Over a year ago, I suggested in a piece about the five franchises that needed LEGO games
that “LEGO Avengers” could be an even more commercially and creatively vital property than the hit-at-the-time “LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
,” arguing that such a game would DESTROY the biggest LEGO hit at the time, “LEGO Batman.” I’m not asking for royalties or anything but somebody may have been paying attention as here we are with “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes,” a game that plays off exactly what I was suggesting. As I wrote, “Each character comes with their own inherent strengths and weaknesses and the best LEGO games have offered something different for each player depending on the character they are controlling.
” And as I was bouncing around the wreckage of New York City, alternating between controlling The Hulk, Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and many more, I realized that this variety concept is the main reason that “LEGO Marvel” is even more of a creative success than “Batman: Arkham Origins
,” something I never expected. In 2012, “Marvel’s The Avengers” creatively topped Christopher Nolan’s bloated “The Dark Knight Rises.” In 2013, the gaming world has seen a similar unexpected trumping and this one’s even more surprising. To be fair, I know that “Origins” is going for something much more adult, more intense, and deeper than “LEGO Marvel.” But which is more consistently engaging and fun? It’s no contest.
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Developer: Traveller's Tales
- ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
- Genre: Action-Adventure
- Pros: Incredible Replay Value, Clever Puzzle Creation, Amazing Depth of Character Roster
- Cons: Repetitive Action, Cluttered Narrative
LEGO Marvel Super HeroesImage © WBIE
Freed from the narrative structure of other LEGO games that felt like they had to stick to known stories like the “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” and “Lord of the Rings” games, the superhero LEGO games have been both hampered and freed by no source material to which to directly relate. While part of the charm of the best games in this series like “HP” and “Star Wars” has been recreating things one already knows (a creative foundation of LEGO play in general), the idea that one can do ANYTHING with their superheroes has an undeniable creative spark. At the same time, the narrative of “Marvel Super Heroes” is easily its weakest element. The game picks up shortly after “The Avengers” and tying to the Joss Whedon film was a stroke of genius but it quickly loses its way in terms of storytelling.
Not like anyone comes to a LEGO game for storytelling (which is why we should all be kind of terrified of “The LEGO Movie,” hitting theaters next year). They come for creative puzzle-solving, which is greatly enhanced here by the various abilities of your Marvel characters. There are certain areas that can only be reached by strong heroes like Hulk; others that need flying heroes like Iron Man; others than need “smart heroes” like Black Widow; and so on. As with all LEGO games, the story is built around playing it through once with the heroes chosen by the developers but encourages replay with new heroes unlocked throughout the game to get all of the collectibles. One of the reasons LEGO games sell so well and that you VERY rarely see them in the used section is they tap something in the completist/collector market. There are people who spend days going back through levels, looking for every stud, just as there are people who will shop online for rare LEGO sets.
“LEGO Marvel Super Heroes” really expands the universe of both Marvel and LEGO, bringing in dozens of Marvel characters from the well-known ones like Captain America and Mr. Fantastic to more obscure ones like Beetle and Iron Fist. The depth of character design in this LEGO game is unmatched, bringing in characters you have entirely forgotten about and presenting them in clever, funny ones. It’s a game that includes Howard the Duck, Gwen Stacy, Punisher, Nick Fury, and Loki. That alone is ridiculously cool for those of us who grew up with these characters and never saw any future in which they’d be presented in a game at all, much less together.
Graphics & Sound
“LEGO Marvel Super Heroes” looks about as good as one would expect from a 2013 “LEGO” game. I still think some of the city/hub design can be frustrating in these games, as it was in “DC Super Heroes.” I flew around the New York City for some time, just trying to get oriented. And the NPC characters are undeniably repetitive in their design, although one could argue that it would be silly for them not to be. It’s a LEGO game. It’s supposed to look repetitive. As for voice work, it’s strong throughout, including some legendary vocal talents like John DiMaggio (Galactus, Colossus, more), Phil LaMarr (Blade, Gambit, War Machine), Nolan North (Deadpool, Green Goblin, more), Adrian Pasdar (Iron Man), and more. Clark Gregg even returns as Agent Phil Coulson, on break from “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Who expected Gregg to be so related with one of the biggest franchises of the ‘10s?
LEGO Marvel Super HeroesImage © WBIE
“LEGO Marvel Super Heroes” is the best LEGO game since they stopped making “Harry Potter” ones and arguably longer. It’s hard to imagine we’ll ever top that incredibly nostalgic thrill that came when LEGO and the Lucasverse united in those “Star Wars” games but this one comes damn close. I’ll let the royalties go on this one. But give me a call when you start working on “LEGO Pixar.”
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy