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Lego Marvel Super Heroes - Review
With the Marvel film franchises spread across three separate studios: Spiderman under the control of Sony, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four over at Fox, there's the sad realization that some of our favourite superheroes are never going to team up on the big screen. The chances of Wolverine, Spiderman and Captain America all together in one epic film just isn't all that likely. So in steps Traveller's Tales with Lego Marvel Super Heroes to give us the next best thing.
Far and away the best element of this latest Lego outing is the unremitting fan service. Want to see Doctor Doom and Iron Man work together? Done. How about Thor and Mr Fantastic? There's that too. Hell, how about a team comprised of Spiderman, Venom and Carnage. Yep, you can even do that.
Due to the weird world of copyright licensing, Lego Marvel Super Heroes is allowed to riff off the style and tone of Joss Whedon's Avenger's Assemble, right down to creating a Lego version of the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier from the film, whilst also incorporating the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Spiderman.
And it does all this with the signature humour that has become a hallmark of the series. For a game aimed at younger players, Traveller's Tales do a great job of getting the humour just right. It's not the kind of over-the-top, attention deficit, slap-stick humour that tends to lurk around a lot of kid's games, but rather genuinely funny gags that any age group can laugh at. Perhaps the best being the game's characterisation of the Hulk, who, after going on a smashing rampage, is typically seen calmly sweeping up all the devastation with a dustpan and brush.
As with other Lego games, each character as a different set of skills which they can use to interact with the environment. Hulk can pull open big doors and lift heavy objects, Spiderman can pull down things with his webs, and Thor is able to power objects with a blast of lightning. In effect, every character is a different key and you're faced with a bunch of different locks. There's a surprising variety of powers amidst the cast too, and the game does a good job of mixing up the heroes on each chapter of the story.
Here again the fan service kicks in hard, with an abundance of villains from all across Marvel lore. Magneto, Dr Doom and Loki are the main bad guys, but there's everyone from Venom right through to Abomination popping up in a few scenes here and there. The voice acting too manages to bring everything together, with many of the voice actors being those from the various animated series, and breathe plenty of life into their plastic characters.
Not content with just a decent story mode, Traveller's Tales manage to recreate an entire city for you to play with. Frankly, this is where the Lego games are at their best; acting as a giant toy box which you can mess around with. With tons of collectibles to find, provided you enjoy this kind of game, there's plenty on offer to keep you occupied. Collecting all of the studs alone takes time, and then there's the various other items that can only be acquired once you're unlocked certain characters with specific skills.
While there's plenty of love poured into this game, the actual minute to minute gameplay can become something of a grind after a while. Many later levels have you repeating the same motions again and again: Captain America uses his shield to trigger a switch, Hulk to bash the door down, Spiderman to use his spidey sense and so on. It can sometimes feel as if a few of the levels are simply going through the motions until you reach the inevitable boss fight.
Speaking of those bosses, they're on the whole something of a mixed bag. On the one hand they're gloriously old-school, with many requiring three hits to kill, resulting in a three round fight, and many are the highlights of their respective chapters. On the other hand, many are prone to keep doing the same thing over and over until they die, with little alteration to the fight structure. You know how to kill them, you just have to sit and go through the motions until the game decides that you (and the boss) have had enough.
The controls don't always co-operate either and are by far the biggest problem. It doesn't take long for the screen to get cluttered with multiple heroes and villains, and hitting Y to switch control to a different character never seems all that precise. In theory you point the stick and it should shoot over to your target but in many cases you'll end up with just another random member of your party. It might seem a trivial thing to complain about, but in a game where character switching plays such an integral part it can get annoying when the game seems to have no idea who you want to play as.
Overall, there's a lot of like about Lego Marvel Superheroes. Provided you at least have some knowledge of the source material, even if it's just the films, you'll be able to enjoy the interactions between the characters. Given the repetitive nature of many of the game's levels, it's definitely the kind of game best experienced with a friend and helps cover up the game's weaker moments, as well as the hit and miss A.I.
With Lego: The Hobbit dropping later this year, and several hints at a DC and Marvel Lego crossover, thing aren't likely to stop anytime soon for Traveller's Tales. It seems these plastic bricks are still as charming as ever.
Lego Marvel Superheroes was released in November for PC, Wii U, PS3, PS4, Xbox One and 360.
A portable version was also released for Vita, DS and 3DS.
This review is based on the Xbox One version.
© 2014 LudoLogic