In the last few years Tt Games has done a fantastic job with putting together some of the most exciting LEGO adventures available for kids and adults. The Batman 2 release set a new bar on how well one of their LEGO games could be with a bigger world, better graphics and the inclusion of voice overs. They’ve turned solid IP into solid adventures that both humor and entertain.
This time around, they’ve taken the Marvel universe and applied it to their LEGO world. How did it turn out? Come find out.
The gameplay in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is what you would expect from a LEGO game. It’s task driven, where the player is pushed from point to point in linear fashion, trying to complete small tasks that unlock bigger areas and stories. It’s a proven perfect formula for kids, and adults as well. Completing the series of tasks progresses the player onto the next part of the adventure. This is something that hasn’t really strayed too far away from its original path since the first LEGO game, and has always worked regardless of the IP that Tt Games has been using it with.
Something that Tt Games has been perfecting in the last few LEGO games is adding a bit more depth to the linear path. Batman 2 had this, as you’re set on one path to complete a task, but have the ability to stray away a little bit and explore. Having that ability gives a bit more value to the experience. For example, in Marvel Super Heroes’ first level, you must defeat Abomination and Sandman to progress to the next level. This first level pretty much lays out the direction you must head to take them out, straight across a single bridge into a subway station, but you don’t have to immediately go that way. You can jump down from the bridge, explore the areas around it and just basically explore the area. Having hidden items around the area helps said exploration, but the level design is so interesting that you’ll want to see what’s around anyway. The early days of the LEGO games really felt a bit boring and stretched out because they didn’t really contain this option, but Tt Games seems to have mixed it up a bit over the last few games, and it does a lot for the gameplay.
As for controls, the scheme is, as it always has been, simplistic in nature. The X button controls your main weapon (also the targeting), while special abilities are called for through a series of button mashing moments through onscreen flashing indicators. For example, Spider-man’s spider sense is called upon at certain moments in the game. Red and blue sparkles on certain levels dictate when to use his ability to sense danger, and also solve remedial puzzles. All of this fits the bill with the younger audience playing Marvel Super Heroes, as it should. Younger gamers need some visual help to get them through moments in the game,
Having said that, there are still some moments in the game that tend to drag, specifically when you trying to figure out what character to use with what powers to solve whatever puzzle. I know, I know, you’re thinking, ‘the game makes it pretty obvious, dimwit’, and you would be right. The slow down occurs when you have three heroes onscreen at once and you have to switch back and forth between them. It does shed some element of pacing off the adventure, as you’re going from one character to the next using the Y button to choose the right person. For example, the first level has the Hulk and Iron Man working together the majority of the time against Sandman. The back and forth usage between these two characters is perfect. You have Iron Man destroying the silver laced objects, while the hulk puts together and pulls apart large objects as need be. The slow down happens when Spider-man is thrown into the mix towards the end of the first fight. Having to switch between the characters, find out the respective solution through their special powers is less exciting because the third person drags the pacing down. I know it seems like a petty complaint, but it does affect the flow of the game. The AI does help offset this dragging feeling by moving additional characters along as the gamer is trying to solve puzzles, but it still feels like the gameplay is slowed a bit.
This complaint aside, the game still sets a new gameplay bar for Tt Games’ talents and it’s still a blast to run through. It’s everything that you would expect from your typical LEGO gameplay and just a bit more to add some difference and value. Speaking of value, lets talk visuals.
I think that Tt Games actually ups the ante in this release. While I was extremely impressed with Batman 2 when it came out a year or so ago, as it sported some of the biggest environments in a LEGO game to date, there were moments where the animation of the environment was just one big animated movie with a LEGO figure going along the path. For example, when Batman was tracking down the Joker with the batwing at the beginning of the game, you had just a set piece of animation track for the batwing to continually (and repeatedly) fly on. This time around with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Tt Games has created more a sandbox feel to most of its stages rather than respectfully cheap ways to make the game look like it has girth and excitement. The levels seem to go on forever in some places and others seem about standard for the LEGO game series. One level that impressed me, and I’m watching my two youngest kids play it as I’m typing this, is the Iron Man/Hulk level that starts out at Stark Towers. They haven’t stayed on task at all with the mission at all, rather they’re exploring New York City, which seems to go on forever. Kids notoriously will take to large, exploratory environments like this and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes has plenty of places for them to enjoy themselves. The landscape is pretty endless, there are multi-tiered building designs going on that Iron Man can access and it just feels like a very big, detailed place. Ultimately, this sort of level design takes away from the linearity of the game, and It’s awesome.
As for the models, they’re pretty darn nice, and a bit more detailed than usual. One thing I really enjoy about the character models in the game is the bigs. It was fun playing them and it adds a bit of difference to the gameplay — it also adds the feeling over overwhelming power for the gamer. For example, watching the different ways the hulk can smash things, how he can pick up cars and throw them is enormous fun, plus it creates an entirely new dynamic for the gameplay. It’s fun to blow up cars and explode things with the normal LEGO models, but there’s just something incredibly cool and powerful about having the bigs cause destruction. They’re all unique, big and bulky.
The construction of all the characters in the game seems to have had some creative thinking heavily involved. For example, when Iron Man’s replusor rays launch him into flight, they are simply glowing LEGOs that are there to emulate rockets. It’s impressive and it shows the amount of thought that went into the tiny details of the game. Tt Games certainly could have dialed it in a bit, but they chose not to do so. Now, having said that, I’m not happy with venom. He looks like an alien out of Alien: Colonial Marines (except he’s not all over the place with his AI). He basically has tentacles growing out of his back and it’s awkward. I feel like they could have designed him just a bit better because while he lots of the symbiotic extensions in the comic, it was a bit more refined and creepier. What is done here isn’t creepy, it just seems a bit messy.
Other than Venom, everyone else is done well. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) is stretchy-awesome. Captain America is pretty accurately detailed to the point that his finesse throwing of his shield is directly from the comic (and movie — :17 second mark). Again, it’s tiny details that count and makes Tt Games’ efforts seem a lot more Marvel universe fan friendly, and a lot more than just cashing in on a coveted IP.
As for the audio portion of the presentation, the music is inspired by the Avengers soundtrack, though it tends to become uninspired at certain points in the game; sometimes to the point of being non-existent. It does kick in when it needs to kick in, though, creating a nice feeling of urgency during major fights. Related, the voice over work comes and goes when it needs to. It brings a great script, healthy humor (adults will even chuckle — especially when you hear the Legalos comment geared towards Hawkeye) and just fits the bill with this game. I couldn’t imagine this game without voices, much like Batman 2, it really helps move things along. The decision to add voices into the LEGOs titles was a spectacular one.
So with all this said, is this game fun? This game just set a new bar for the LEGO genre. It’s level design, depth and entertainment value are through the roof. The replay value is always there, as you progress through levels and find some objectives you can’t accomplish without unlocking other characters along the way (and there are a LOT of characters to unlock in this game), which motivates you to do more to unlock more characters. So going back and playing with said characters opens up new doors (literally/figuratively) for those particular areas. There’s just so much here to be done in a single game that kids are going to spend a large amount of time wearing this title out, and that’s beyond just collecting gold bricks and special LEGO items. In short, yes it’s fun and yes it will last for quite a bit in your gaming household.