Lego Marvel Super Heroes
The latest in Traveller’s Tales’ seemingly endless supply of licensed Lego games is one that seems such an obvious fit that the only real surprise is that it took this long for two of the biggest franchises to combine in this manner. Combining the well-honed family friendly gameplay with some of the biggest comic book figures in the world is (excuse the pun) a perfect fit, but there are also cracks beginning to show in the Lego formula that threaten to spoil the party.
At this point if you are at all familiar with the Lego games of the past few years then you will largely know what to expect from Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Like the recent Lord of the Rings release the game is split into a series of single player (or two-player co-op) missions and an open world city for you to explore fully of side quests and collectibles. The plot revolves around Dr Doom and Loki teaming up to collect cosmic bricks, which are brought to earth by the Silver Surfer.
As such the missions take the form of prolonged chases through famous Marvel locations, from Stark Tower to the X Mansion and even Asgard, pitching you against one (or more) well known villains. This conceit works well in allowing the game to become a sort of greatest hits compilation of the Marvel Universe, and gives a good reason for bringing together disparate heroes in unusual combinations. There is a certain amount of nerd joy that you get from teaming up members of the X-Men alongside Spider-Man and the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, and the Marvel library of heroes and obscure characters runs very deep here with over 150 characters to collect.
As in previous Lego games the main thrust of the levels is solving environmental puzzles tied to the special abilities of the characters. As usual there are loads of hidden areas and collectables in each of the 15 missions which give you a good reason to return to them with a full roster of characters once the game has been completed. In fact between these hidden secrets and the sheer volume of collectibles in the open world city, completing the game barely scratches the surface of everything there is to see and do in the game. It’s hard to complain too much at the approach as it still works very well, the levels are impressive in terms of their design and scope and there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from returning and mopping up all the things you missed the first time around.
Within the levels themselves there is a real attention to detail to each environment and puzzle sequence, and whilst there is nothing that will tax your lateral thinking ability too much, there is a wonderful slickness to the way the mechanical aspects of the environments work which makes progressing through the levels enjoyable, not to mention the clever way that the designers have parsed out the abilities between the various characters. The addictive feedback loop of using characters in sequence to progress remains as enjoyable as ever, this time with the added bonus that you get to do it whilst in the guise of your favourite superhero characters. It may seem a purely aesthetic choice but smashing buildings as Hulk, or web-slinging across rooftops as Spider-Man just feels right and is constantly enjoyable.
That said there are still plenty of easy and forgettable boss battles which sometimes ruin the flow of a level, and the seemingly endless waves of enemies are something of an annoying distraction you could often do without. The penalty for death remains practically non-existent and though these games are aimed at younger players, it might be nice to see a few more combat options in future to help mix up the gameplay.
Outside the levels, the open world is an impressive technical achievement if nothing else, and being able to fly directly down to the city from the Avengers Helicarrier (which functions as the game’s hub) is always enjoyable and the attention to detail paid to each corner of the map continues to pay dividends the longer you play.
As is par for the course for open world games, many of the side activities are simplistic and not all that enjoyable. Fetch quests for people or objects are either too simple or obtuse in terms of what you are supposed to do. More enjoyable are the various puzzles and locked doors that you investigate, having to work out the right sequence of characters to use in order to access. There are also racing and flying challenges which are unfortunately poor, the former because they are too basic, while the latter run the risk of frustration due to some wonky flying controls. You can get the hang of it, but it’s not as intuitive as many of the other features of the game. Thankfully this never causes issues in the main game, but it is a shame that some of the rough edges come into view when you start exploring the ancillary sections of the game.
The game also has issues hiding menus and unlockable items in hard to find locations with little explanation provided as to how to access them. Granted for those familiar with the series it may seem obvious how to unlock characters you have found, or red-brick cheat codes, but for newcomers it is easy to see how this could all be confusing and frustrating. It took me a good while of playing before realising that holding Triangle (on PS4) brought up a menu where I could switch characters and purchase ones I had unlocked. Prior to this I was using the various computer terminals located around the city and lamenting the fact there was no quicker option available. It’s a small thing but lapses like this are disappointing in a series that is otherwise so accessible and user-friendly.
Ultimately Lego Marvel Super Heroes continues the trend of solid, amusing and enjoyable licensed games without rocking the boat too much. The attention to detail in terms of paying homage to the Marvel name, and the amount built into the game for you to do is impressive, though the fact that the cut-scenes now feature speech (as the last few games have) does somewhat diminish the game’s charm.
Ultimately the Lego games remain perfect for younger players and those with kids, the drop-in co-op is as user friendly as ever and frequent checkpoints mean that the longer levels can be handled in chunks, and when you want a break there is an open world city for you to amuse yourself in should you so desire. With that said there is an element of diminishing returns that is starting to impact the gameplay. Collecting mini-kits and rescuing characters from each level is somewhat familiar at this stage, as is the character-specific puzzle design. Here the systems are as refined as you would expect from the series, and it’s to their testament that the formula hasn’t grown stale yet, but there are times when it feels like it is close and the danger of franchise fatigue could start to set in.
With the step to next generation consoles it will be interesting to see what Travellers Tales can do to keep the Lego games feeling fresh going forwards. As a near-perfect mix of brands, Lego Marvel Super Heroes works as well as you would imagine, it’s just a shame that the framework the game is built on is starting to show its age.
This review is based on a PS4 review code provided by Warner Bros.
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