Believe it or not it’s been 4 years since the first LEGO Marvel game heralded the launch of the current console generation. Bringing us all the characters we know and love from the comics, but with a heavy slant on the movie universe, it was a great game that needed a little refining. Since that point there have been multiple LEGO games that have taken the formula and tweaked it to almost perfection, providing countless hours of brick bashing entertainment, so we should be in for a treat revisiting the rich and intricate world inhabited by Captain America, Spiderman, Hulk and co. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 aims to take us in a slightly different direction by providing a completely original story whilst keeping focus on the characters we know and love, yet can it keep us engaged?
Picture the scene, the Guardians of the Galaxy are heading out to save a world from peril when all of a sudden a giant broadsword comes out of the sky and drops a world of hurt on you and your team. Not only that, some maniacal villain starts tearing up the multiverse and piecing it back together in strange and interesting new ways. Kang the Conqueror is here and determined to put the universe’s mightiest heroes to the test by creating his own vision of the perfect city in Chronopolis. For gamers this is great news as Kang pulls in wildly different cities, genres and characters and mashes them all together… just like any self-respecting kid with a massive LEGO set would. It doesn’t leave the comic book fans out either as it really delves deep and pulls out characters from different timelines and events. Then it maintains its familiarity for those with knowledge of the movies because it keeps the look and feel of the bits associated with the run of films from the last 10 years. Whatever your association, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 has something for you.
Starting off with a relatively restrictive linear level progression and a fixed set of minifigures to play with, it’s not long before things open up and you’ve got free movement around 18 very different areas. Drifting from Manhattan to Medieval England, Ancient Egypt, Asgard in its last days and even Noir New York – there’s a distinct style and presence to each. Being open world and populated with a plethora of characters that shout tips at you as you’re passing by means that mission structure goes out of the window pretty easily. Races, minigames, challenges and street crime are all designed to distract you from moving on to the next part of Chronopolis that will help save each respective world. However, as with any LEGO game, the story missions are where the action is, the characters are unlocked, and the lion’s share of the studs are earned.
Because it’s called LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, you can expect to be given teams of them to head into levels with. Starting off with the Guardians or the core Avengers, it’s not long before mixing and matching comes into play and heroes from multiple comic series are all thrown together to tackle the Kang problem. The team up moves make a return where you can activate a special attack with another character when you’ve got the requisite level of power gauge. This time it’s not limited to specific pairs, any two can trigger a move that damages the immediate area, and the animation that plays depends on the skill set each has. It’s a nice idea that, like a number of new features, delights when you first discover it, but because switching between players is also the trigger, it can frustrate easily. Then when you finally pull it off it doesn’t connect with any bad guy on screen. It’s a similar situation with the power move executed when you hold the circle button – they’re great for area clearance and taking chunks of health away from the enemy, though they’re easy to interrupt and mean they end up being practically useless later on in the game when you’ll get tracked and hit with alarming regularity.
With an inclusion of a wider range of powers and abilities it’s quite easy to forget what each hero is capable of and consequently a pleasant surprise when you do come across a puzzle that they can solve. Iron Man, Star Lord, Doctor Strange and Captain America (or their equivalents) are the core puzzle solvers and you’ll find they can do most of the heavy lifting with the odd bit of support from Groot or Spider-man. Doctor Strange in particular introduces a new time mechanic that lets you forward and reverse the flow of time on certain objects, as well as creating portals to access new areas; all of which are welcome additions for getting more variety in. You may spend less time with some of the more obscure ones available though, and I’ll freely admit to not knowing half of the impressive roster on display… and can only count the Inhumans inclusion because I’ve recently started watching the TV series. However, Netflix be praised, I at least knew what was going on with Daredevil, Iron Fist and Luke Cage.
In-jokes to the movies, cartoons and TV series are littered around the place, whether that’s in idle chat in the cutscenes or jibes during some of the open world challenges. This being LEGO there are of course completely bizarre interactions to be had, with the most odd I’ve come across so far being part of a webcast cooking show for displaced Asgardians. Getting a reference to Tahiti in there as well was just the icing on the cake before being awarded a gold brick. That said, it’s also nicely written so that having no real knowledge of anything doesn’t stop the fun. Ultimately it’s all about running around and hitting everything until there’s enough scrap to build something, or it all disappears and it’s time to move on. Complex level structures and puzzles aren’t in the LEGO DNA because whilst it’s mostly aimed at children, they know parents have a lot of love for the genre.
This recognition of an older gamer probably shows more in here than the recent titles, possibly most of all in the presentation of each of the levels. There’s much more of a focus on fighting and boss battles, and with so many villains to chose from it’s no surprise. It doesn’t necessarily have the desired effect though as after half a dozen goes at fight, puzzle, new area, fight, puzzle, battle arena – it gets a little tedious. Maybe it’s the experience that comes from knowing you’ll need to do each level at least twice that takes the shine off, or it could be because the end of level battles are lessons in patience rather than figuring out weaknesses. Each circular arena typically has infinitely spawning henchmen and a boss that can’t be damaged until you’ve got them into a particular state, but they’ll be able to wipe you out with one or two hits, and continually target you no matter what you do. The view zooms out too to give a wide view of the action but means that one blue suited hero pretty much looks like another, and blue suited bad guys don’t help. Lack of differentiating gameplay really hinders the enthusiasm to push ahead, but at least there’s collectibles.
With a huge amount of side quests and ancillary events to take part in, and the levels to replay and gain all the minikits, and the extra umpteen characters to unlock, and the races, and the dung beetle football (yes, that’s in there), there’s more than enough to keep anyone going for weeks on end. Travellers Tales don’t skimp on content and there feels to be more than ever in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. Exploring the pretty environments and hearing the decent voice acting (no mean feat given that they were making this during the SAG strike) alongside the stirring score, it does draw you in and it’s very easy to while away the hours just enjoying covering massive distances with a Hulk jump and searching for giant silver top hats all rendered in its usual slick faux plastic style.
It’s hard to dislike LEGO games because they bring out the kid in all of us, and with the drop in-drop out co-op and 4 player battle arenas, there’s action for parents and children… if you decide to let your sprogs play. There are some things that annoy and frustrate, but it doesn’t stop LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 being a fun game with oodles of replayability. Comic book fans, movie goers and newcomers alike can find what they’re looking for here, just be aware that you’re not going to find a movie tie-in – that’s being left for the DLC.
A PS4 review copy of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 was provided by the Warner Bros. PR team, and the game is available now on nearly all platforms for around £39.99.