I originally bought DC Super Hero Girls Teen Power to laugh at it. From the minute I saw the trailer, my plan was to buy this game and play it solely for the purpose of laughing at it and marveling in its badness. Welp, the joke is on me because DC Super Hero Girls is legitimately one of the most fun games I have played in the last couple of years. Not the best, not the most polished, not the most inventive but in terms of sheer fun, it’s up there. This game based on a cartoon I didn’t know existed, where you play as teenage versions of female superheroes and spend half your time shopping and taking pictures, is legitimately a great game and one of the best kids games and licensed games to come out in years.
The premise behind DC Super Hero Girls Teen Power is simple enough. DCs heroes and villains are teenagers who all attend Metropolis High School. The hero girls hang out with each other and know that they’re all super heroes and the villain girls have their own group and know they’re all villains. The heroes don’t know that the villains are villains and vice versa. This leads to some fun interplay between Batgirl and Harley Quinn since their civilian personas are friends. The story takes place over the course of seven chapters and follows the girls as they investigate toys that have come to life and keep attacking the city. I’m not familiar with the show so I don’t know if it follows the same formula as that or if it’s more expansive but it’s fun and lighthearted for younger players and packed with enough references and meta jokes for older players to enjoy.
One of the game’s greatest aspects is its presentation. The Switch has never been the most graphically advance console and you can definitely feel that in places here like some muddy textures and NPCs moving at 10fps when they’re far away. None of that matters or impacts the game in any negative way though because the art style helps to make the game extraordinarily good looking. It’s cel-shaded with bright and vibrant colours that resemble both a comic book and a bubbly cartoon. All the cutscenes are even accompanied by a comic book panel border around the screen. It all pops off the screen, and if you own a Switch OLED, playing in handheld mode is an extra treat for the eyes. While not everything in the game is voiced, most notably none of the side quests, all of the main story scenes in the game are voiced by all the same actors who voice the characters in the show. This includes some well known voices like Tara Strong and Nicole Sullivan and they all do an expectedly great job of bringing their characters to life and making them distinct in a fun way.
As always, gameplay is the most important element of a video game and while it’s relatively simple here, it’s absolutely engaging and most of all, fun. There’s three different types of gameplay sections here. The two you’ll spend the most time with is in combat as the girls’ superhero identities and walking around town as the girls’ civilian identities doing tasks and taking pictures to post on a social media app humorously called Supersta. There’s also a light city building element where you’re tasked with helping rebuild a part of the city that was destroyed by malfunctioning LexCorp robots. You unlock buildings by helping people and can can choose which ones to build in about a dozen pre defined spots. It’s definitely the lesser of the three gameplay styles and is only really useful for building places to get more clothes.
While the combat is fairly simple button mashing, in fact there’s only one attack button, it’s got enough style to remain engaging. When you hit combos you unleash Smash attacks which are stronger than your normal punch and are accompanied by an on screen graphic like a real comic book or the Adam West Batman show. There’s also of course superpowers. Playstyle doesn’t really change between characters but they each have their own powers. There’s two powers per character that are charged up during battle. Supergirl for example has freeze breath and laser vision while Wonder Woman has the Lasso of Truth and her Bracelets. For younger players, it will provide enough challenge that they won’t just win automatically. Enemies hit hard, so you have to avoid attacks, luckily there’s a dodge button which means as a game reviewer I’m obligated to now say this game is like Dark Souls. Dodge at the right time and you enter slow-mo and can hit a Smash on an enemy. It’s absolutely mostly button mashing with a few strategic rolls mixed in but it never got tedious, especially because most of the time you can choose who you want to play as in a mission so you’re not using the same two powers every single time.
The star and real reason I couldn’t put the game down for so long was exploring the city and taking pictures. When you aren’t punching things, you are in civilian mode. You can swap between characters whenever you want when you’re in teen mode to explore a few areas in the Metropolis area. It’s here that you will talk to NPCs to get side quests that could be just simple combat missions to quests where you might have to find an object, or talk to other people, or take a picture of a specific event, etc. Some side quests even have multiple steps that culminate in a battle, sometimes a boss battle. Most of the objectives for these side quests are simple enough and a lot of them tell you exactly where to go, but many of them don’t and require you to pay attention to what the requester said as well as other civilian NPCs to help figure out where to go. These open world areas aren’t that big so it’s never too hard to figure it out but I appreciate a kids game trusting kids to be able to figure things out on their own.
I was also shocked by how much there actually was to do in these sections. As I said, the areas themselves aren’t big but there’s a lot of side quests. There’s 179 in total, some you can complete as any character but some that require you to be a specific one. There’s also collectibles scattered about the city as well as in the combat areas. Doing a lot of these is not just fun but beneficial because you’re rewarded with coins to spend on new hero costumes or teen fashion as well as power stars that are used to upgrade your characters. Each character has their own skill tree to upgrade so you’re going to want as many of those stars as possible. While you explore, you’ll also be taking pictures around town and posting them to the game’s fictional social media to gain followers. The in game camera has a selfie mode, a landscape view with your character in it and a landscape view without your character as well as a few filters. You can also save your pictures to your Switch, either automatically whenever you publish to Supersta or selectively. Every character has their own Supersta account with their own follower count so you’ll be taking lots of pictures as all of them. I’m not ashamed to say this is where I had the most fun (all the pictures in this review are ones I took). Each character has their own selection of clothing to buy, and their own poses and I really enjoyed getting new clothes to take new pictures, exploring to find out what was trending so I could snap a trending picture and gain more followers. There are even hidden picture opportunities that are triggered by pointing your camera at the right place at the right time. It’s cute, it’s wholesome, it’s fun.
It’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows however. The music, while catchy and suitably upbeat, gets repetitive after a while. There’s only really a few tracks so you’ll be hearing the same music over and over again. Switching characters is also a bit clunky. It’s done through the pause menu and while it isn’t that big of a deal, since you do end up switching characters a lot, having to go into the pause menu every time does slow things down more than I would have liked. There are also a few A.I. issues. The enemies aren’t stupid but there were plenty of times where I would see some of them get stuck on something or just be moving into a wall not doing anything until I pulverized them. It’s not hugely game breaking and frankly, happened way less than I thought when I bought the game.
All in all, DC Super Hero Girls Teen Power is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. This could have so easily been a rushed cash grab. It has all the trappings of one but the developers crafted a game that respects the source material and respects the players. This is an excellent game for any young girl who likes these characters but it’s also got enough combat and humour for young boy players to enjoy. And if you’re willing to get sucked into a cute, bubbly superhero universe, it will provide a decently fun time for older players as well.
Rating: Cruise Commendation
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