After reviewing Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO: Batman 2 last year, I wondered if the developers at TT would be able to top it. Now we have LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes. While I’m not sure it quite tops the DC Comics adventure, it certainly equals it. Marvel Comics fans, from the hardcore to the casual, have plenty to soak in here. The cast of playable characters is simply gargantuan, ranging from the iconic (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man, Hulk) to the obscure (Shocker, Groot, Star-Lord). Those familiar with the venerable LEGO game series will find that gameplay matches the many previous entries, more or less. But the sheer variety of characters and special powers is what makes the game such a consistent delight.
The plot is a loose, shambling thread that primarily serves to trigger each level’s various fights, encounters, and puzzles more than to tell an interesting story. That’s not a complaint by any means. The cut scenes are well-voiced by a cast that includes vets like Laura Bailey and John DiMaggio (Clark Gregg voices Agent Coulson, the character he has made famous on the big screen and on TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Marvel honcho Stan Lee voices himself). There’s a sense of fun that permeates the writing and keeps the entire game fun for Marvel and LEGO fans of any age. Doctor Doom and Loki have teamed up to locate the missing cosmic bricks needed to assemble a powerful ray of doom. Nick Fury relies upon the heroes of Marvel to try to beat the bad guys to the punch, hopefully preventing the doomsday weapon from being built.
As we move from hero to hero, playing through the frequently changing array of characters, we visit Grand Central Station, the Green Goblin’s Oscorp Tower, Doctor Doom’s castle, a wonderfully LEGO-ized Asgard, and much more. As with previous LEGO games, extra currency can be earned by smashing just about everything in sight. If you’ve played any of these games before, that particularly activity can become tiresome when exploring the free play realms like the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier. On the other hand, the destruction is quite addictive (especially if you haven’t spent much time in a LEGO game environment) and you never know what surprise challenges and mini-games you’ll come across. Some of the characters’ powers are a blast to experiment with, like Spidey’s ability to swing around on vines of web or utilizing the power of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. Detail has been lovingly instilled, including the incorporation of such idiosyncratic particulars as Mr. Fantastic being able to shape-shift into a variety of cool forms (including flattening himself out to glide through the air or slip through gratings).
Unlocking new characters and seeing which powers are suited for which challenges in the free play offers nearly endless fun and tremendous replay value. Co-op mode is, barring the occasionally weird split-screen angles, just as much fun as it was in earlier LEGO installments like Batman 2. Some of the controls are clunky, including the awkward drivability of vehicles (they don’t handle well and are somewhat less fun to drive than in Batman 2). Glitches crop up from time to time. I’ve never had a problem with random freezing during a LEGO game before, but Marvel Super Heroes did require a hard reboot a few different times, resulting in lost, unsaved progress and general frustration. Furthermore, there were several cases where dropping out of the game was required to get unstuck from an unplayable section of the playing field. While annoying at the time, these problems hardly hampered my overall enjoyment factor. But the freezing issues are significant enough to warrant docking the otherwise awesome game one star.
Just when it might have seemed the LEGO franchise had finally become old-hat, Marvel Super Heroes injects it with fresh, new life. Some of the level-ending puzzles will feel pretty routine for LEGO veterans, but the good-natured humor, strong dialogue and staging during cut scenes, and the immense variety of characters keep the game fun for fans of all ages.
LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, PC, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita