The Lego franchise rumbles on, taking the previous super hero offerings of the excellent Lego Batman games and turning things up to 11 with a bewildering range of characters and a great open city to strut your stuff in. This is Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and I’m going to really struggle to write this without a rubbish “Marvel-lous” pun.
The game revolves around Doctor Doom, who is ramping up his efforts to build Doctor Doom’s Doom Ray of Doom (catchy…). During an attempt to capture Silver Surfer’s board which would help complete the Doom Ray, Iron Man gets in the way and the board is smashed into several pieces. Magic, cosmic pieces. These blocks become the focus of Doctor Doom’s attention, and while he sends out as many bad guys as possible to go and collect the blocks it’s up to the more upstanding folk in the Marvel universe – Spiderman, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor among plenty of others – to put a stop to the plan.
As you’d expect from a Lego title there are plenty of comedy highlights scattered through the massive campaign. I couldn’t help but laugh at Iron Man running round in his heart-covered boxer shorts when his suit gets damaged, or the Hulk full of rage over Wolverine’s sideburns. The action is pretty typical of a Lego game too, revolving around smashing stuff into smaller Lego pieces only to build them up into something more useful like a ladder, switch or huge water canon. Many switches can only be activated by specific characters, opening up a series if head-scratching puzzles while you try to work out how to get the relevant character to the relevant place to be able to flick the switch or carry out the specific operation in hand. There’s also the regular issue of certain areas being inaccessible during the main campaign, instead relying on you playing the level again in free-play mode where you can switch your characters more freely and bring in anyone you’ve unlocked to access bits that were closed off before.
Then there’s the open city between missions, a sprawling area with so many extra little bits to do that your mini map is often little more than a round collection of icons indicating where you can go to have a bit of side-mission fun. The activities are varied too – one minute I was hunting down a kid who had gone to find some carrots to give him supersight, the next I was on a roof racing a radio controlled car round a circuit before the timer ticked down to zero. You can press triangle to hijack any vehicle you find parked up or driving around town, and use it to either take part in other races or just get to your mission start point quicker than on foot. Take control of a character who can take to the air and you’ll open up even more opportunities than you’ll find on the ground, much like the roof-race I mentioned a moment ago.
If this sounds like a certain other open world game released recently with a slightly higher age rating, that’s because it’s not all that far removed. Both have a long storyline that keeps you interested and wanting to move on to the next mission, both have numerous things to keep you occupied away from the main story for hours, and both let you just wander round and cause untold mayhem for no apparent reason. Most importantly, both are fantastic fun and will give you serious amount of value for money. The big difference is that Lego Marvel has Spiderman, and who doesn’t want Spiderman?
The relentless release schedule of Lego games is starting to leave its mark though. The same issues that have been present in the past are still in effect now. We still haven’t had the return of online co-op modes, it’s still entirely possible to get stuck in the scenery if you’re unlucky and some of the jumps are tough to make successfully because of the stubborn camera angles during the main levels. You also don’t tend to see much of the blocky New York in terms of the story, instead serving as a go-between for main missions and general playground whenever you fancy it, and it might’ve been nice if the story had run over into the streets of New York at some point.
But these are gripes that fans of Lego games will be long since accustomed to and will choose to gladly ignore, instead enjoying the extra little throw-away comments from characters that will make you laugh, even if you don’t know a fat lot about the Marvel universe. The game is massive, and every time you load it up you’re reminded how much there is to do. 10 hours played an only 7% complete? If you’re the kind of person who will want to hunt down every last collectable, every last gold brick and unlock every last character this will keep you going for a long, long time.
And in that sense, it totally follows the Lego game mantra. The quality still isn’t dwindling, and anyone with a soul will find something to laugh at. It’s got its issues, but it’s such a huge and enjoyable game you’ll probably forget about them. I’d still like to see online co-op make a return – maybe the new generation consoles will help with that – but for now it’s not at all unreasonable to just enjoy Lego Marvel for what it is.
Reviewed on PS3