Released: October 2018
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC
You’ve heard of Lego, right? Those little Danish plastic blocks that you can slot together to build all kinds of shit and make you wish you were dead when you step on them? Well, some time ago (around 2014), they started producing playsets based on DC Comics characters.
After the release of Lego Star Wars: The Video Game (Traveller’s Tales, 2005) laid the groundwork for what would become numerous licensed Lego videogames, Traveller’s Tales released Lego Batman: The Videogame (ibid, 2008), the first in a series of Lego-themed videogames based on DC Comics characters. Lego DC Super-Villains came hot on the heels of The Lego Batman Movie (McKay, 2017) and was a spin-off of its immediate predecessor, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Traveller’s Tales, 2014). While the gameplay and narrative may have expanded beyond simple pantomiming in enclosed environments to fully-voiced open worlds, the core blueprint of building increasingly ridiculous Lego constructs in a DC-themed world remained unchanged.
When the evil Justice Syndicate arrive from Earth-3, pose as superheroes, and promptly dispose of the Justice League, the super-villains of the DC Universe must join forces with a mysterious new villain in order to expose the Syndicate as frauds and reclaim their place as the world’s number one villains.
If you’ve ever played a Lego videogame before, you’ve played them all; gameplay is ridiculously simple and yet fun, with the games designed to be accessible to younger players and emphasising pick-up-and-play, co-operative gameplay, and simple, easy to master mechanics.
The first thing you’ll do is design your own Lego supervillain from a range of available heads, costumes, and powers, which you’ll unlock more of as you play through the game’s story mode and find hidden Gold and Red Bricks. Once you have your Rookie, you’ll adventure with some of DC’s most notorious super-villains (including Harley Quinn, Lex Luthor, and Black Adam) across some of DC’s most recognisable locations (from Slaughter Swamp, to Metropolis, to the fire-pits of Apokolips).
Gameplay couldn’t be simpler; you can attack enemies with combos, ranged weapons, energy blasts, and crowd-clearing ground pounds, or fly and flip across the skies of the game’s various open worlds, amongst many other attributes. The Rookie’s abilities can be customised as you play and his ability to absorb and learn new powers is a crucial part of the game’s amusing story mode.
Considering the Lego videogame formula hasn’t changed since their first Lego Star Wars videogame, there’s a lot to see and do here; every time you complete a chapter of the story mode, you unlock it for use in Free Play mode. As each environment has many hidden secrets that can only be uncovered by using characters and abilities not initially available in the story mode, this encourages a great deal of exploration and replayability if you want to find everything and earn all of the Achievements.
Combat and gameplay are simple enough, and the game’s puzzles aren’t generally much to worry about; Lego DC Super-Villains’ challenge comes in the multitude of secrets hidden in the game’s multiple overworlds and individual chapters and in the vast amount of side missions on offer. You’ll be tasked with photographing goons, destroying certain objects, or collecting certain items, all to either obtain another hidden brick or unlock an extra playable character in the game’s already stacked roster.
A crucial aspect of any Lego videogame is smashing everything in your path, collecting Lego studs, and building, building, building. Holding down B near a cluster of Lego pieces will see your character piece together all manner of Lego constructs, from weapons, to computer terminals, vehicles, and even the Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill, all of which will spew out yet more Lego studs, open up new areas, or allow you to progress further.
Collecting studs is vital to your progression; although you have a heart-based life system, you can return to the game as many times as you like after dying as long as you have enough studs. However, as they’re scattered across every inch of the Lego DC world, you’ll never be running short of these, and enemies will often drop hearts upon their defeat. Studs can also be used to purchase new characters and vehicles, both of which are essential to earning some of the game’s Achievements.
Graphics and Sound:
A key aspect of all of Lego’s multimedia ventures is just how well they recreate the feeling of playing with actual Lego toys; everything in their movies, animated shorts, and videogames has some basis in reality and is either based on, or available as, an existing Lego playset.
