LEGO Marvel Super Heroes- Flawed but fun romp for comic book fans

lego marvelLast year, the folks at TT Games and WB Interactive Entertainment gave us LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, expanding on the previous LEGO Batman title and introducing players to a wide variety of characters from the DC universe, giving them a good story line and a large open world to play in. This year, the LEGO franchise jumps over to the other side of the comics aisle, dipping into the House of Ideas for the latest game to make over licensed characters into blocky figures. The result is LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, one of the biggest LEGO games to date, giving us a fully voiced cast in a title that is a lot of fun to play, even though flaws hold it back a bit from being one of this year’s top releases.

Boasting a large cast (there are 150 playable characters), this is the best game to feature the Marvel universe since Ultimate Alliance. The main story line isn’t that complex, focusing mainly on a race between villains and heroes for Cosmic Bricks, which are pieces of Silver Surfer’s shattered board. The villains, headed up by Loki, Magneto, and Dr. Doom, want the bricks to build a new super-weapon called Dr. Doom’s Doom Ray of Doom. Naturally, our heroes, backed by agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, are out to stop them. Adding to this is an approaching, greater threat from planet devourer Galactus, and it becomes a race against time as heroes and villains vie for the precious bricks. Along the way, the story hits on a variety of locales, from a living, breathing LEGO recreation of Manhattan to Asgard and Latveria, among others. Familiar landmarks like Stark Tower and the Baxter Building are visited, and both Manhattan and the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier and Manhattan open up to free roaming play where there is plenty to do and find.

Gameplay follows the tried and true formula of past games: Enter a level, fight enemies, solve a puzzle or two, fight a level boss, all while smashing items to gain studs which can be used as currency to purchase characters and vehicles. The game starts off with only two characters tlego marvel2o switch between (Iron Man and Hulk), but soon expands to three when Spider-Man swings in and joins the party. Subsequent levels can have you switching between four different characters, and swapping is necessary since each character is useful for a specific task (The Hulk, for example, can lift and throw large items, Iron Man can bypass security systems, and Captain America can use his shield as a trigger for unlocking mechanisms and doors). For a solo player, this can lead to frantic switching, trying to find the appropriate character, which can be harder to do during chaotic fight scenes. The game supports local co-op (no online yet for the series), and playing with a friend may make this task a bit easier. I played the game solo, and found that the character I usually needed in a given situation always seemed to be the last one the game would switch me to. Since there is no game over in LEGO games, it never set me back, but it could be frustrating to see if I had control of the right character when I needed them.

As in past games, the levels can be replayed, and you’ll want to do so, since certain areas only open up to specific characters that you unlock as you progress through the game. There’s always a highlight of sorts to let you know what is character specific. A purple halo means you need a character with telekinetic ability, like Jean Grey. Gold items can only be destroyed by heat or a laser, like those used by Iron Man and the Human Torch. Other places you’ll need Spider-Man or Wolverine to climb, and walls can be smashed by larger characters like Hulk or The Thing. There are plenty of opportunities to try out the large cast, giving you plenty of gameplay for your buck. Beyond the story line, there are also plenty of side missions to be found, and they can be accessed entering various buildings throughout Manhattan (one even takes place in the Marvel offices) and you can also enter races that take you through checkpoints along the streets. It’s telling that once you’ve finished the story you’re only at around 12% completion for the game, so there is a lot to do here. Following the movies, the game even has a cut scene imbedded in the credits, hinting at a possible sequel to come (or maybe DLC down the line).

The story is well done, even thouglego marvel3h it’s a fairly simple one. The trademark LEGO humor is in full force here, and the fully voiced cast works well for the most part (only a couple of characters seem off, like Storm, but most are terrifically done). The voice cast includes the likes of Tara Strong, Fred Tatasciore, Clark Gregg, Adrian Pasdar, John DiMaggio, Roger Craig Smith (the current Batman in Arkham Origins), and the ever present Nolan North and the also popular (for this year) Troy Baker. Even Stan Lee makes an appearance, voicing himself in LEGO form, appearing throughout the levels as Stan Lee in Peril, which grants you a bonus if you find and rescue him. He even jokes at one point that he has yet another cameo to mark down in his books.  It adds yet another layer of fun to the proceedings, and with the large cast and many locales, there is plenty of fan service to be found here. I found myself geeking out on quite a few occasions when I spotted certain characters or visited a familiar locale from the comics.

For all of the good in this game, I really wanted to love it. Sadly, some flaws put a damper on the fun, among them the still at times problematic camera (something which has long plagued the franchise), controls that failed you on occasion, and poor AI (my companions would at times simply just stand there and not help out). Add to this a couple of technical glitches (late in the game, one boss battle locked on me three times, and in the final battle I had to restart twice- once because the camera just went wild and wouldn’t correct itself, and once because a cut scene refused to trigger) and you have some frustrations that at times threatened to overwhelm the fun. The story is good enough to pull you through, however, as is the prospect to see just what bit of Marvel lore the game will reveal next.

Overall, this is a solid title, with plenty of fan service and tons of things to do to give players a good value for their gaming dollar. It’s among the largest LEGO games to date, and does its license proud. It’s a flawed but fun romp through the Marvel universe, and fans of all ages should enjoy this game. Definitely worth your time to check out. Excelsior!

 

8/10

 

Thomas Juretus

Born in 1963. Enjoy videogames, movies, comics- anything that tells a story. Have written three novels (The Zarchler Chronicles Book One: The Cassandra Crisis, Shalgroth The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Two, Madman's War The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Three) all published and available through PublishAmerica. Currently working on my fourth book, a sci-fi/murder mystery.

Thomas Juretus

Born in 1963. Enjoy videogames, movies, comics- anything that tells a story. Have written three novels (The Zarchler Chronicles Book One: The Cassandra Crisis, Shalgroth The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Two, Madman's War The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Three) all published and available through PublishAmerica. Currently working on my fourth book, a sci-fi/murder mystery.

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