Excellent level design; varied powers and abilities; comedic storyline; terrific voice acting; clever Easter Eggs
Level loads can be a bit slow; camera distance could be better; lack of Miiverse functionality
One Christmas vacation, when I was about seven or eight years old, my Dad brought me with him to the bowling alley a couple times on his league nights. It wasn’t that I was particularly fond of the sport, but rather an arcade game that happened to be located there: Capcom’s X-Men. Since those days, video games starring Marvel characters have almost come to mean as much to me as those published by Nintendo. From the excellent (Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel Ultimate Alliance) to the terrible (Spider-Man 3 on Nintendo Wii), I’ve been there, controller in hand. That’s why, when WB Games announced LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, I knew I’d have to have it on day one. Luckily for me, it isn’t just an excellent game; it just might be the best Marvel Super Heroes game ever.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes begins with Avengers stars Iron Man and the Hulk attempting to stop an attack on Grand Central Station by the Sandman and Abomination. In typical comic book fashion, this seemingly small event is only the start as a massive storyline begins to unfold, encompassing nearly every major character in the Marvel stable. By the game’s end, players will have had a chance to control not only the Avengers, but the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and many, many more. Levels typically begin with the player switching back and forth between two characters, and then being joined by one or two more before reaching the end boss. Every character has a unique set of abilities, as well. Some characters share powers (like big LEGO characters Rhino and Thing), but many others mix and match (Venom plays like a cross between Spider-Man and the Hulk). Finding out how these different characters control is a large part of the excitement of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
As you unlock more characters, you’re able to return to previous stages in Free Play mode. Suddenly, the inconspicuous looking sandbox you saw in Grand Central Station becomes a path that Sandman can unlock. The switch with a “4″ on it can be used to have Mr. Fantastic change into a new, unique form. Discovering new paths and objectives is really quite rewarding. And that feeling occurs often, because TT Games has packed the title with a bevy of unlockable content, assuring that it won’t be easy for anyone to achieve one hundred percent completion. While playing the main quest, I chose to ignore most of the game’s extra content. When I defeated the game’s end boss, I found that I had completed barely fifteen percent of the game! I still had a massive open world New York City left to explore, extra unlockable levels and characters I was far away from being able to control. It’s like beating Pokémon Gold and Silver and realizing you still have all of Kanto left to explore.
New York City has long been known as the home to most of the Marvel characters, and this title embraces that fact. New York acts as the game’s central hub, but the city has gotten a Marvel makeover. Real life landmarks like Central Park are complimented with buildings unique to the Marvel Universe. The New York skyline features buildings like Stark Tower, the Kronos Corporation and many more. The number of Easter eggs strewn throughout the game is quite impressive, to say the least. But casual fans will still find just as much to enjoy. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes almost acts as an unofficial sequel to the Avengers film, albeit with a much bigger cast. By building off one of the most financially successful films of all time, TT Games gave us a title that will appeal just as much to the hardcore fans as it will to the casuals.
The Marvel Universe is further brought to life by the game’s incredible sound. Not only is the game filled with veteran Marvel voice-actors, it also features Clark Gregg reprising his role as Phil Coulson from Avengers and Agents of SHIELD. Stan Lee is also on hand, making a cameo in every level, and requiring you to save him from comedic danger. The game even tosses in a very obscure song in the closing credits that left me stunned and feeling out-geeked, for lack of a better term. An amazing accomplishment, I assure you.
That isn’t to say that LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is flawless. The camera distance can be a bit difficult at certain points, and I’d imagine a bigger pain in multiplayer mode. Level load times can also be a bit on the longer side. While never an issue inside the levels themselves (or in the game’s open world), it does get a little tedious waiting for a level to start sometimes. I also would have appreciated some Miiverse compatibility. This is a game that’s screaming for the ability to take pictures and share them with friends online. Still, these problems are very small in comparison to what the game does get right.
Everything about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes feels like a labor of love from TT Games. While it could have easily cut down on the amount of content and created just as successful a title, it instead built something far bigger. The result is a game filled with diverse playable characters, a New York City that feels ripped out of the comics and sights and sounds that bring the whole thing to life. Suddenly, I feel like a little kid at the bowling alley, pressing my Dad for quarters so I could take down Magneto. It’s been 20 years since I smiled this wide. If you’re even a casual Marvel fan, be sure to check this one out. You won’t regret it.