In the world of comic books and, for the most part, in the battles between the heroes and villains, the stories tend to champion the good guys of the narrative and tell you to root for them against some greater evil. There have been some absolute classic encounters following such formulae in the DC universe; Batman versus Joker, Superman going toe to toe with Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman taking down Ares. But what if the baddies were thrown into the role of saviours instead and we had to get behind the folk who lie, steal and maim for a living?
Well, that’s essentially what’s occurring in LEGO DC Super-Villains and I’m embracing my inner devil, with a maniacal laugh to boot!
Batman has absolutely dominated the LEGO offerings where the DC instalments are concerned, with three impressive outings in years gone by that have set the bar pretty high. So it’s only fair that Traveller’s Tales have shone the spotlight on someone else for a change in LEGO DC Super-Villains; this time the villainous characters and even your very own created character.
It all kicks off when the Justice League are relieved of their duties against their will, sent packing to heck knows where and replaced by the self-proclaimed ‘Justice Syndicate’ – these phony heroes are actually villains of another Earth, the Crime Syndicate. The Legion of Doom have cottoned on to the shenanigans, which leaves them in an uneasy situation as they can’t stand the Justice League, but the new gang of evil-doers are worse. As a result, Joker, Harley Quinn, Lex and a myriad of other villains band together to take the fight to the latest threat to humanity. That’s as much as I’m willing to spoil, sorry.
It’s quite a clever plot in many ways, ensuring that the ‘heroes’ are out of the way to really drive home having villains as the focal point. What’s more, there are a ton of characters featured that’ll draw in the casuals and the hardcore fans alike, seeing household names of Penguin and The Riddler going hand in hand with the likes of Granny Goodness and Desaad. Given that everyone’s out for themselves, naturally, you’re never quite sure as to their motives or who’s going to be roped into the chaos next. Not once can your eyes be taken of the cutscenes either, because you just never know what visual gag will accompany the often humorous dialogue.
As for your role in this madness, well in addition to controlling the well-known characters, your created character – The Rookie – will play an integral part in the story. No words are uttered by the up and coming villain of yours, but due to possessing the power to soak up new abilities, they are still welcomed with open arms into the fold and appear frequently throughout the narrative. Fortunately, the customisation options are vast and as such, the lack of a voice almost became a moot point once I’d kitted out my guy in the most uncool of attires – a posh scarf and jumper combo – and had him wielding a laser firing sausage for a weapon. You’ve got to live out your wildest dreams while you can folks.
In regards the gameplay, don’t expect to see vast differences between this and the recent LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 outing. There are 15 story missions, with 5 bonus ones that serve the purpose of telling a tale adjacent to the main goings on. Smashing everything in sight is the general pattern of proceedings, in order to uncover the pieces needed to build whatever’s necessary to advance through the level and collect a shed load of Studs in the process. Occasionally a few regular hits are enough to bust everything open, whilst other times require the use of extreme heat, frost beams, electricity and even a spot of chlorokinesis. Bringing all the different abilities into play ensures that you’ll have to get the best out of the whole party of villains at your disposal, with a second playthrough in free play often called for if you’re after those pesky Red Bricks, Minikits and Gold Bricks.
The majority of the levels follow the rather safe formula outlined above, but there are a couple of differing level sections to throw something new our way. These include a footrace between the fastest men alive, a stealth-like battle with a radar to help avoid garnering the main boss’s attention, and vehicle based shooting affair.
The combat has deviated slightly and now the tag team manoeuvres are no more, replaced by the option to charge around with an enemy like they’re some kind of battering ram. It’s not the end of the world, especially when the finishing moves each character can pull off are so damn awesome. Having different moves for each can really whip up a desire to try them all out and see who’s got the most badass super move of all, which keeps fighting fresh. The freshness is also aided by the mixture of enemies to tackle, with some needing to be taken out in an alternate manner to their colleagues.
When you’re not breaking stuff or battling against the likes of Parademons, a variety of mini-games are on hand to keep things ticking along. Whether that means you’re rotating a maze to reach a switch, sliding blocks to form a picture, or repeating a pattern, it matters not because they are all decent and relatively uncomplicated to enable players of all ages to manage. My personal favourite is one involving Reverse-Flash, who has to collect bits and bobs whilst running really fast, with you needing to help him avoid obstacles – it plays out like a bonus stage in Sonic, sort of.
Boss battles transpire regularly and, on paper, these should be the bee’s knees. Sadly, there’s more enjoyment from a bee’s sting. You see, the bosses themselves are brilliant and the variety on offer is spot on, but the way the scenario plays out can mean you’re peppering them to no avail for ages and it becomes more of a waiting game to see if an opportunity presents itself. The camera angle sucks too when it tries to bring a feeling of a one on one battle, as it goes in too tight and it’s hard to follow what’s happening. Defeating a boss should feel rewarding, instead it’s more a case of “jeepers, I’m glad that’s over” because the situation drags on far too long and you’re often unsure of the objective at hand.
After the grand conclusion, post-story content is going to tie you up for hours on end due to a whopping 200 Gold Bricks target to hit. From races and engaging in conflict, to putting out fires and freeing prisoners, there’s a real mixed bag of little missions and such to take on. There are also a large selection of challenges to locate across the Hub worlds of Earth and the lava-filled planet of Apokolips. To complete the challenges, you’ll need to work out where the location is from a list of clues, which is actually a clever concept to test the brain a little. You will need to be careful in the open-world though, for fear of attracting too much attention from the cops as there’s a GTA-esque wanted level in place to keep you on your toes.
I have to say, the locations throughout Earth and the missions can be rather forgettable at times; when you’ve seen one jungle themed level or variation of a prison, you’ve seen them all. Not much stands out in the environments, however they all provide an adequate setting for the action and Joker’s hideout is pretty cool at least. There were more exciting places to visit in LEGO Batman 3 though and it feels like a step back in that sense.
Enough about the visual mediocrity of the level designs though, because a special mention has to go to the outstanding all-star cast providing the voices to over 150 playable characters. Traveller’s Tales really pulled out all the stops to get Mark Hamill (The Joker), Tara Strong (Harley Quinn), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Nolan North (Ultraman) and Fred Tatasciore (Solomon Grundy), to name just a few. It really is a who’s who of voice actors, ensuring the game has the most authentic sounding heroes and villains.
My time with LEGO DC Super-Villains has been very enjoyable, but it hasn’t been plain sailing with numerous bugs plaguing proceedings. There have been times where characters randomly become like statues and refuse to move, leaving me helpless and unable to switch. That’s the worst part because the only solution is to quit and try again, which leaves a bad taste and a fear of it happening again. Other niggles include dumb A.I. teammates getting trapped indefinitely and enemies who just won’t die no matter what you do.
All in all, LEGO DC Super-Villains is very good in the way it incorporates your own villain into what is a great story. The featured characters bring a ton of excitement and plenty of laughter, whilst their arsenal of moves ensures the combat doesn’t get stale. You could spend hours on end acquiring all of the Gold Bricks as there’s definitely no shortage of things to do, or a lack of brilliant voiceovers to accompany the goings on. It’s such a shame that the boss battles hold it back, the locations need a bit more ingenuity and the bugs are a pain in the backside.
It’s good to be bad in LEGO DC Super-Villains and you should let out your inner Joker by getting involved… but there’s a bit of room for improvement in this one. Batman still reigns supreme in the LEGO DC realm.