Traveller’s Tales has been making a killing adapting beloved franchises into a Lego format. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones to the DC Universe, Traveller’s Tales hones its craft with each released Lego game, and it shows. This year, Marvel’s characters get the brick-by-brick treatment, and the results are remarkable, even with a few noticeable hiccups in controls and open world design.
The game’s narrative and dialogue is wholly reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon. The Silver Surfer has crash-landed on Earth and his shattered board has attracted the attention of Loki, Red Skull and a slew of other villains, big and small. Thus, the heroes mobilize from their respected worlds to try and stop them.
With over 100 different characters with whom to play, including nearly all of the X-men, Spider-Man, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four, this is one of the few places where Thor, Wolverine, Human Torch and Captain America will appear on screen without any movie or copyright disputes. Each character has been faithfully adapted from its comic book or movie version to their Lego counterpart. Small details reminiscent of movies, like Iron-Man’s plasma blaster whir that sounds before he fires or Hulk’s signature, “Hulk smash!” reinforce these adaptations.
The gameplay, however, has not advanced past “tap repeatedly to win.” The game will often just play itself as you sit and watch your character play out a killing animation to a hapless crony. While it is entertaining to watch Thor throw his hammer, have the enemy dodge the attack and then pull the hammer back to break the enemy into pieces, the “Lego Marvel Superheroes” gameplay never amounts to anything past that.
If kids are able to play the latest iteration of “Call of Duty” with precision and speed, it’s not entirely out of the question for the developer to deepen the gameplay, even if by a smidge. However, if the aforementioned criticism sounds like the game is repetitive, it isn’t. It avoids this through unique animations of the various Lego characters, and its charm keeps the player engaged from beginning to end.
When you’re not participating in missions that take place in Stark Tower, the X Mansion or the Oscorp Building, you’ll be running around in New York City, which functions as the game’s open world. Don’t expect some sort of Grand Theft Auto repercussion system, however, as there is freedom to pretty much do what you want. As you run, fly and swing around New York City, citizens just blissfully wander around for the most part.
The citizens will acknowledge individual heroes, with one citizen saying, “It’s Spider-Man!” or will talk among each other about missions in which they have participated, which helps create a more authentic plastic world. It is odd that the citizens will react to dangerous villains in the same way that they would react to the heroes. The music that plays in the open world plays as the equalizer, creating no heroic or villainous sound, instead playing something reminiscent of “Minecraft.”
There’s a wealth of activities to do in the open world. From races, unlocking characters and side missions, the gameplay includes a range of heroic activities — from stopping Electro from robbing a bank, to Agent Coulson and Doctor Octopus cleaning the Daily Bugle after it was destroyed in a previous mission. The open world map does make it a little difficult trying to find whatever it is you’re looking for, but it’s hardly detrimental.
What is detrimental are the open world controls when it comes to flying and switching characters. Certain characters, such as Iron-Man and the Human Torch, have the ability to fly, but the buttons to raise elevation and accelerate are the same. There will come a time where you just want to go up the side of the building and will instead, out of habit, fly into a building. In addition to that, characters like the Hulk, Spider-Man, Venom and Green Goblin can switch into different versions of themselves by holding “Y” or “triangle.” Pulling up the character menu to switch to an entirely different character is also performed by holding the same button. Frustration ensues when you’re trying to get a certain character to solve a puzzle, but will instead transform.
At the end of the day, with all of my minor quibbles, “Lego Marvel Superheroes” creates one of the most cohesive collaborations between the Marvel cinematic universe and the comics, and the results are amazing. Not since 2009′s “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2” has there been a game that is not only faithful to the source material, but also carves a niche in its own series of Lego games.
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