direction with the game and have a more dynamic plot that lets you make choices that steer you along that moral curve. That would have been something really fresh and really interesting.
TT may not know its strengths, but it still has them
Okay, so now that I’ve trashed one of the game’s purported central features, let me spoil the rest of this review: LEGO DC Supervillains is perhaps the most fun, bonkers, fan-servicing romp that we’ve seen in a LEGO game yet. There are characters in this game that you would never expect to see in the mainstream in any form. There are character animations and functions that are absolutely delightful—elements that make the same old mechanics of these games feel fresh and interesting again, even though you’re hitting the same buttons and affecting the same types of interactions that you have been for years. And that’s really how these games manage to remain popular—why each new one is still so exciting: because with each successive release, they add fresh characters, fresh worlds, fresh stories, and that’s all we really need. It’s a formula that works, so why mess with it?
The story is a whole lot of fun, too. It isn’t especially innovative—it’s essentially a hodgepodge of well-trod concepts like the Crime Syndicate, Darkseid invading, etc. But the details are delightful, and getting to experience all of these characters in this form is new and welcome. And here’s the real kicker, which I’m shocked I didn’t know until I started playing: the voice acting is excellent, in large part because they went big. Batman? Kevin Conroy. Joker? Yes, that’s right, MARK HAMILL. Harley is Tara Strong. The familiarity of these voices is an immediate buzz, but the quality of the voice acting is a gift that keeps on giving. Mr. J is fantastic, and Harley is a pure joy. And if you’ve followed my writing on Batman News these past few years, then you know how strange it is that I would ever say something like “Harley is a pure joy.” The voice performances are that good.
Pretty fast and pretty stable
I’m playing on a Nintendo Switch, which means I’m playing on the lowest-power hardware possible for this game. And I’ve got to tell you, I was genuinely surprised at how well it ran. My sons have been playing LEGO Incredibles a lot lately, and that one is a much choppier experience with long load times. With the exception of some slowness in one late, busy level, Supervillains was smooth and fast-loading, and I didn’t have a single freeze anywhere along the way. I did manage to scuzz up two levels and have to restart them, which sucked; but, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t too bad, and it was easier to swallow than the game just freezing up.
There were a few spots along the way where the camera angle didn’t adjust appropriately to let me see my character—even a few spots with mandatory actions, but these were few and infrequent.
If you’re a fan of this sort of game, you’re bound to enjoy LEGO DC Supervillains. But even if you’re not, this has so much obvious love for the beautiful strangeness of DC Comics, that it’s likely worth playing through just to experience the characters and locales. The custom-character emphasis is half-baked, but if you ignore that, what you’re left with is an incredibly fun, incredibly nerdy, incredibly stable game that will entertain you and/or your children for hours and hours on end.
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