Although it’s true that this console generation will be remembered for many things, including the meteoric rise in popularity that the Call of Duty franchise earned, as well as the number of rhythm games that made it to store shelves before Activision killed the genre, many families will look back on it fondly as a result of TT Games. Their great idea of combining incredibly popular pieces of fiction with LEGO blocks and a good sense of humour has made for a behemoth over the last several years, and said juggernaut isn’t showing signs of stopping. Of course, when you consider just how successful the franchise has been, it’s not surprising that the developer plans to continue it.
Recently, Warner Bros. and TT Games partnered to release yet another branded title, dubbed LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Showcasing what great licensing combinations can produce, it successfully manages to mix the series’ now iconic gameplay with a great deal of comic book fanfare. As such, those who’ve spent time reading about and/or watching characters like Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine and Captain America will certainly want to pay attention to this one. It doesn’t rewrite the book or revolutionize the series, but provides a polished experience that is both accessible and fun.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is exactly what you’d expect: A game that combines a plethora of different Marvel characters under a new, more humorous light. There’s lots to do inside and outside of the main campaign, which lasts for approximately ten to twelve hours, including free roam and other miscellaneous content. As a result, it’s well-worth its $49.99 price tag.
The game’s storyline surrounds Dr. Doom and his new plan, which involves stealing and utilizing cosmic bricks for some nefarious purpose. Unsurprisingly, his complete agenda isn’t revealed until near the end of the game, but it’s important to note that he’s not alone. In fact, many of the universe’s most heinous and creative super villains have teamed up with said metallic evildoer, creating a daunting task for the good guys.
Although the plot line is somewhat interesting, it lacks depth. Also, what starts out as something new ends up giving way to familiar tropes and expected shenanigans after a while, which is unfortunate. Still, the writing is pretty good, allowing for some comical one-liners and humorous moments to shine through, though it must be said that a lot of them are more cheesy than funny because of their child-friendly nature.
Expectedly, most of the people who will buy this game will do so because of its name and advertised characters, the latter of which is the area wherein it truly shines. There are so many different heroes and villains that one can encounter, unlock and purchase, that it’s almost overwhelming. In truth, you’ll only play with a certain amount during the campaign – which is comprised of approximately fifteen chapters, all of which utilize teams of two to four protagonists – so a lot of the more creative duos will need to wait for free roam mode. That’s not a bad thing, though, because there’s a decent-sized version of New York awaiting players’ traversal. Granted, it would be a better selling point if there was more to do than there actually is. Still, you’ll encounter various types of vehicles to drive, races to enter, secrets to discover and side missions to complete.
When it comes to the side missions, there are a couple of different types to take into account. First up are the miscellaneous quests that some of the city’s civilians give out. As random objectives, there’s little to them, outside of saving animals and things like that. You’ll find the best side missions in notable areas, such as Stark Tower, Professor Xavier’s school and Marvel HQ. Therein, scenarios that borrow elements from the main campaign’s levels will test your mettle and reward you with new characters.
Gameplay-wise, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is both familiar and exciting. Truthfully, its general mechanics aren’t much different from its predecessors, tasking players with using different heroes’ abilities to progress through each level, but the way that TT Games has handled the characters’ powers is commendable. Each one falls into a certain group (heavy, psionic, webbed, fire, etc.) that takes their special abilities into account. The result is gameplay that feels well researched and makes fictional sense, while also giving its main assets a chance to be as badass as possible. It makes you feel powerful, even against gigantic bosses.
As you fight and smash your way through stages that take the form of industrial complexes, Stark tower and an unfamiliar island locale, just to name a few, you’ll come across different switches, items and security systems that will require a certain type of character. For example, the heavy class, which includes Hulk and the Thing, can lift and throw large objects, while the psionic group can move things with their minds and also possess non-playable characters. It’s an impressive system, although it unfortunately becomes repetitive after a while. That’s to be expected, though, because that’s a complaint that can be levied against many of this series’ releases.
The levels’ designs also end up becoming old hat after a while, though they still manage to remain relatively entertaining. They’re also generally accessible, as mentioned above, though there are times where it becomes hard to figure out what to do next. I encountered a few moments of that variety during the campaign, but it didn’t take me too long to find out where to go next. My advice is to think outside of the box and remember that Spider-Man isn’t the only character that can grab things from far away. Venom can, too, but he’s not a big part of things. Mr. Fantastic is, however, and he has stretchy arms that are of great use. Going further, he can also transform into some incredible tools, such as a hammer and a crane.
Due to the the above-mentioned issue, parents will probably need to help their children complete tasks from time to time. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker, though, because hints are regularly displayed and the puzzles are never too difficult. Plus, many times, the key can be discovered by simply breaking everything in sight.
In an earlier, but related review, I mentioned that I’ve always had a hard time getting into these games, due to their focus on repetitive gameplay that consists of fighting enemies, breaking things and solving puzzles. However, with that being said, I do respect them and the success that they’ve had. Additionally, I must admit that this is probably the best LEGO game I’ve played thus far, and this is coming from someone who found LEGO Batman 2 boring.
Now, considering that this is a game that mixes confined, level-based gameplay with the freedom of a sandbox title, it’s hard not to go in expecting the odd bug to appear. However, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes ran almost perfectly during my time with it, outside of a screen tearing problem that reared its ugly head quite often. Although it also suffered from the odd hiccup and unresponsive input, I found it to be impressively polished. Frankly, the game really looks quite good on the Xbox 360, and also presents some quality audio, including solid voice acting and a complementary original score. There are also a lot of humorous animations to laugh at, as well as a ton of colour and shine.
In the end, if you’re a fan of the LEGO games, and/or a Marvel comics junkie, then you’ll definitely want to check out LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. It’s a polished, entertaining and colourful take on the comic book enterprise, and is worthy of its price of admission, especially if you enjoy finding collectibles, because there are a lot of those.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.