Picture the scene, it’s 1993 and Falcon 3.0 is currently my favorite game on my Amiga 1200 and Take That are number one in the charts. You could say not a classic year for gaming or music, but it was the year I picked up my first Marvel comic and I have been hooked ever since. My son, who will soon be 7, shares my fascination but has become a fan at a much earlier age. This is down to the recent surge in interest in superheroes led by the increase in film releases. Forgotten characters are now being introduced to the new generation and re-acquainted with former fans.
Back in the early 90’s when I first became a fan, Marvel characters existed mostly in print and on the small screen, not many films were about and the ones that were didn’t find the link between print and the big screen. Fast-forward a few years and the rise of superhero from comic to blockbuster movie has been as large as the budgets. Successful games have not been so quick to make the leap, but with the films being so popular the games industry are taking note. Can the latest LEGO game; LEGO Marvel Super Heroes which is released on 15th November, keep up with the hype of the films and finally be talked about in the same way the original comics were?
The game itself is the latest in an ever-growing list of LEGO based film adaptations that include Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter to name but a few. The Batman games did give an insight into some of the character possibilities but certainly didn’t really ‘go for it’ in terms of number or abilities. This game isn’t based on one specific film so with around 150 characters included they have really made up for it here (follow this link for a comprehensive list).
LEGO games are designed to be fun and a bit cheeky with a semi serious undertone. This one is no different; the story is a blend of Sci-Fi evilness with a LEGO twist. The plot is simple; the Silver Surfers surf board is destroyed by Dr Doom and turned into cosmic bricks that are spread far and wide across the planet. Dr Doom, along with Loki, wants to create ‘Dr Doom’s Doom Ray of Doom’ (catchy eh!) and needs the cosmic bricks to do this. So they get together a group of evil villains that included Sandman, Magneto, Dr Octopus, Green Goblin and many more to get the cosmic bricks. Once assembled Dr Dooms wants to destroy all worlds and cause other minor irritations to all mankind. The only thing standing in the way is Nick Fury and his group of superheroes ready to fight against this threat to the world. These include The Avengers, Fantastic 4, various X-Men (Wolverine, Xyclops, Jean Grey), Spiderman and many more.
My first impressions of the game were slightly mixed. On one hand you have some fantastic cut scene visuals with the Silver Surfer flying across screen and the Helicarrier rising out of the clouds with Max Fury in all patch wearing greatness. This is detracted slightly by the poor menu screens that reminded me a little of the one in Hotline Miami, it’s a small gripe but noticeable all the same. This is soon forgotten as the game itself is beautiful, not just in the way it looks but also in the way the characters move and interact with the surroundings. All the characters have their own distinctive way they move, fight (and for those who can) fly, these are mirrored in the game and show that real effort has gone into the detail. This does mean that each superhero has his/her/its own special moves or skills, and to master each one and to know when to use it takes a little time. The button-pressing element is OK but as you progress through the story you have to overcome obstacles and challenges that only one character can achieve. Being able to know which character to use and then what to do with him is a little confusing at the start, but as you get use to the game mechanics it gets a lot easier. You will soon know when to use Spiderman’s web slinging over Hulk’s strengths. Speaking of Hulk he can change from Hulk to Bruce Banner mid-action to achieve certain tasks, this for me is a little strange as we all know Bruce cannot control his anger so is a little divorced from the original character.
The levels have a linear aspect to them but there is also the opportunity to explore New York in an open world environment – GTA style. This is a great feature as you get to roam the streets unlocking new areas and features as you go. You can drive cars and cause various amounts of mayhem as you see fit. If the action gets a little busy there is some slow down that I experienced, especially in the open world environments, but overall it didn’t detract too much from the game. Multiplayer is co-op only, you can switch in-game between characters, and if you are playing with a mate you each control a character on the same screen that changes to split screen when you are nowhere near one another.
The controls for flying are probably the biggest annoyance, it is something of a headache left over from previous games and it was hoped it would be sorted out by now. It isn’t, and although I don’t share the opinions of some that it is unusable, it does mean you can be concentrating more on not flying into a wall rather than the game itself.
Overall the sheer joy at being able to play as so many different superheroes would make it worth the money in itself, some of the control issues and (at times) the confusing character interaction are a small side note. I do however think that if you are buying this game for younger children (7-9 years) the puzzles and knowing how to progress through levels could need some guidance from older children or adults to make the experience more fun. My son found that it was tricky for him to understand which character needed to do what and where. He then grew a little bored, but as soon as I (and Uncle Google) helped get though a level or past a bad guy his interest was re-ignited. He is a very good little gamer so it was a little surprising to see him struggle. What was good is that to him superheroes have been limited to the ones in the films or cartoons. Now he has a whole new appreciation for the world of the superhero. For me, I like this game. The LEGO base really does do justice to the comics, and there is a visible link between the characters in print and within this game.
Review copy provided by the Warner Bros. PR team, LEGO Marvel Superheroes is released on 15th November for PS Vita, PS3, DS, 3DS, Wii U, PC and Xbox 360. PS4 and Xbox One versions are to follow the console releases.