There’s one important element that Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 nails with perfection: the tried-and-true Lego experience. Objects explode in brilliant fashion, players gather studs with reckless abandon, and minifigures unlock with enough frequency to completely wear out that dopamine receptor in your brain. Of course, the latest chaotic installment of the Lego Marvel series doesn’t deviate too far from the previously established formula, which means it probably won’t draw new gamers into the fold. Still, it checks all the right boxes and hits most of the necessary marks, giving fans exactly what they crave. That said, don’t expect anything too different from what you’ve played before.
During the game’s opening sequence, which features the Guardians of the Galaxy battling an intergalactic villain known as Kang (who travels around in an enormous sword-shaped spacecraft), I kicked things off with my usual Lego ritual: destroying as many on-screen items as humanly possible to get a sense of the game’s destructive capabilities. Using Star-Lord, I began haphazardly blasting away at large pieces of the Guardians’ spacecraft, as well as a few of my unsuspecting companions. A surprising amount of objects immediately succumbed to my hero’s weaponry, causing studs to scatter brilliantly across the screen.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 doesn’t waste a lot of time with exposition; it assumes you know these characters and jumps into the frantic action almost immediately. Following a quick cutscene explaining how the Guardians stumble across their newfound foe, you’re leaping out of a starship and rescuing people from the aftermath of Kang’s wanton destruction. These moments also introduce you to the game’s mechanics, which, again, don’t deviate too far from other Lego games. You can jump (some characters can also fly), shoot, and use special moves/powers to solve puzzles to progress through the story. But most of the time, you’ll just smash objects for studs and smack down bad guys.
The game’s enjoyable cutscenes (including some charming “live stream” segments featuring J. Jonah Jameson) stay pretty faithful to its big-screen counterparts. While the actors playing the roles might be different, the dialogue between the heroes remains sharp and enjoyable. And despite the inherent silliness of the on-screen shenanigans, Traveller’s Tales clearly has a reverence for the characters and the source material. As such, fans will never have to worry about seeing their favorite superheroes behaving in ways that misrepresent the characters. Staying true to the Lego games’ tradition of broad comedy without sliding too far into full-blown parody takes a steady hand, and the developers handle it skillfully.
Sadly, the latest Lego installment’s shortcomings become immediately apparent, and if you’ve played these titles for any length of time, you’ll soon battle against old familiar issues. As always, the camera tends to work against you when attempting to navigate the tight spaces sprinkled through Chronopolis (which serves as the game’s hub world) and its interconnected areas. Also, when flying through the air as Star-Lord or swinging across dimensions as Spider-Man, the camera has a tendency to get stuck behind objects and structures, causing a few hiccups when attempting to reach a specific location above your head. These aren’t complete deal-breakers, of course, but it’s an area the developers clearly haven’t addressed over the past several years.
Although the differences in mechanics between Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 and the original are very few and far between, the sequel offers a greater sense of exploration than its predecessor. Kang’s quest for intergalactic domination results in tears in the spacetime continuum, allowing our heroes to venture from one iconic realm to another in a very short amount of time. This ultimately creates an enormous and joyfully diverse playground, which is filled with side quests, collectibles, minigames, and of course, breakable objects. There’s never a moment when you don’t have someone or something fighting for your attention. Even Stan Lee himself begs for your assistance every so often.
Most of these diversions take place once you’ve finished the story and unlocked all of the necessary characters needed to complete various tasks. For me, it’s all about the endgame; returning to the hub world and replaying the missions always makes for a good time. Sadly, the map isn’t very user-friendly, so you might wander in circles while trying to locate a missing piece of a particular puzzle, but thankfully, there is a plethora of sights and sounds to keep you occupied (or distracted) during your quests. And if you just want to wander around the world as your favorite character or zip around in one of the nifty vehicles at your disposal, you can do that, too.
Speaking of characters (there are over 200!) and collectibles, the game is packed to the proverbial rafters with an assortment of heroes and villains, including a few obscure and surprising inclusions. As a die-hard Man-Thing fan, it was cool to see him pop up in the campaign. Trucking through the snowy streets of Manhattan as a giant destructive plant is weirdly empowering, especially when taking out the assortment of petty criminals who pop up from time to time on the streets of Chronopolis. However, don’t expect any characters not owned by Disney to appear in the game, with the exception of those who fall under the Spider-Man umbrella. You’ll have to make do without the X-Men or Fantastic Four this time around.
Don’t let some of my nitpicky complaints fool you; I thoroughly enjoyed what Traveller’s Tales has accomplished with Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. Although some of the sprawling battles frequently become exercises in mindless button-mashing, and the camera often attempts to derail your heroic actions, the characters, levels, and story deliver delight in abundance. The writing snaps and pops with witty dialogue and break-neck pacing, meaning you won’t have to take an extended siesta in-between levels. There’s a reason why the Lego games follow a clear, well-worn path: The developers have streamlined the entire experience to near perfection. And when you’ve found your rhythm, sometimes it’s best not to mess around with it.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
The latest installment of the Lego Marvel series doesn't deviate too far from the franchise's formula, which means it probably won't draw new gamers into the fold. However, it checks all the right boxes and hits most of the necessary marks, giving fans exactly what they crave.