Brick-smashing mayhem abounds in the latest puzzle-brawler from the LEGO brand.
The LEGO games have not strayed far from the formula developed oh so many years past with LEGO Star Wars. Fundamentally they are all side-scrolling beat-em-ups with few environmental puzzles that gate your progression. The characters you swap between have specific abilities that allow them to interact with the world to unlock the next step in the journey or find a hidden collectable. Levels can then be replayed with a larger selection of characters (which you have purchased by collecting LEGO pieces) so that the increased range of abilities will unlock further hidden tchotchkes and googaws.
Brawling your way through supervillain-robot-laden bases or rogue-mutant-inhabited islands is largely devoid of consequence. Fallen down a bottomless pit/Fried by a laser/Eaten by a dinosaur? Meh. No big whoop — you are docked a few bricks and materialize ad infinitum. The one place that the youth audience LEGO games are targeted at could get hung up is in the mission-ending boss encounters. Fighting some big bad guy while swapping rapidly between characters to strategically employ their special skills does get the blood pumping a bit more, but it is still mostly toothless.
So staid is this template that the largest shakeup in the LEGO game franchise happened when it decided to add voice acting to the cutscenes. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes sticks firmly to this mold. It borrows the hub city concept from the prior LEGO DC Super Heroes — though here you are wandering Manhattan rather than Gotham — which adds a heavy dollop of diversion between the 15 or so missions. The missions themselves are richly embedded with the Marvel Universe flavor. Your wisecracking heroes duke it out with waves of superbaddie lackeys before squaring off with Grade A villains like Dr. Doom, Loki and Red Skull. Nearly every major franchise character (be they hero or villain) is playable, and many deep cuts from the canon (like Squirrel Girl) find their way into the game.
Finding and unlocking the epic collection of playable avatars and drivable LEGO and collecting hidden gold bricks, Minikits and special mission Deadpool Red Bricks is TIRESOME. Frankly, after the first 150 characters, one numbs to the morphine-esque drip of rewards. It doesn’t help that you have access to a character creator aboard your floating home base where you can craft your own hero. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is a fine game — well balanced, funny, pretty and delightful to explore. But it feels like beneath this big cool Christmas toy are 2000 other tiny, not-as-cool packages that you feel compelled to unwrap. I don’t see how TT Games could win though. Cut that roster short and we complain; accelerate the unlock process and we get bored. Still, web-swinging through LEGO Times Square before swapping to Thor and hammering away a giant Sentinel is damn fun. A-
Glenn is a writer, designer and game maker. You can find more of his reviews at gamesbyplaydate.com.
Appeared in the Nov. 28, 2013 issue of the Hippo