If you’re looking for a grim, gritty, violent video game set in the DC Universe, DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power isn’t it. And thank goodness, because that’s been more than covered – thank you very much Zach Snyder. This version of Metropolis is colorful and cartoony, and its recognizable heroes and villains are high schoolers balancing the day-to-day lives of teenagers with their powerful alter-egos – and for a change, it’s female power fantasy. As an action game, Teen Power tosses together a bunch of basic gameplay ideas, including combat and social media prowess. It works well enough, but there’s nothing deep or innovative about it, and the seemingly endless sidequests end up feeling like repetitive filler after a dozen hours.
Even though DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power shares its setting and character design with the animated series of the same name, you don’t need to have watched the show to follow along. If you have even a passing knowledge of the DC universe, either through comic books, animated shows, or movies, you’ll probably recognize the six playable characters. There’s Barbara Gordon, whose love of tech and gadgets comes in handy when she dons the cape as Batgirl; Kara Danvers, a modern take on Supergirl with an edgy look and a love of rock music; and Diana Price, a straight-A student by day and Wonder Woman by night. On the villain side, Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire become available in the second half of the campaign.
There’s a lot to love about this cast of characters, particularly the voice actors who bring them to life. Many actors from the animated show reprise their roles in Teen Power, including the incredible Tara Strong, the longtime voice of Harley Quinn in the animated DC universe. Each character felt truly distinct, from the way they walk (or skip, in Harley’s case) to their combat abilities: Wonder Woman can use the lasso of truth to round up groups of feral teddy bears, Star Sapphire creates a “cage of love” that traps and damages anything inside it, and Supergirl’s heat vision comes in handy when you’re surrounded by rampaging robots. These attacks add some much-needed variety to the combat experience, and it’s so satisfying to unleash Harley’s bombs when you’re in a jam.
One thing that irked me about the characters, though, is how often their actions were driven by their obsessions with men. Barbara Gordon is described as a “Batman fangirl,” and despite not even living in Gotham anymore (and being in high school), Harleen still swoons over “Mistah J.” Those nitpicks would be easier to overlook if Carol Ferris’ entire reason for living wasn’t to get back with her ex-boyfriend Hal Jordan (aka Green Lantern). She’s often shown stalking the poor guy, who literally cowers in fear when he sees her, and she’s clearly in deep denial about the state of their non-relationship. I know all of these storylines have their origins in other comics and shows and weren’t created specifically for this game, but it’s still uncomfortable when entire missions are built around this unhealthy behavior – especially when considering that the main characters are all teenagers and so is the target audience.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is technically an action game, but it sometimes feels more like a bunch of side quests and minigames stacked together like children in a trenchcoat. Most of the campaign missions are combat-focused, where up to three characters can team up to fight the out-of-control toys threatening to destroy Metropolis. It’s a serviceable story, but not a memorable one. The rogue toys mostly serve as an excuse for the heroes and villains to team up and fight a common enemy, which is how you end up with Harley, Catwoman, and Star Sapphire on your super team. Like the heroes, the villains have their own distinct set of moves and special attacks, but outside of battle, there’s not a significant difference in gameplay based on your active character.
Combat happens in self-contained cutaway sequences, not the open world areas, so you won’t come across any rogue enemies until you start a combat mission. Up to three characters can join in each combat mission, though only the lead character is playable — the other two serve as AI backups. There were times when I led the fight with Batgirl or Harley when a flying character like Supergirl or Star Sapphire would have worked better, and I really wish I could have switched among them on the fly. As far as the mechanics of fighting, the combo-building, special-attack-using battles are reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham series… but only on paper. In practice, combat is more about button-mashing than precision, and the camera often works against you more than the weak enemies do unless they’re in huge numbers. Pulling off a counterattack feels more like luck than skill, and I found myself spamming special attacks as much as possible to get through battles quickly.
It’s a fairly low-stakes affair, and beating the hell out of possessed robots and dolls is a fun way to blow off steam, but it’s not particularly sophisticated. The stars collected from battles and other missions can be used to increase HP, boost attack power, and unlock special attacks in a very light skill tree — more of a skill sapling, really. Each fight gives you rewards based on your performance, which is the only real incentive to try and master the combat system. You’ll see the words “level up” pop up in fights, but those levels don’t actually mean anything, since it’s not tracked anywhere else and upgrades are handled separately.
DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power Screenshots
When you’re not kicking butt, there’s plenty to do around Metropolis, which is split into three districts the teens can reach by bus. At the high school, you might see familiar faces like Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy) and Jessica Cruz (one of the DCU’s many Green Lanterns). Old City is home to ice cream shop Sweet Justice and fashion stores where you can buy new outfits and costumes. Then there’s Hob’s Bay, which is destroyed in the opening of Teen Power and is being rebuilt by Lex Luthor. For… reasons, Lex is letting teenagers decide the future of Hob’s Bay, which feels like it wouldn’t fly with LexCorp shareholders. That means you’ll occasionally get to choose a new building to decorate Hob’s Bay’s skyline.
I just wish so much of it didn’t feel inconsequential. The Hob’s Bay Project is a major part of the plot, yet most of the buildings you construct have no real purpose. New fashion stores generally sell the same outfits as the old ones, multi-story apartment buildings can warp you to their rooftops but have no noticeable effect on the neighborhood, and you can put a tacky pawn shop next to a luxury high-rise with no negative consequences. You can collect plans to build and assign mechanical guards to different sections of the Bay, but I still have no idea why.
The light city-building is only one thing keeping the super hero girls busy. There’s also Supersta, the in-universe social media network that everyone’s obsessed with. Some quests ask you to take pictures of trending scenery or top-tier selfies to gain followers and likes. On top of that, citizens will regularly ask for help in the dozens of “subquests” that fill out an otherwise-short campaign. I found myself searching for missing cats, helping an old woman cross the street, reuniting two sweethearts, chasing flyaway balloons, and snapping pics of the hero and villain logos being graffitied around town.
The Top 25 Switch Games (Fall 2020 Update)
These subquests add a lot of length to the main storyline, which can be completed in about six to eight hours, but after a while they start to feel the same. How many times do I need to help this old man find his cats, and why can’t he keep an eye on them? Why is it my job to find every missing phone, teddy bear, and concert ticket in Metropolis? Of course, I still did them, because completing side quests provided me with the money I needed to buy new clothes.
While the rewards may have been my top motivation for many of the subquests I completed, I still found them mostly enjoyable. DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power is the kind of game you curl up with when you want to zone out with a charming, cute, stress-free game. Sure, I might have rolled my eyes from time to time, and I couldn’t ignore the fact Teen Power was designed for a significantly younger age group, but it’s full of wholesome fun. Also, it’s super satisfying to see your Supersta posts go viral, particularly when the Daily Planet picks it up. But after 10-15 hours, the gameplay just feels scattered and unfocused — a jack of all trades and master of none.