To that end, all of the characters look and act exactly as a Lego toy would; they’re made of shiny, stiff plastic and it always feels as though you’ve just dropped a bucket of your Lego out on the floor and started playing with them. Iconic DC locales are lovingly crafted out of the iconic bricks to the point where you’re smashing your way through a dark and stormy Gotham City that evokes exactly the same sense of gloomy dread as anything produced by Rocksteady.
While early Lego videogames based on movie properties utilised the soundtrack and vocal performances of their source materials, Lego DC Super-Villains favours a largely original score and goes all-in with the quality of its voice actors. You’ve got the likes of Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, and Michael Ironside reprising their roles from various DC cartoons and animated movies alongside John Barrowman, Zachary Levi, and Brandon Routh voicing their respective characters from DC’s live-action television shows and movies.
Enemies and Bosses:
As you journey to expose the Justice Syndicate, you’ll naturally face opposition from local law enforcement and rival goons before squaring off with members of the Justice Syndicate and the Justice League.
As a result, you’ll inevitably end up in battle against the likes of Ultraman, Mazahs, Owlman, Johnny Quick, and Superwoman but you’ll also fight against Solivar, Doomsday, and the titanic New God Darkseid. Each boss battle has a unique twist, forcing you to use different abilities to break through their defences and chip away at their health.
In many instances, bosses will use the environment to their advantage (such as Sea-King, who attacks with a giant octopus) or send waves of goons against you. Luckily, however, you can utilise different abilities to uncover building bricks around these environments to construct weapons and other Lego that will turn the tide in your favour.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you play Lego DC Super-Villains, you’ll find Gold and Red Bricks, hidden Batman-branded Minikits, and various graffiti points. Each of these, and the collecting of studs, will unlock and allow you to purchase a treasure trove of in-game modifiers which will double your stud bonus, detect secrets, enable one-hit kills, and even flash up the Batman (1966 to 1968) “Pow!” sound effects.
Additionally, every Lego character has their own unique weapon and playstyle; some, like Clayface, can increase or decrease in size to smash through obstacles or fit through vents; others, like Livewire, can charge electrical conduits with their electricity powers. The likes of the Joker and Scarecrow can collect special items to brew up fear gas or laughing gas, respectively, while also commanding goons found in each level to form bridges or activate switches. Similarly, there are some characters, like Tigress, who can dig up hidden treasures or use their acrobatic abilities to jump across rooftops. While it would be wrong to say that no two characters play the same, as there are many who share recognisable traits, playing as Superman is a markedly different experience to playing as Chang Tzu. Add on to that the Rookie’s ability to learn and combine these different abilities and you have a lot of different options available to you to progress through the game’s story and side quests.
Once you clear the game’s substantial story mode, which will see you take command of various different DC villains across multiple locations, you unlock five bonus levels that are narrated by Lobo and located around Apokolips. These extra missions allow you to play as the various members of the Justice League as they battle their way to freedom out of Darkseid’s hellish homeworld. There’s also a fair amount of downloadable content on offer that adds characters and levels based on DC films like Shazam! (Sandberg, 2019) and Aquaman (Wan, 2018) and DC’s live-action shows, like Arrow (2012 to 2020) and The Flash (2014 to present), among others.
I’ve always enjoyed the simple pleasure of the Lego videogames; they’re not exactly taxing to play through and are easy to slip right back into after years away as the fundamental basics have remained unchanged since 2005. Not only are they harmless fun to play, they’re also pretty funny; Traveller’s Tales have put a lot of work into the game’s story and dialogue and much of the game’s humour comes from genuinely funny jokes, gags, one-liners, Easter eggs, and sight-gags.
Saying that, though, Lego DC Super-Villains is best played with a friend so you can easily smash your way through the story mode and side quests and uncover every hidden trinket on offer. As a solo experience, it’s serviceable enough but these are games built to be enjoyed with a friend or, more ideally, a younger sibling or a child (preferably yours…) as the challenge on offer is tailor made for a younger audience. There’s a lot to like, here, though, especially if you’re a fan of DC Comics or their animated endeavours.
What did you think about Lego DC Super-Villains? Are you a fan of the Lego videogames or do you find the formula to be wearing a bit thin by now? Feel free to leave a comment and give me your thoughts and feedback.