If there’s one franchise that has managed to churn out more games than Call of Duty and The Sims on a regular basis, it has to be Lego. The Danish blocks are a constant presence on store shelves, giving players a chance to build anything from the world of Batman through to an unexpected journey in The Lord of the Rings.
With their building blocks now focused on the Marvel universe, the popular toy brand is experimenting with a larger world and more comic book characters than you can throw a summer crossover at. And it certainly shows with a bombastic blockbuster attitude, that misses a few small details on the way.
On the surface, this a comic book fan’s wet dream. Well, a PG-appropriate one at least. You’ve got popular characters such as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Wolverine being pulled in to help save the day, while lesser known characters such as Modok and Howard the freakin’ Duck get a chance to shine.
Let it not be said that this isn’t giving, because it’s practically Christmas in LMSH, with dozens upon dozens of characters waiting to be unlocked as you progress through the game. Unlocked with effort mind you, not quick and cheap DLC cash-grabs that plague the industry today.
Each character has a basic range of actions that includes jumping, interaction and powers. Iron Man for instance can fly around firing repulsor blasts and rockets, while the Hulk can smash all the things and even transform back into his puny Banner form for a few light puzzles. Captain America can use his shield to boomerang around enemies and get around environmental hazards while Mister Fantastic can stretch around and transform into shapes that would make uber-fans spit their tea out in “THAT’S NOT CANON” shrieks.
It’s a simple, yet massively varied system that extends into the game world itself. Take for instance Spider-Man, who can web levers towards himself, or heavy barricades that require players to get angry as the Hulk and smash them apart.
What’s more, each stage is littered with these obstacles, including bonus ones that’ll have you coming back for more as a different character in order to unlock some goodies or help rescue the omnipresent co-creator of many of these characters, Stan Lee.
And what a fantastic set of stages they are. LMSH may be aimed at kids, but the developers in charge of the game obviously tapped their own inner child to bring locations such as the Fantastic Four’s Baxter building, the Savage Land and Asgard to life.
Each location feels different, and while the formula of combat, puzzles and destruction which leads to brick-building your way out of a predicament is the same throughout all those levels, it feels fresh each and every single time.
Make Mine Marvel
A mention also needs to be thrown towards the manner in which all the various characters are presented in the game. Sure, they’re in Lego form and happen to have cheesy personalities, but they’re in the right vein.
Voice-over work that utilises the cast from the recent Avengers Assemble cartoon, Nolan North back again as Deadpool and Clark Gregg reprising his role as SHIELD Agent Coulson rounds out the package on offer here.
As you’d expect from any Lego games, everything is all a bit silly and the bare-bones plot only serves to set up a new scenario, with everything nicely wrapped up at the end of it all.
Between missions, players can also explore the Lego version of the Big Apple, New York City. While not nearly as populated as in other sandbox games, Manhattan is filled with various superhero landmarks, side missions and hidden items, which adds quite a few hours onto the game once the main missions have been beaten, something which should take around 8-10 hours.
Full of No-Prizes
And really, New York is half the game thanks to all those bonus additions. Players can swing around as Spider-Man or even fly all the way up the SHIELD helicarrier above, which is filled with even more gameplay options that allow you to purchase gameplay boosts from Deadpool, create a custom hero and more.
All in all, it’s a great game, but not a perfect one. The usual glut of problems that happen to be in pretty much all Lego games are present here, and they sour an otherwise fun experience. One major flaw is that puzzles often lack the necessary cues and hints which help guide players further on, something that younger members of the family will no doubt struggle to grasp.
The solution is often simple, but a lack of that design and the fact that button linked to interacting with those puzzles is the same as the button for unique powers, means that many puzzles will require some button-mashing in order to progress and leave players annoyed and frustrated. And this happens often.
Likewise with the interactive hints, they’re everywhere and constantly pop up every few minutes for no reason whatsoever, attempting to provide some level of insight for the completely wrong character at the wrong time.
Taking up too much real estate on the screen, there’s no good reason whatsoever why these badly designed hints should have been included in the game, or why they’re even mandatory with nary an option in sight that would allow players to switch them off.
And it’s something that hits you hard as the game goes on, dampening the joy of running around New York as you smash and web-sling around. You’re never too old for comic books or Lego, but design flaws such as this certainly don’t add to the game.
And yet still, I had a blast. LMSH is just bursting at the seams with references to past and current events in comic book history, rendered with care in the Lego style. It’s a massive game that can be irritatingly punishing at times, but massively rewarding the rest of the time.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a PlayStation 3