The Batman franchise is almost certainly one of the most popular franchises that TT Games has used to coat over their classic LEGO formula. Already having three games under their belt, the developer has now decided to explore the world of Batman — and the wider DC Universe — from the lens of the villains. The likes of Joker, Lex Luthor, Eobard Thawne, Harley Quinn and more take center stage in LEGO DC Super Villains, although the story told, unfortunately, offers nothing fresh or exciting, and neither does the gameplay.
There is of course nothing inherently wrong with the core gameplay in LEGO games. You take a band of characters, each with their own abilities, and traverse each level, fighting henchmen and solving puzzles along the way. Each hero’s ability is used for specific puzzles — some heroes shoot lasers that blow up golden blocks, while others can make platforms by freezing water. There are a vast array of powers at your disposal, though there is nothing new being offered over LEGO Batman 3.
One aspect that stands out in LEGO DC Super Villains is that you have to create your own villain. This begins with creating your own LEGO Minifigure, adjusting hair, colors, costume, and so on. After this is where things get interesting, as you can then choose what kind of superpowers they will wield in-game. From the get-go, you are able to give your villain speedster powers and acrobatics. As the game progresses, your created character will be able to take on new powers and earn new costumes, so you can build upon your creation over the course of the main story.
The way that the game is written means that the characters in the game constantly skirt around your villain’s name and gender. Simply calling you “Rookie” for the whole game, and making it known that they “don’t talk much,” ultimately came off as lazy writing, and the story could have been worked a little harder to make your character feel more welcome in the universe that they are supposed to be a part of.
The story is a tired one as well. The Justice League have been whisked away by the Crime Syndicate, leaving Earth completely open to attack from the Super Villain team. While everyone on Earth believes the Crime Syndicate to be a team of heroes named the Justice Syndicate, Harley Quinn sees through their guise and recruits a team of Super Villains of her own in order to save Earth from the Crime Syndicate. Of course, they plan to take over the planet themselves when they’re done, but the idea of using villains as heroes feels uninspired. This could have been an opportunity to see the dark side of the LEGO universe — instead, we’re left with playing the hero anyway.
Lackluster story aside, LEGO DC Super Villains offers a great variety of fan-service and humor. Seemingly never being able to get away from the Joker, Mark Hamill continues to voice the Clown Prince of Crime, seven years after retiring from the character in Arkham Knight. Similarly, Kevin Conroy returns as Batman, with Tara Strong reprising the role of Harley Quinn. On an amusing note, Roger Craig Smith plays Batman’s alter-ego from Earth 3, Owlman. Similarly, John Barrowman of the Arrow television series plays Malcolm Merlyn, and Brandon Routh — who has played both Superman and The Atom on-screen — plays the role of Shazam, for some reason. Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny the fact that the voice acting high quality throughout, and it helps make those humorous notes hit more often than not.
In terms of visual style, LEGO DC Super Villains is exactly what you would expect out of a LEGO game. It’s simplistic in nature, although watching how large vehicles and monsters are created entirely out of LEGO pieces shows some dedication from the staff at TT Games. Some of the creations found within Poison Ivy’s lair look like they’ve been created with thousands of LEGO pieces, and to recreate that in-game makes the entire experience much more detailed than it looks on the surface.
While I feel as though there is a lot of love poured into this game — possibly more so than most LEGO games — I can’t help but feel that the same formula that has been used since LEGO Batman 2 just doesn’t feel like something that should be recycled six years later. The game offers an open-world, though there really isn’t much worth doing until the main story is complete. There are many, many icons on the map that indicate points of interest, but for 90 percent of the story, they simply taunt you, as they prove unreachable until Free Play is unlocked at the end. The only game that escaped this formula — and as a result turned out to be incredibly fun — was LEGO City Undercover, so it’s not like there wasn’t another successful game to build off of.
The overworld itself feels quite undercooked. In past games, we have had the entirety of Gotham City to explore. LEGO DC Super Villains takes this idea one step further, by introducing other cities and towns, including Smallville and Metropolis. The problem is that they are all connected to Gotham City, making them feel like one large city with varying suburbs. It doesn’t feel representative of the DC Universe as a whole, though I did enjoy the touch of having Metropolis always enjoying a nice, sunny day, while Gotham perpetually being cast under a dark and gloomy night.
The popularity of super villains has been on the rise lately, as movies like Suicide Squad and Venom can attest to. As a result, we now have a LEGO game centered around the villains of the DC Universe, and although the narrative is lacking, the jokes and voice acting more than make up for it. For better or worse, LEGO games as a whole haven’t evolved all too much over the past six years, and they don’t look to be changing any time soon. If you aren’t sick of the formula of LEGO games by now, LEGO DC Super Villains offers up enough entertainment value, putting it (slightly) ahead of its predecessors.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment.
Although the formula for LEGO games has remained mostly unchanged over the past six years, LEGO DC Super Villains is still an enjoyable experience, provided that you aren't suffering from LEGO fatigue.