By now the average gamer knows what to expect when picking up a recent LEGO game: witty dialogue, ridiculous stories, puzzle-platforming gameplay and slightly lacklustre combat. However with LEGO Marvel Superheroes, the open world introduces a way to play similar to that of a virtual toy-box. It’s just a shame that Hank Pym’s Ant-Man wasn’t an unlockable character earlier on, because maybe he would have been able to help with the copious bugs which plague the game’s design.
The story is expectantly flippant, picking up where The Avengers movie ends. The Silver Surfer has crashed to earth, his board separating into cosmic ‘bricks,’ which if combined can be used as a weapon for good… or pure evil. Despite the large roster of villains True Believers will come up against, there is a greater threat behind the scenes… though anyone remotely learned in the comics will see who the final big bad is before the opening cutscene is over. The game is hilarious, even if the level design isn’t. It consistently fails to match the sense of epicness which should come with a plot points like a final duel with Dr Doom or fending off an assault by the Statue of Liberty under the control of Magneto. Regardless, the journey is fuelled by strong voice acting (particularly in the cases of Deadpool, Hulk, Loki and Spiderman) and the plot is probably the most cohesive of recent LEGO games which haven’t followed a predetermined story.
On paper, LEGO Marvel Superhero’s gameplay should be one of its strongest features. A sprawling Manhattan is opened up to the player with over a hundred playable characters, thousands of unlockables, mini-games, confrontations with big-scale baddies, and local co-op, a rarity with current and last-gen games. However whilst every character may look different, only a handful feel unique. Whilst Ant-man is the only character who can shrink smaller and Magneto the only character who can manipulate metal, other characters like Nova and the Human Torch play identically. Major superpowers like Spiderman’s ability to climb walls aren’t even available outside scripted events, which sours the experience of playing as everyone’s favourite web-slinger.
The mini-games are convoluted and repetitious too – there’s only so many times driving go-karts or melting statues can be considered ‘fun,’ even if unlocking new characters is immensely satisfying. The puzzles during the campaign are weak, confusing, and unsatisfying to solve, and the levels follow the same rigorous structure of fight bad guys, solve convoluted puzzles, fight more bad guys, and then partake in a poor boss fight where the player dodges various attacks, fights lesser minions, presses a quick-time event, and repeats until the boss is defeated.
The controls are awkward sometimes too. Using the same button to open up the character wheel, swap between the two characters currently selected and changing Spiderman into Peter Parker is almost a game-breaker. This is all nothing when compared to the consistent glitches. Pedestrians would glitch into the nearby buildings when walking down the street – a bug which could be forgiven on the grounds that they have the power to walk through walls like Kitty Pride – but others became apparent too. The game crashed on more than one occasion during the campaign, characters would suddenly disappear during escort missions, and the final boss fight took half an hour longer than it ought to due to characters getting stuck in the middle of plastic fire.
Looked at on its own merits, flying around the destructible city with a friend as Iron Man and Thor unlocking new characters is a total blast. It’s easy to lose hours just running about the open world finding the thousands of Easter Eggs to be sought in Manhattan and earning gold bricks, but the campaign and the bugs let the gameplay down to the extent where its more frustrating than fun to play.
The game is absolutely beautiful to play, especially on the Playstation 4 & Xbox One where the plastic LEGO characters glimmer and shine in the artificial sun. The style of the game is consistent throughout, even if the average gamer can’t help but wonder why the buildings and sidewalks are made of glass and stone rather than LEGO. The animations are beautiful, especially in combat and flying, where they look every bit as good as they feel, and breaking minions into thousands of tiny little blocks as Carnage helps enhance the feeling of evil inside when playing as a villain. The game is bright and colourful, and one of the best things about LEGO Marvel Superheroes is its style and design.
It’s a shame that the level design is generally so poor, as the game’s soundtrack does its best to keep a sense of epicness during the boss battles and the skydiving from the SHIELD Helicarrier. The chilled tones while exploring the city, whilst repetitive, are easy to the ears and matches the light-hearted tone of exploration. The dialogue is wonderfully recorded, with excellent voice-acting by the roster of heroes and villains, however the millionth rendition of the tinny “hey, I’m walkin’ here!” by a pedestrian is enough to make any gamer toss their controller with irritation. Even during missions the bosses seem to only have one or two cutting remarks and catcalls like “so what’re ya gonna do now, web-head!?” or the even more outrageous “nom, nom, nom,” like they suffer from amnesia. With such a talented staff of writers behind the scenes of the game, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for more interesting dialogue for the open world or boss battles.
Overall, the game’s glitches and dismal level design let LEGO Marvel Superheroes down. Exploring the open world can be great fun, the dialogue and story are filled with laugh-out-loud moments, and the Easter Eggs littered throughout the city are enough to satisfy any Marvel gamer. However the clunky controls, terrible camera angles and lazy design in how the gameplay almost refuses to compliment the story makes for a frustrating ride which is most fun when the tracks are made of destructible LEGO for the player to tear apart as they see fit.
Written by Guest Contributor: Alex Lamont