I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only really one constant left in the gaming world, and it is this: As soon as LEGO get the license to make building sets based on an existing IP there will be a game made of it.
Recently LEGO acquired the rights to create sets based on the Marvel comics’ universe. Enter stage left Travellers Tale’s latest LEGO game – LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
Travellers Tale’s latest block based crossover brings together 155 characters from the Marvel universe, although to be honest the game main story revolves mostly around characters that were made famous through the movies, so at least initially it’s more like LEGO Avengers than the Marvel universe proper, with the likes of Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider Man featuring heavily.
As such Lego Marvel Super Heroes is best described as an odd mash up of the comic and film universes as Travellers Tales have taken easily recognisable and popular elements from both and created the kind of colossal cross-over that Marvel fans would love to see on the silver screen, but sadly won’t any time soon thanks to rights issues that prevent the creation of a fully realised Marvel universe in movie land any time soon.
Case in point is the opening level in which Iron man and Hulk thwart a plot by Abomination and Spider Man villain Sandman to steal Cosmic Bricks for use with Dr. Doom’s Doomray of Doom at the site of the battle for New York from the Avengers movie. Stark even quips “Didn’t we just clean up this city?” as he flies over the devastation Sandman has just caused.
Eventually the duo catches up to Sandman and is joined by Spiderman just in time for one of the game’s epic set piece boss fights. Sandman creates a giant version of himself made up of thousands of swirling sand coloured Lego bricks whilst chucking the nearby detritus at his disposal at our heroes. They attempt to destroy the behemoth by each using their specific powers to pull switches and manipulate the environment in order to gain enough blocks to build various contraptions to soak him before Hulk smashes the solidified structure.
As the game progresses more heroes and villains are thrown into to the mix such as the Fantastic Four, members of the X-men, Dr. Octopus, Red Skull and the Mandarin as you travel from one iconic Marvel location to the next, from Stark Tower to Asguard and everywhere in between.
There’s also plenty more to characters to unlock outside of the story missions including Elektra, Black Panther and even lesser known characters such as Power Man and Captain Britain, by completing numerous side missions and activities found throughout the game’s hub, an impressive open world version of New York complete with numerous Marvel landmarks including Stark Tower and the Daily Bugle.
Despite having a lot of fun unlocking some of the more obscure Marvel Heroes and appreciate their inclusion, I thought it was a shame that only a small percentage of the cast actually appear during the main story missions. What better way to introduce a new audience to all the lesser known characters and super groups than to have those helping the more widely known heroes fight Dr, Doom, Magneto and Loki? Especially if you consider the fact that most of the playable characters powers overlap in one way or another anyway. For example all the larger characters perform the same role within the game play of smashing and grabbing large objects and little else, an all the smaller heroes perform actions to pull certain types of switches or find items hidden in the background.
The main problem with this is that sometimes the game’s hints don’t align properly with whoever is in your party at the time despite them being perfectly able to do what is being asked. For example Spiderman, Mr, Fantastic and Hawkeye can all pull on red switches. However, the prompt specifically states web slinging characters. Something neither Mr. Fantastic nor Hawkeye are. So if Spidey’s not in the party you find yourself cycling characters trying everything until something fits. This also applies to Wolverine, Thor and destructible parts of the environments that the hint states only clawed characters can destroy, but Thor can also knock them down with Mjölnir.
There are also times when what to do next isn’t always as obvious as it could be, but it might just be me.
The biggest complaint that could be thrown at the main story at least, is that despite the new Marvel themed paintwork. This is in fact the same game we’ve been playing for the past eight years. As each level follows a pattern that long time players of the series will know by heart. Enter an area, use the right character to flick a couple switches, beat up some goons, open another door, break something, build something new out of the remains, open another door, kill more goons, jump on some platform and repeat until the inevitable, and usually pretty epic, boss fight.
However, it’s not that much of a problem because despite being formulaic, it’s a formula that has served the series well and for the best part still works, also oddly enough the games shortcomings are mostly muted by the universal truth that LEGO makes everything better. Most are too busy enjoying seeing their favourite comic book heroes crossed with their favourite childhood toy to care about how repetitive most of the game is. It’s just a shame that the story side of things hasn’t evolved half as much as the hub and tertiary activities have over the course of the series.
However despite these minor niggles Traveller’s Tales have created another fine addition to the series filled with a genuine sense of fun and humour, that is cram full of content that both Marvel and LEGO fans will adore. It may not take that many creative risks from a gameplay perspective but when you’ve made one of the few consistently fun series left in gaming, why mess with it?