LEGO DC SUPER-VILLAINS
Why focus on the bad guys? Because crime plays…
You can argue all you like whether DC or Marvel has the best superheroes, but it’s indisputable that DC has the greatest villains. In fact, in all three Lego Batman games you spend a large amount of time playing as them, because they’re that much fun. Now they’re taking centre stage, as the ‘Justice Syndicate’, evil versions of the heroes from another dimension, arrive on Earth and the heroes disappear. But wait: before you get started on the story you have to create your own villain, choosing everything from hairdo and leg colour to a weapon and the look of your superpower. (You’ve no choice as to what your power actually is; you gain particular powers as you need them within the story.) Fed up of waiting for a second Lego City Undercover, we made Chase McCain – well, he could be working undercover again, right?
Despite the time you put into creating your villain, they see surprisingly little action early on. The story follows a format Lego game fans will be familiar with: in each level you’re given control of a set group of characters – The Joker and Harley Quinn climbing Gotham Clock Tower, for example – and have to use their skills to solve puzzles to reach the end. Complete a level and you can replay it as often as you like in free play, with whichever villains and heroes you’ve unlocked. You’ll want to have at least one more go at each, because you can only collect every bonus-giving red brick, gold brick, and hidden character in free play.
JOKE’S ON YOU
Despite the familiar settings and faces, the story mode isn’t particularly engaging. Possibly it’s the thin plot – the characters are memorable, but the storyline is forgettable – or the fact that the areas you start in are dark, and the hub areas more physically separate than Lego City’s districts, making moving between them feel less free. The hub areas are also limited. You travel to Themyscira in the story, for example, but can’t go there on foot. The hub doesn’t invite exploration the way Lego City or Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2’s mashed-up world does. It’s not till you have to cross the world to Smallville, well into the story, that the joy of exploration starts to kick in.
The mechanics are also unlikely to hook you in. Previous Lego games have been simple, but this one feels even easier. For example, at one point Solomon Grundy grows a plant, and another character has to leap from leaf to leaf to reach the level above. You’d expect to angle a thumbstick while pressing a button, right? Except here you just need to press q. Every time a puzzle is introduced that might require a bit of exploration to solve, the
“THE CHARACTERS ARE MEMORABLE, BUT THE STORYLINE IS FORGETTABLE.”
game pans across the scene to show you exactly where to go and often the specific item you need to destroy or use. It might please very young gamers, but it gets dull very quickly for everyone else.
HEY, SEE DC
So what, you’re wondering, will keep you playing? The detail, which is always enjoyable to spot. There are references to situations from DC comics, such as when Poison Ivy declares Harley Quinn can stay with her. DC fans will get the reference to their relationship in the comics, but it’ll fly over the heads of younger players. You can go inside many buildings, from a Smallville café to a Metropolis diner to a comic shop and even a cat café. There are things to find and destroy, such as bats on Wayne Island, posters in Gotham, and sunflowers in Smallville (hey, it’s a wholesome place), though there are clues to their locations on the map tabs, which kills the joy of exploring.
The voice actors are another treasure for fans. Mark Hamill voices The Joker, just has he did on telly and in the Arkham games. Clancy Brown returns as Lex Luthor – it’s a role he’s voiced in previous Lego games, and TV animations. John Barrowman, who plays Malcolm Merlyn in Arrow, reprises the role here. Sometimes it feels like hearing each new major character’s voice is a bigger treat than getting to play as them. And that’s really the problem: this game is full of wonderful character, but lacking in plot and challenge. A criminal waste.
A lot of love has gone into this game. Jokes and nuggets of DC lore are scattered throughout – they’re glittering little studs of care and attention. Sadly, they don’t build into such a wonderful whole. Miriam McDonald
It’s the classic Lego setup: swap between the characters you’re given and use their skills to solve puzzles and beat each level.
Below Be extra naughty and you become a Wanted crim, chased by cops.
Right Avoid rocks, collect components. These awful ‘puzzles’ drain your studs.
Above left Minor heroes and villains set you missions – usually incredibly simple.