DC's Justice League: Cosmic Chaos Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Foolish is the person who looks at a tie-in game aimed mainly at younger players and instantly dismisses it as a load of old bums.

Of course, most of the time they’re completely right – we still have occasional nightmares of that time we played Hotel for Dogs on the Wii – but every now and then a licensed game will go above and beyond its remit and deliver real quality.

DC's Justice League: Cosmic Chaos is one such game. While it would be easy to shrug it off and assume it’s a half-hearted superhero game designed to keep the young ‘uns busy for a few hours, what it actually offers is an entertaining action game with a decent-sized campaign and some genuinely funny writing.

The game’s plot revolves around occasional Superman villain Mr Mxyzptlk, who’s arrived at Happy Harbor, Rhode Island (the location of the Justice League’s Secret Sanctuary) to interrupt the inauguration of former Justice League member Snapper Carr as mayor. Summoning his supervillain pal Starro and capturing Snapper, Mxyzptlk declares himself the new mayor and plans to take over Happy Harbor for his own mischievous deeds.

DC's Justice League: Cosmic Chaos Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It’s up to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to save the day, and the player is able to switch between the three of them at will during play by toggling through them with the d-pad. Naturally, each has their own abilities and special moves, more of which are acquired over the course of the game, but from the start, Batman has his batarangs, Superman has his laser eyes and Wonder Woman can use her lasso to pull enemies towards her.

Combat is generally handled well enough, and could probably be described as Diablo-lite, offering a similar isometric perspective as you beat up waves of enemies, lowering their energy bars and collecting loot as they’re defeated. A dodge move is handy for avoiding attacks at the last minute, and the ability to switch characters mid-battle makes it easy to juggle each hero’s unique powers and trigger, say, one of Superman’s more powerful special moves while Batman’s is recharging.

It’s hardly reinventing the wheel but it's sloppily handled either, with standard attacks landing with just the right degree of satisfaction. What’s more, the five difficulty levels – ranging from ‘Story’, where combat is very easy, to ‘Heroic’, which will test even the most hardened players – should ensure that this is a game that appeals to more than just children despite its cartoonish appearance.

DC's Justice League: Cosmic Chaos Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Driving this point home are the numerous unlockable outfits, which can be acquired by collecting comic book pages scattered throughout the game's open world. These costumes span each character’s entire comic book history, going all the way back to the suits they first wore in their initial incarnations. A lot of these outfits will probably be lost on younger players but will appeal to longtime comic fans, further making it clear that this isn’t just a kids’ game.

All this fan service would be for naught if the game itself wasn’t entertaining, but the wide range of missions and side-missions are ably supported by genuinely well-written, entertaining dialogue that should appeal to young and old alike. We’re wary of getting into spoiler territory so we’ll give an example from the game’s (slightly choppy) animated intro instead.

At one point Mxyzptlk asks Superman what his favourite food is, to which he excitedly replies “pretzels”. Mxyzptlk then promptly turns Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman into giant pretzels, causing Superman to apologise to his friends, explaining that “pretzels are my kryptonite”. This makes a frustrated Batman remind Superman: “Kryptonite is your kryptonite.”

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The frequently funny script is performed by an all-star cast, with Nolan North (Nathan Drake) as Superman, Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman (having played her before in previous animated films) and animated Batman veteran Deidrich Bader taking on the role of the Caped Crusader again. Main villain Mr Mxyzptlk was reportedly supposed to be played by comedy legend Gilbert Gottfried, but he passed away last year and so the character is portrayed by Dana Snyder (best known as Master Shake in Aqua Teen Hunger Force) who absolutely nails the performance.

It ticks the fun box and the funny box, then, but Cosmic Chaos isn’t a perfect game, most notably when it comes to performance on Switch. The frame rate is all over the place and is constantly chugging and stuttering, especially when exploring the larger open-world Happy Harbor area. Things improve a bit when you’re fighting indoors, but it still never threatens to ever reach stability.

Switch to handheld mode – which, incidentally, we struggled to do at times because the game occasionally failed to realise we were no longer using the Pro Controller and wouldn’t accept the Joy-Cons until we exited to the Switch’s OS – and the performance improves ever so slightly. Sadly, though, the crisp docked visuals are made blurrier as a result, which is a particular shame given its cel-shaded style.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Also a shame is the fact that there’s no co-op in the main story mode. There’s an ‘Instant Action’ mode which does allow two players to play together but we found this a bit mindless, with no real progress to speak of (it even unlocks all your abilities and all the costumes, meaning there’s really nothing to play for). With co-op in the main story, this could have been a viable new alternative to the Lego games.

Despite its flaws, anyone looking for a solo adventure that will appeal to all members of the family could do a lot worse than Cosmic Chaos. An average player will get through its story in about 10-15 hours (depending on whether you sit through all the dialogue and take on all the side-quests), and it’s written well-enough to make you want to keep playing. It’s just a shame that the performance isn’t as polished as the script.

Conclusion

DC's Justice League: Cosmic Chaos is a fun action brawler with a wide enough range of difficulty levels to appeal to both younger players and older superhero fans who aren't above watching funny cartoons. Its technical issues and lack of co-op let it down, but what's there is an entertaining game that'll last you a decent time.