Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
The nostalgic power of LEGO, glorious Marvel canon and TT Games' talent for crafting accessible adventures go together like Wolverine and Colossus: a Fastball Special of fabulous fan service. It was always going to be brilliant. I'm just amazed it took this long.
Traveller's Tales' attention to detail and generosity of spirit is nothing short of breathtaking. Dozens of beloved Marvel heroes and villains have been replicated in adorable LEGO format, complete with all of their trademark abilities and unique personality. Iron Man breezily flies around the stages, blasting foes with palm cannons, rockets and his Uni-Beam. The Incredible Hunk rampages about, throwing cars and smashing up the scenery, yet can change back into Bruce Banner at will. Mister Fantastic stretches and morphs, floating over gaps by turning into his very own parachute, while Magneto menacingly hovers and chucks metallic projectiles willy-nilly. Rather than lazily pigeonholing heroes into specific categories, LEGO Marvel Superheroes does its damndest to be the truest and most respectful Marvel adaptation you'll ever play.
Plus, this being a TT game, you can also BASE jump off the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier as Tony Stark wearing nothing but a helmet and boxer shorts if you want to.
You'll rarely see a more clear and evident love of classic source material, which TT have translated directly into gameplay. Not only does every hero and villain have access to their unique abilities and attacks, but each has been painstakingly individually animated to show off their own irrepressible personality. Wolverine throws enemies into the air, dicing them into their individual pieces with his Adamantium claws, whereas Hulk punts them straight out of level bounds. Mister Fantastic changes shape during regular attacks, smashing foes beneath oversized heel. Spider-Man gleefully swings from literally any surface, hanging in his iconic upside-down pose when idle, while Captain America swaggers and postures. And, naturally, Stan Lee makes a hilarious cameo in every level and can wield practically every ability once you find him in all story stages.
I freely admit that this review is starting to read like a lazy list of awesomeness, but it's hard to convey exactly how enjoyable it is to play a Marvel game that unites so many legendary characters and make them feel completely authentic. Indeed, Ultimate Alliance and years of licensed film tie-ins can't hold a candle to this superb effort, especially since numerous unabashedly geeky Silver Age and Avengers cameos abound. Even Howard The Duck is in here, and he's fully playable to boot.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes spins an appropriately silly yarn, which sees a dream team of superheroes join forces to stop the nefarious Doctor Doom from stealing mysterious Cosmic Bricks and assembling the Doom Cannon (Of Doom), all as Galactus begins his inexorable advance. This boils down to fifteen lengthy story missions that stick to TT's tried-and-true blueprint of gentle puzzles, enjoyable combat and nifty secrets. As you'd expect, each character can use their skills for more than just brawling, applying telekinesis, electricity, magnetism or sheer brute strength to affect the brick-built environment in various ways.
Though undeniably formulaic and reliant on character-specific QTEs to progress, it's an absolute blast to visit familiar locations and do battle against our favourite villains, all the while sating our voracious hunger for studs and capsules. Collecting studs is still as wonderfully satisfying as ever and feeds back into an enormous menu of extra characters to unlock and bonuses to purchase from Deadpool's bedroom. After each stage, of course, the real fun is returning with a tag-team of disparate heroes in Free Play mode, and enjoying some of the more anarchic humour and hidden LEGO secrets hidden behind nearly every wall.
It's surprisingly pretty, too, even on current-gen consoles (can we call them last-gen consoles yet?). Despite an errant frame rate, copious amounts of blocky debris, smooth animations and glossy plastic textures make this a colourful treat from a visual standpoint.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes also has open-world pretensions, throwing players into an enormous Manhattan map complete with recognisable landmarks both real (such as the cheekily-winking Lady Liberty) and fictional (the Daily Bugle HQ), which we're free to explore at our own pace. You can run around it to engage in various events and challenges, smashing up the scenery for studs and the sheer fun of it. We can hijack vehicles to use in street races, or unlock iconic rides such as the Quinjet. Iron Man, Thor and other flying heroes can, well, fly - completely free to roam wherever they see fit. Don't expect Los Santos, but there's a huge amount to see, do and unlock, especially in two-player splitscreen since both participants can split up and
rampage explore independently.
But wait, there's more. The SHIELD Helicarrier hovers over the city, a short teleport away, that's also an enormous environment to explore. Hilarious subquests, madcap Deadpool challenge missions, create-a-character functionality and even a sensational Snakes On A Plane reference await the intrepid. Once you're ready to get back to business, BASE jumping from the lofty heights down to the Manhattan streets is a rush that never gets old.
It's hard to criticise LEGO Marvel Super Heroes without resorting to a Great Big Bulletpoint List O' Nitpicks™, because once again, players will run into any number of small yet infuriating flaws over the course of their adventure. From AI pathfinding bugs and twitchy flying controls to unintuitive tooltips and unhelpful camera angles, these little grievances pile up fast. A lesser game would have been buried under these snowballing annoyances, but Traveller's Tales' obvious love of the source material and sheer fun factor means that we're usually willing to shrug them off.
Personally, I'm not convinced that the transition from mute slapstick to voice acting is necessarily a change for the better. Though the script is loaded with cheeky references to both the comics (as far back as the Silver Age) and movie canon, it's inconsistently written and acted. For every laugh-out-loud one-liner or classic catchphrase, there's a woeful attempt at banter that comes off as awkward, forced or rushed, with plentiful dead air. Often you'll get the joke well enough, yet you simply won't laugh along. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes absolutely needs voice acting since it can't fall back on a single recognisable film or trilogy to mime over, but much of the series' classic charm has been lost in translation.
Even so, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is still one of the best superhero games ever made, and an essential purchase if you're a fan of the Marvel universe.
- Accessible yet compelling gameplay involving dozens of classic characters
- Amazing attention to detail and fan service
- Enjoyable adventuring and open-world exploration
- So many legendary heroes and villains to use, each feeling unique and authentic
- Formulaic mission design
- Numerous little annoyances pile up over the course of a playthrough
- Awkward banter; inconsistent scripting and voiceovers
The Short Version: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. LEGO. Marvel. Super Heroes.
It's about time, frankly.