Hugely experienced and highly prolific, Cheshire-based Traveller’s Tales have slowly been evolving and perfecting the Lego game’s formula since the original Lego Star Wars on the PS2. I must confess to having only a partial acquaintance with the series, dipping my toe into a couple of titles, and despite acknowledging the undoubted polish and content rich nature of the games, I tended to find them mere trifles; colourful, layered, but ultimately unsatisfying. Is the latest addition to the the franchise, one based on the rich Marvel mythos, one to stand out from the rest?
The story, as slight and unimportant as it is, is based around the arrival of the Silver Surfer, alien herald of the gigantic Galactus, eater of worlds, a destructive god on course for Earth. Alongside his arrival, the appearance of cosmic bricks of immense power has the huge cast of heroes and villains engaging in a tussle to obtain and control these powerful items. Initially taking control of Iron Man and The Hulk in a confrontation with the Sandman, the opening level serves as a perfunctory but no less enjoyable tutorial. Immediately engaging and simple to pick up and play, there is nothing taxing here, and the simplicity of the action is at once a strength and a weakness. On the one hand accessibility offers a game that is a good way to disengage the brain and simply bash at bricks and pick up coloured studs, all of which offers an immediate and satisfying feedback. Those looking for depth will be disappointed, though by now, most gamers know what they are getting from a Lego game.
Possibly the most striking thing initially is the way the game looks. Graphics are bright and colourful, and lighting and reflections are particularly impressive. Seeing the glints in Iron Man’s armour and the light bouncing of Hulk’s plastic skin adds to the sense of real Lego Marvel Heroes figures being moved across the screen and played with. Furthering this visual verve is the extremely energetic and charming voice acting and cut scenes which play humourously with both the story and the expectations and personalities of the cast of characters. The use of voice acting (and yes, Nolan North puts a shift in) is something that has only been recently added in the series, and the quality, paired with the dialogue, is strong throughout, often raising a smile – only a bitter-hearted cynic would find it all questionable.
The characters on offer, both heroes and villains, are divided into a variety of types, from large, physically powerful characters such as Hulk and The Thing, to athletic, ranged characters like Spiderman, through to telekinetic heroes like Jean Grey. Characters are unlocked for free play as you progress through the story, and the number is huge. As impressive as the range of characters is the range of environments. The game is split into a variety of areas, and Traveller’s Tales try to make it at varied as possible. Metropolitan cityscapes, mountain bunkers, science labs and lush tropical islands are some of the areas the heroes are taken around, and the plot moves along at a great pace, propelling the player through each area, culminating in a huge, multi staged battle against the gigantic Galactus on board a huge airborne aircraft carrier.
As well as the main story mission themselves to replay, with a new cast of characters and abilities to unlock previously inaccessible areas and secrets, the hub world itself is littered with a vast array of things to do. Like the DC title of 2012, Lego Marvel has a central open world, this time New York city and like other Lego games, it really opens up once you have completed the story once and unlocked free play mode. After spending a good ten hours completing the main story mission, I had achieved a completion percentage of 13%. Call it personal preference, but I find it hard to be motivated to mop up all there is to do in an open world, but if this is your thing, there is more than enough to get your teeth stuck into.I had very little motivation or interest in going back to raise this number to a nice round 100, but the challenge is there there for the dedicated.
These challenges are varied and engaging, if not overly taxing. Races and time trials are both vehicle based and flying super ability based. The latter can actually be fairly tricky due to the controls, but nothing a little trial and error can’t solve. There are also individual quest givers, and can range from specific characters to members of the public offering chase quest and collection quest. The amount of content on offer is huge and the game certainly gives you your money’s worth, though completing it all is a time sink rather than a true challenge.
Occasionally, the sheer amount of characters and abilities can be a little overwhelming, and can be a little frustrating when you realise you need to go to a station to change characters to access and certain secret or mission. Happily, getting around this open world area is made convenient and conducive to keeping the player engaged and occupied. Fast travel points are easily accessed and clicking on a story mission area also allows you to scroll the others, making it easy to find something to do. Also, put it down to my unfamiliarity with the games, but there times when I found it unclear how to progress, merely doing so via some old fashioned exhaustive trying out of everything I possibly could. However the character model physics, and the simple act of shooting and smashing environments into smaller Lego pieces never gets old, so the problem, as it is, is a minor one.
Ultimately, Lego Marvel Super Heroes has enough charm and playability to make it an easy recommendation. Easy on the eyes and easy on the thumbs, this highly inoffensive, bright and breezy adventure is a true palette cleanser, and should be picked up especially if you’re on a next gen console, as a fun diversion from the usual overly sombre and serious fare.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: XboxOne/PS4 /Xbox360/PS3/WiiU Release: 29/11/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Lego Marvel Superheroes for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on the PS4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.