Lego: Marvel Super Heroes is a competent open-world action game that Marvel fans will certainly appreciate, but the rest will soon be bored with its tiresome level design and monotonous structure.
For years, the Lego games have followed pretty much the same formula and this approach allowed developer Traveller’s Tales to create a bunch of them. For those keeping track, there have been Lego games based on Batman, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and even Rock Band, so the series was in desperate need of some changes. Ultimately, the changes found on Lego: Marvel Super Heroes aren’t groundbreaking, but the open-world gameplay structure, dozens of unlockable super heroes and zany humor that permeates every corner make this a game that Marvel fans won’t want to miss. Those who don’t have a soft spot for the comic book universe though, will be trapped in a rote, tiresome and ultimately boring game.
Tying all the missions and open-world action together, there’s a simplistic yet charming story. Doctor Doom wants to craft the doom ray of doom to destroy Earth, but to do so, he and his minions need to locate as many Cosmic Bricks as they can. Basically, you’ll assume the role of dozens of Marvel characters that will try to prevent the villain from collecting the these blocks of immense power before Doctor Doom destroys our planet. There are 15o characters to control (not including DLC) and some of them include the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Human Torch, Thor, Wolverine, Captain America, Deadpool, Elektra and pretty much any super hero from the Marvel universe that comes to mind.
At its core, Marvel Super Heroes is an open-world action game (think Grand Theft Auto made of Lego bricks) and the result is a charming and entertaining world that’s inviting you to explore it: you can run or fly around depending on the character you control, “borrow” different vehicles, deviate from the main path to complete sidequests and so on. Once you start a story quest though, the levels are much more restricted and linear. Regardless of the missions you choose, the humor is always family friendly and relies on puns and silly jokes. For instance, when you steal a car, its owner says “Don’t Worry, I’ll walk. I need the exercise anyway.”
In terms of structure, the game’s remarkably simple: you take on the role of popular characters from the Marvel universe, solve some of the simple puzzles that punctuate your adventure and punch your way through waves of baddies. You can die even if your health is reduced to zero, but you’re immediately brought back to life but with less money (which makes you wonder why include health in the first place) and at any point in the game, a friend can pick up a controller and play with you. Unfortunately, only local play is available, so if you were hoping to play online, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
As you’d expect, each hero has unique abilities that you need to make use of to progress through the game and when you’re playing solo, you can alternate between characters. Some of these abilities allow Spider-Man to use his spider sense to locate hidden switches, the Hulk can grab and throw large objects and Bruce Banner can hack computers. Once you clear a given level, you can go back to it and play in free mode and since all the levels have specific sections that require you to use a hero you haven’t unlocked yet, revisiting levels is definitely an important part of the game.
As in most Lego games, Marvel Super Heroes exudes charm and fans of both the cinematic universe and the comic books will have a great time exploring this world. As I mentioned above, there are dozens of characters to choose from, including the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man and Hulk, as well as some of the most obscure ones, such as Howard the Duck or a Lego version of Stan Lee. Anyone’s who’s into Marvel will definitely appreciate the time and effort that went into the creation of those characters as well as iconic settings like Asgard or New York City.
Yet despite the gargantuan roster of unlockable characters, I never felt compelled to complete anything other than the main missions. The few sidequests I played were simplistic and frankly, not that entertaining and going back to previous levels felt like a chore. Also, I didn’t like the way in which the characters move. I know this is a Lego game and that the titles in this series can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their age, but the characters felt too sluggish and slow for my taste. Finally, the game’s completely devoid of challenge: you solve superficial environmental puzzles, mash the attack button and defeat a boss and this formula is repeated several times. By the end of the game, I didn’t get the feeling that I have achieved anything, which is an empty feeling after playing for so many hours.
But despite its problems, Lego Marvel Super Heroes is a well put together, family friendly open-world game that’s brimming with charm. It’s also “another one of those,” so if you’ve played other Lego games and didn’t enjoy them, this one won’t change your mind. Ultimately, Marvel fans will get more out of this game, so if you know all these super heroes and often wonder how does it feel to fly around as Iron Man or punch enemies to a bloody pulp (or in this case to a pile of bricks) as the Hulk, Marvel Super Heroes is for you.