LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, the latest in the long running LEGO franchise from Traveler’s Tales, may be their best effort to date. It seems they are intent on improving each time out (if only we were so lucky with other series!), as wholly independent stories complete with voice acting add weight and intrigue to familiar gameplay. I won’t bother explaining how the LEGO games work – by this point, if you’ve played one of them then you have the general idea. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes isn’t really innovative in any way. They aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here. However, refining just about every aspect of the gameplay and providing a massive cast of Marvel heroes and villains to enjoy makes this one of the most fun to play, which makes some truly annoying bugs and technical issues all the more glaring and frustrating.
The cast of characters is huge! The roster includes some I’d never even heard of, and I’d like to think I know something of the Marvel Universe! What’s more, most of them are actually fun to play. As we’ve come to expect, there are special actions that only certain characters can use. For example, Wolverine can dig to unearth new paths, which seems a bit odd, but he can also use his claws to climb areas restricted to everyone else. Only characters that have fire-related powers can blow up gold statues, and gold doors require a laser to cut them open. Naturally, some super hero powers overlap between characters. These moments are common, not really puzzles in of themselves. They aren’t particularly challenging as it just comes down to matching the right character to the situation. However, despite the simplicity, the breadth of choice, even in story missions, makes it fun to play.
This massive menagerie is a bit daunting, but Traveler’s Tales has managed to tie them all together through some pretty decent writing. It’s a clever story that ties in a lot of different characters from different Marvel universes into a (relatively) coherent narrative. Going back and playing older LEGO games that follow familiar plots from movies now seem almost antiquated by comparison.
In between the story missions you can explore the open world recreation of New York City. This pseudo-hub world is gigantic! Taking what they had learned from LEGO Batman 2’s Gotham City, and the gigantic world of LEGO City Undercover, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ take on New York is inspired. There is a huge amount of content here, giving even more replay value beyond the story mode. Flying heroes can find all kinds of hidden secrets, and there are loads of side quests to solve. These are usually fetch missions and do drag on a bit, but they are all still part of the charm.
From New York, you can return to Shield’s flying fortress to replay missions or buy new characters. There is a lot to explore up here as well! As you can probably imagine, the character creator is the most fun it’s ever been. You can add different powers to create hybrids that are a riot to use. You are only limited by your own imagination.
Despite the great story, multitude of characters, and giant hub world, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes isn’t without its flaws. The levels are surprisingly long, and so, unfortunately, are the checkpoints. However, all of the boss battles are clever, making you use all the characters and environments at your disposal. The downside is that they can last a while as well, and waiting to find the correct patterns can be a bit tedious.
As with the other LEGO titles before it, most of the puzzles are fairly simple to solve. My only gripe is that sometimes the path isn’t always clear or you’ll need to use a character with a ranged attack to sweep the screen and see if there is anything they can hit to let you advance. Objectives are not always as obvious as they should be, and figuring it out usually leads to a face palm and a lot of cursing.
HOWEVER (please note the capital letters), I encountered several technical issues that nearly rendered the game unplayable. Once, the game locked up on me at the very end of a boss battle. It was very annoying to say the least, but what was worse was that it didn’t return me to the previous checkpoint – instead starting me all the way back at the beginning of the level! Another completely random stoppage occurred on the character purchase screen. I had to reboot again (I was lucky my save file wasn’t corrupted since it automatically saves after every purchase you make). Then, towards the end of the game, I got caught in a bizarre loop where Captain America kept falling down a waterfall and instantly dying every time he respawned. Again, after rebooting, I was restarted at the beginning of the level. As I mentioned before, these levels are long and involved, so having to do the entire thing again (as opposed to “Free Play”) is beyond infuriating.
Don’t let my score deceive you, if you’re a fan of the LEGO games or a Marvel fan in general – or a comic book or video game fan for that matter – you owe it to yourself to pick up LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. As always, there is a surprising amount of content and collectibles hidden behind relatively simplistic controls that keep me coming back after finishing a fairly lengthy and enjoyable campaign. Having said that, the technical issues I encountered really marred the experience for me. With any luck you won’t run into such problems and can enjoy the game for what it is: probably the best LEGO game Traveler’s Tales has come out with so far.
Reviewed By: Simon Waldron
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a retail copy of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes for the PlayStation 3 provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.