Platforms: PC | PS3 | PS4 | Xbox 360 | Xbox One | 3DS
Developers: Traveller's Tales
Publishers: Warner Bros. Interactive
Stan Lee Hulks out.
I was sold. Right there, with those four words.
Traveller's Tales' LEGO games have long been beloved of us gamers here at Dealspwn. The whimsy, the in-jokes, the slapstick comedy, the seamless co-operative play -- these games have had them all. So how on earth do you go and top them?
Apparently by Marvel giving you access to everything.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes basically sees the Silver Surfer planning on serving Earth up to Galactus on a plate. Doctor Doom is apparently a little concerned by this and would rather Galactus didn't do that so he begins a search for the enormously powerful Cosmic Bricks and starts amassing a bunch of ne'er-do-wells like Magneto and busts Loki out of his prison to raise an evil force of the criminally unhinged. His plan? To rescue Earth and then make all of humanity his subjects. In response, Nick Fury puts a call out to all of his heroic chums and figures such as the X-Men and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four so that they can snap up the Cosmic Bricks first.
It's all pretty nuts, and probably fairly redundant when all is said and done.
I don't say that to disparage the story at all, but the narrative in LEGO games has never exactly been the main focus, and that's true again here. In this game, it's really just an excuse to include the most vast roster of playable characters we've ever seen. And that's fine!
Each member of the 150+ strong character list has their own moveset. Iron Man can fly about and fire off blasts from his palms. He's even got a little Unibeam attack too. Bruce Banner can hack into thing when he's in his normal form and then Hulk out to become a bigfig (those are new to the series), which allows him to pick up bits of scenery and smash them to pieces. Venom crawls around like the disgustingly tentacular mess of black ooze that he is and, just like Spidey, he can web-sling around the LEGO representation of New York City.
But the roster goes far beyond the obvious: John Di Maggio turns up as J. Jonah Jameson and chucks newspapers at people. Squirrel Girl lobs exploding nut-obsessed rodents at everyone and can warp in hordes of the critters, who then explode. In the demo we're privy to, Mr. Fantastic ends up slipping through grates to reach secret areas, transforming into a screwdriver, a pair of cutting pliers, and a parachute, all in the space of five minutes.
And then Stan Lee appears. In a number of other LEGO games there have been children or bystanders, innocent people, to save or rescue. In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, it's just fifty different versions of Stan Lee. Maybe he gets kidnapped, or locked in a vault, or suspended from a trap in an underground lair. All we know is that we're going to be spending a whole bunch of time bailing out a minifig representation of Stan Lee.
But it will all be worth it. Because we'll get to play as him.
Stan Lee, being the legend that he is, doesn't just have one power... he has all of them. So he can fly, he can websling, he borrow a bunch of the Human Torch's projectile powers. Oh, and he can Hulk out too. Into Hulk Stan Lee!
So, as mentioned before, there re 150+ characters, although this will really boil down to 16 leads across 15 main missions, all branching out from the expansive New York hub. But though we've groaned and gripe about New York as the basis for an open world city before, this is slightly different. After all, what other incarnation of New York have you seen before with the X-Mansion, Stark Tower, the Baxter Building, Dr Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s floating hoverbase alongside Grand Central Station and Central Park?
By far one of the best things we saw, though, was a short little demonstration of one of the optional Deadpool side missions. Scattered across the game world there'll be comics to collect. Open them up and you'll be able to jump into a mini-adventure, narrated by Nolan North as Deadpool, that basically serves as an excuse to put a handful of unlikely characters together. For example, the one we witnessed had the Vulture and Howard the Duck trying to hold Marvel Towers to ransom. Sick and tired of having crappy storylines and wanting to appear in more comics, the Vulture apparently decided to hold a bunch of Marvel employees hostage (including, of course, Stan Lee) until he gets his own way. Howard gets knocked unconscious early on because "he's not fundamentally evil, but just a bit of an idiot," according to the developers.
It's genius. There were ten of us journalists, each of us from different countries and far-flung lands laughing our arses off as Mr. Fantastic and Spider-Man worked to construct an electric birdhouse to lure in the Vulture and then fry him into a coma. Spidey then used his Spidey Sense to reveal some hidden blocks, which were then hastily constructed into a witch to release the Marvel employees and set Stan Lee free. There were tears of mirth in my eyes.
And it looks fantastic too. There are more character animations than ever before, the city hub feels alive, populated by frantic, panicking minifig citizens. The particle effects have been ramped up to match a level of LEGO destructibility that we've never seen before. The facial expressions are rib-tickingly brilliant as ever, and there are tons of visual gags from Mr. Fantastic transforming into a teapot to the Sandman becoming a sandcastle. The fan service is exceptional: as well as the Blackbird, Doom's jet and a host of other obvious vehicles, the Magneto-mobile from 1978 cartoon is unlockable.
Throw in the choice between dynamic screen sharing and fixed splitscreen and the job's a good 'un. Traveller's Tales have really ramped up their focus testing with children for this title, so they tell us, but the universal appeal is still there. If you've got a spark of childlike whimsy in you and you're a Marvel fan of any degree, this is looking like your perfect game. And we nly have to wait until November.