These days, when the average person thinks of DC, they tend to picture the dark, ‘gritty’ tone of the DCEU movies (along with the infamous ‘Martha’ scene, of course). Despite attempts to break away from this with the mildly enjoyable Shazam! and the frankly dire theatrical cut of Justice League, miserable undertones is seemingly what DC does best right now. It’s actually refreshing, then, that the DC Super Hero Girls animated show is the absolute antithesis of this; a cartoon show focused on the lives of some of the most popular DC Super Heroes as they navigate their teen lives at Metropolis High School.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is the direct video game adaptation of the TV show, developed by TOYBOX Inc. (of Deadly Premonition 2 fame, of all things) and published by Nintendo, and you know what? It’s actually pretty good! Granted, its target audience is a very specific group who enjoy watching the TV show, but for those folks there’s a lot here to enjoy, not to mention the game feels exceptionally polished and well crafted throughout, complete with excellent voiceover work for all the main characters.
The primary cast of superheroes from the TV series feature in the game, including Wonder Woman, Batgirl, SuperGirl, Zatanna, Green Lantern, and Bumblebee, but you mainly only play as the former three. The gameplay is a fairly linear affair in which you go back and forth between the girls’ duties as superheroes and their social lives together, and the game does a surprisingly good job at balancing these aspects, with no section ever outstaying its welcome.
Progression through the story is broken up into nice, bite-sized chunks where you play as one specific character before moving onto the next (although eventually, the game lets you switch between the three at will depending on the situation). The social aspect of the game consists of moseying around the streets of Metropolis, shopping for new clothes, chatting with citizens, and posting photos to Superstapost, the game’s fictional social media app.
The city itself is reasonably well constructed, if a little barebones. The overall size is more than manageable, particularly for a younger audience, and the social missions never tend to last more than a few minutes at a time. These are surprisingly varied throughout, including helping old ladies cross a busy road, finding a lost wallet, and tagging graffiti throughout the city. Completing missions — both social and hero missions — grants you money that can be spent on new clothes for each character. This whole aspect of the game is very well implemented, with separate clothing items available for purchase, including hats, tops, shoes, and more.
Combat initially felt a bit ropey at the start, but the developers spend quite a lot of time easing you into it, pitting you against just one or two enemies at once. As you progress further into the story, the action ramps up nicely, and although it’s incredibly basic compared to more adult oriented action titles like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, it absolutely does what it needs to do.
Combos are mapped to ‘Y’, and each successful hit is accompanied by a handy icon to show the number of moves you’ve landed. After a certain amount of hits, you automatically perform a ‘smash’ move, which effectively wipes out the enemy you’re facing in one go. Dodging is also extremely useful, and a well-timed dodge slows down the action, allowing to to perform an instant smash attack on the enemy you successfully evaded.
Completing tasks and missions not only nets you money, but also skill points. These can be spent on new abilities and core stats such as HP. The additional abilities add a nice new layer to the otherwise fairly basic combat; for example, Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth can pull multiple enemies into close range, stunning them for a brief moment of time while you pummel them into the ground. Bonus skill points can also be earned by completing certain parameters within each hero mission, such as pulling off a certain number of combos, or gathering collectibles.
So far, so positive, but the game also has its share of faults and a lot of these fall under its overall presentation. The graphics are pretty decent for the most part, and are a good representation of the art style seen in the TV show, however a lot of the character design outside of the main cast of characters is just a bit boring and samey. With combat, there’s a handy lock-on feature you can use, but this does little to resolve the often erratic camera, which can get in the way of the action and cause you to fall off buildings or bridges.
From an audio perspective, the voiceover work is fantastic throughout; most of the voices are typically high-pitched and so might not resonate with everyone, but they sound clear, and it’s pretty easy to distinguish one character from another. The music, on the other hand, can get pretty grating after a while; the same track plays on repeat as you explore the city, and while it’s certainly a catchy little number, we got absolutely sick of it after just a few listens.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power could have easily been a disaster; a cheap cash-in with little or no merit. Thankfully, it’s actually a surprisingly comprehensive and satisfying experience that fans of the show will absolutely love. There are plenty of characters to interact with, an excellent shopping feature, and lots of fun little tasks to keep you occupied. Don’t get us wrong, the game knows its target audience and caters to that younger demographic, so older gamers may not gel with the overall tone and simplistic gameplay. However, kids who might not yet be ready for the ‘grimdark’ (“MARTHA!”) DCEU, this might be the perfect alternative.