LEGO Marvel Super Heroes Review
Written Wednesday, November 06, 2013 By Lee Bradley
Nobody understands licenses like TT Games. Over the course of eight years and a dozen or so LEGO games, the British studio has taken on numerous cherished properties and nailed every single one of them. Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones - whatever the source material, the LEGO games always display just the right combination of reverence and tongue-in-cheek humour. They’re a joy.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is no exception, but this time the ante has been upped, with 132 characters stripped from the comics universe and made playable in the game. From obscure figures like Rick Jones, A.I.M. Agents and Squirrel Girl, to headliners like The Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man, every corner of the universe has been mined.
The game’s story goes like this. Silver Surfer’s surfboard is shattered into Cosmic Bricks which tumble down to Earth. Doctor Doom gets his villainous mitts on them, calls in the universe’s bad dudes and begins constructing a Doom Ray. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury assembles a team of superheroes to thwart Doom’s plans. And the adventure commences.
By this point, TT Games has buffed the moment-to-moment gameplay to a shiny plastic sheen. Combat is simple but fun - the button mashing made gleefully enjoyable thanks to a points multiplier and some wonderful animations. The way Iron Man spins around with his hand repulsor cannons, Thor twirls his hammer and Wolverine flips enemies into the air before slicing them into little studs transforms a limitation into a strength. You won’t tire of it.
Puzzle solving is similarly satisfying, ensuring that you draw on each character’s unique abilities to progress. Hulk, for example, can lift and destroy heavy objects, while Iron Man can carve open gold metal doors with his lasers and Spider-Man can rip down walls with his webs, ensuring that each level has a decent amount of variation and every present character gets his or her moment in the spotlight. Again it’s easy, but it’s presented in such a way that you won’t care.
Mash all this together with brilliant, chucklesome writing and astoundingly good audio design (the tinkling noises of LEGO collapsing, collecting and building is moreish enough on its own to keep you playing for hours) and you’ve got the recipe for greatness. And for the most part LEGO Marvel’s campaign excels, with each level offering a nice mix of fan service, great pacing, light puzzling and satisfying fighting. Yet it’s not without its problems.
”No Hulk, you can't fly the Blackbird.”
At the heart of this is the way the levels pan out. Individually, they’re all great, but TT Games sticks too closely to the same formula. The stages may have different set dressings, but they all boil down to a similar flow of fights, puzzles, building and boss fights. For the first seven or so of the 15 total levels you’ll be lapping it up, but once you realise what’s going on, the repetition begins to grate, especially if you’re already familiar with the previous games. And this is where LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ open world comes in.
You see, the story and those 15 levels are stretched across self-contained areas; a secret enemy lab maybe, or hero’s base. Beat them all and you’ll have completed the main campaign of the game. But don’t charge through them too quickly, or the level flow fatigue will set in. It’s far better to play around within the open world New York in between levels, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the numerous activities on offer.
There's loads to do, within a huge area encompassing familiar locations like Stark Tower, the Daily Bugle, Oscorp tower, the Avengers Mansion, the X-Mansion and even Marvel HQ and beyond, with the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier hovering above the clouds. You can enter races, discover secrets, fight Sentinels, collect gold bricks and go on fetch quests, all of which equates to a desperately needed change of pace. Plus, it’s fun to select Iron Man or Spider-Man and just swoop around the city, uninhibited by walls and limits.
Superior Spider-Man. Superior, cos he has more arms.
It’s odd, however, that TT Games hasn’t incorporated the open world into the game more fully. It would be a mistake, but you can complete the story without ever really exploring New York, the campaign never forces you to dip into it. Perhaps this is thanks to the game’s target market, allowing younger players to avoid the hassle of driving or flying around the city in search of missions. Yet it also raises the possibility that some might miss what is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the game.
Despite its limitations and quirks, however, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is tremendously enjoyable. It’s overflowing with charm and humour, energised by the sheer amount of love shown for the Marvel universe and the class with which it has been put together. Even the achievement list offers some fun objectives, aside from the progression and “do something 100 times” stuff, throwing fun diversions like This is Fantastic!, The Toast of Croydon and Fastball Special into the mix.
So while a more cold-hearted reviewer may offer up a lower score based on the repetitive flow of TT Games’ level design, it’s hard not to fall for yet another LEGO game that gets its subject matter just right. If the dark, brooding and mature Arkham series perfectly represents the work of DC comics, then LEGO Marvel Super Heroes reflects the fun, witty Marvel universe better than Captain America’s newly polished shield. ‘Nuff said.
The plastic tinkling that accompanies LEGO building, destruction and collection is still a joy, while the voice work is serviceable and the soundtrack parps along pleasingly.
The LEGO art style is what it is, but the open world suffers from occasional pop-in and clipping, and the story’s mission locations could be more distinct. The character animations, meanwhile, are wonderful.
Fighting, building and puzzling your way to boss fights can become repetitious, but the well-realised open world New York is on hand to save the day.
Should you finish only the story levels you’ll have completed just over 20 per cent of the game, a testament to how large and content-filled New York is. There’s plenty to do.
TT Games knows how to do achievements, livening up a list of dull-but-necessary progression and collection objectives with a smattering of Marvel-literate, fun diversions.
Limited only by story levels that grow tired towards the end, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is nevertheless a wonderfully witty, fun romp with a huge cast of characters and an impressively large and varied open-world hub. TT Games has done it again.
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