Everyone pretty much knows the recipe for Lego games by now; take a popular franchise, insert a series of simple but fun levels, fill them all with loads of destructible items and finish off with a joyous sense of humour – serves 1 or 2, perfect for children or adults. And while Lego Marvel does still follow this basic template the various improvements and huge amount of content make this the best Lego game yet.
The main campaign of the game features the heroes and villains of the Marvel universe who have recently been seen enjoying success on the big screen – that’s the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye), the X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four facing off against their cinematic enemies. However outside of the main campaign there’s an open-world New York city to explore and a whole host of bonus missions to complete which is where an extra 100+ characters can be unlocked for use in both open-play and in replaying the main campaign. It’s here that comic-book fans will be particularly pleased as the huge variety ranges beyond just the ‘famous’ names who are notably absent from the main campaign to all kinds of lesser-known and cult characters who have all been lovingly adapted into Lego form. There are a few notable omissions however – while Falcon and Winter Soldier can be accessed as DLC the absence of others such as Rogue, Nightcrawler, Namor and Vision is puzzling, especially when you consider their future involvement in the next round of Marvel films.
It’s actually a credit to Traveller’s Tales that I can complain at all about certain characters missing the cut, and given the wealth of content on offer I’m actually surprised they didn’t create a series of games based on the Marvel franchise – groups like the Avengers and X-Men have a huge roster of members and even individual heroes like Spider-Man have enough allies and enemies in their rogues gallery to support a standalone game.
Lego games have always been visually pleasing to look at and Lego Marvel is no exception. The brightly-coloured outfits of the various heroes and the world they inhabit do more than any previous game to highlight the work that’s gone into the graphics which are actually very impressive. This is best demonstrated by the character models themselves who all look great up-close, with a special mention for the Human Torch who looks particularly good (and doesn’t he know it). The level of personality is also impressive here as all the characters have their own unique fighting animations that they will occasionally launch into when you’re punching your way through hordes of henchmen, and a number of amusing ‘idle’ animations if you don’t press anything for a while.
Another point worth mentioning is the audio which contributes to the atmosphere immensely. While previous Lego games haven’t included dialogue, Lego Marvel features a whole host of talented voice actors. Some people may miss the comedic mugging of earlier Lego games but the humour and slapstick is still here and actually benefits from the voice actors who do an excellent job of bringing the characters to life – many of the voices will be recognisable to anyone who’s watched animated superhero TV shows over the years.
Of course being a Lego game means it is aimed squarely at kids, which is reflected in the (lack of) difficulty. Players have unlimited lives allowing you to die constantly and still progress, while levels rarely challenge you to do much more than advance while smashing items into pieces and occasionally solve a basic puzzle or utilise the unique ability of a particular character. Missions in the open-world usually involve travelling from A to B or winning a basic race which is only ever made challenging by issues with the controls – particularly when using flying characters. As fun as it is to soar around the city, or up around the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, the flying controls never feel quite right due to having the buttons controlling elevation also being used to speed up or slow down. This attempt to simplify the control scheme for kids by mapping multiple functions to a few buttons also interferes in other aspects of the game and can be infuriating in situations where you’re trying to activate a switch and Mr Fantastic keeps turning himself into a teapot for example, and it’s baffling why the shoulder buttons aren’t used more – kids of today are generally pretty adept with modern controllers!
However any issues with the controls are forgotten with the sheer joy of running around as your favourite super heroes. As well as the flyers it’s also enormously satisfying to rampage around the city as a big character like Hulk or Juggernaut while the web-swinging of Spider-Man or Venom never gets boring. Multiplayer is also hugely enjoyable and heavily integrated into the game, the entire campaign involves having at least two characters at any one time meaning a second player can drop in or out at any time. The camera zooms out to accommodate you when players drift apart and the screen splits when the distance increases further which can initially be disorienting but is quickly adapted to and allows a great deal of freedom – a friend and I actually wasted far too much time playing hide-and-seek around the city with Spider-Man and Iron Man!
Longevity is the other area where Lego Marvel really excels. The main campaign will only take about 10-12 hours (assuming you don’t waste time in the city) but for full completion you’ll need to replay the campaign in free-play mode so you can use extra characters you’ve obtained to uncover all the various secrets, and you’re also looking at an additional another 30 hours on top of that to finish all the bonus missions, quests and to unlock all the characters and vehicles. However the simplicity of the gameplay and lack of difficulty means it can get quite repetitive, especially if played for extended sessions.
All in all Lego Marvel Super Heroes is an excellent game for kids but for adults it’s only a very good game and even then a lot of the enjoyment will only apply if you’re a big fan of Marvel comics already. However that’s certainly enough for me and with any luck there’ll be future Lego Marvel games on the way.
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