Tt Games is back with a new LEGO adventure, with an open-world sandbox approach and making good use of a large cast of characters from the Marvel universe.
When it comes to videogames, it takes a pretty special effort to make a good-to-great game that appeals to practically any gamer, regardless of age or skill level. Tt's LEGO series, which takes on a variety of pop culture IPs, has struck this balance quite a few times now, and their latest, Marvel Super Heroes (MSH), may be their best yet. I haven't played most of the LEGO games, but the two or three that I have were addictive and fun, including the Wii U exclusive LEGO City Undercover. With MSH, as we've previously noted in the Xbox 360 and 3DS reviews, the successful formula has been maintained and slightly improved upon.
The formula of the LEGO games includes accessibility, a staple design element that is necessary to younger and casual players. Simple control schemes that include little more than jumping, attacking, interaction, and character switching are complimented by a fixed camera. Generous button prompts and tutorial messages are subtle enough to not be over-bearing yet functional enough to keep players moving right along. On the Wii U, switching characters can also be done by touching the character avatar on screen, but this is really slower than just pressing Y and this also assumes you are not using the Gamepad for the main display, either. Anyway, gameplay in general is simple, yet addictively fun, especially when played with a friend in co-op play. For the most part, gameplay is good old fashioned beat'em up action, where nearly every object is destructible and the number of loose LEGO blocks that go flyin' when you're facing multiple enemies is kinda neat to see. Collecting LEGO blocks can become a distraction though, as there are simply so many (point totals will reach the millions) that it's hard to turn down a quick detour to collect more. As with the previous LEGO games, there are also specialized blocks that are harder to come by and require things like doing simple side missions.
In addition to action, expect a steady dose of 3D platforming and puzzle-solving. As you explore the environment and come across other interactive objects, you will be informed with a brief in-game message that you need a certain other Marvel character's powers to activate or otherwise interact with said object. This greatly enhances replay value and invites players to circle back to previously cleared locations. I thought Tt did a good job of implementing puzzles, boss encounters, environmental hurdles, etc., that require the player to switch to the appropriate hero to succeed. For example, Mister Fantastic can slip through tight grated vents that others cannot, while in the same area early in the game Captain America uses his famous shield to activate remote switches. The combination of heroes that Tt employs is impressive and the inclusion of randomly introduced third playable characters throughout the story is cool, too.
Speaking of the story, it's pretty standard fare, but that's all that's really needed to set the stage for a classic good versus evil battle. The villains, including Loki, Dr. Doom, Abomination, Sandman, Dr. Octopus, and tons of others, are all working towards building a super weapon that could destroy the world. Wolverine, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and numerous other playable hero characters are intent on stopping that effort. The result is plenty of clever boss fights and lots of beating the blocks out of armies of bad guys. SHIELD's helicarrier serves as the hub for player activity, and the heroes literally dive from it to New York below when they're ready to take on a mission. Side missions are readily found too in the form of distressed citizens that need your assistance.
While enjoyable alone, the LEGO games, Marvel Super Heroes certainly included, is best played with a friend. Player 1, who is using the Gamepad, can play the game on his screen exclusively, giving the main display over to Player 2 entirely. This maximizes screen real estate and it works great as you would expect. I used the Gamepad-only mode even during most single player sessions and found it was a good game for that particular mode, which isn't something you can say about every Wii U title. That said, playing with two players keeps the potential for boredom much further at bay. In single player, it does get tedious switching between players and chasing down every LEGO block, but you add that second player, the communication and laughs start flowing, and it's an even more enjoyable experience. Being able to split up is a plus too, so that if you're playing with a less experienced player, you aren't tied down by them so to speak, but you are at least still enjoying the game together. Player 2 can use either a Wiimote or a Pro Controller, by the way.
Another key component of a great LEGO game is humor, and MSH has it in spades. Tt has done a great job again with this important aspect. The humor is clean and family friendly, yet it's chock full of great Marvel references, subtly, and very apparent humor, so there's something for both kids and adults alike. And with that, let's get to the summary...