Some video games make you wait before you receive your powers. These games are the worst. Why would I want to play a video game to feel like a normal person? I’m already a normal person. I don’t want an origin story. I want to be GREAT.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is not one of these games. The game begins and you instantly take control of Iron Man and the Hulk, with all their powers and none of their issues. You can be the “Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist” with none of his suit malfunctions, or you can be Dr. Bruce Banner with his rage issues fully in control. You’re the super heroes you love, exactly as you love them, with none of the drawbacks.
If you’ve never played a Lego video game before, they’re really amazing to behold. The entire world, from characters to backgrounds to the items you interact with, are all constructed out of Lego bricks. Smash a desk? Watch Lego bricks litter the ground. Shoot Spider-Man’s web? It’s a series of Lego bricks. (And while I’m on the subject, if you like Spider-Man, you’re going to love the early stretches of this game. He’ll pop in like he has nothing better to do, do his thing, then take off.)
In spite of the game’s unique presentation, it controls and behaves like a normal game. There’s an open world hub, where you can wander around and navigate through to unlock levels. The gameplay itself plays sort of like a puzzle game and sort of like a beat-em-up. Each level has a head bad guy you must defeat, but to get to him you need to actually, you know, get to him. Defeat the henchmen littered throughout the level and solve puzzles to get past obstacles.
To get through each level, you’ll need to make the most of the characters you’re given to work with. Every character has an ability (or two, or three) that no one else has. Hulk can use his strength to pull massive objects with green handles; Spider-Man can leave trails of web hanging from the ceiling for other characters to climb up; Hawkeye shoots exploding arrows to give you access to new places; and so on. The more you play as a character, the more quickly you’ll realize what you need to do to progress through a level.
And because you’re controlling multiple characters in every level, multiplayer fits in seamlessly. You can play by yourself as all the heroes you’re given in a level, or a friend can join in and you can each control a hero. It’s the same story and the same challenges, only shared with a friend. To be honest, though, single player is probably easier because you’re in control of everything you’re doing, and the active split-screen camera for multiplayer is disorienting and less than ideal. It’s not a bad experience by any stretch of the imagination, but single player is easier to navigate.
That wasn’t the only issue I had, either. In the early going, I ran into a handful of sections where I had to stop everything and figure out what was I was supposed to do. It might be because my experience with Lego games is minimal, but I’ve been playing video games for 22 years and I shouldn’t get stuck this often in a game designed for kids 10 and up. I never reached a section where I was unable to figure out what I needed to do, but I came close. And I love puzzle games! Once you get a feel for the way the game is constructed (pun intended?), you’ll get stuck less frequently. There aren’t THAT many different actions your characters can do, so it’s often a matter of finding the stack of bricks you didn’t notice or flicking a switch hidden in the corner.
But even when you’re stuck, you’re still in a world made of Legos, surrounded by some of today’s most iconic characters. Firing off hand lasers as Iron Man or swinging around as Spider-Man never gets old, even as you’re stumped trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do next. There’s something like 125 playable characters in this game, and beating the game lets you go back and use any of them at any point in any level. Even the most diehard Marvel fans will be surprised at some of the characters included in the game. There’s a lot of charm built into the Lego games (pun intended?). Greatness is waiting for you.
Who This Game is For: Anyone who loves anything even remotely Marvel-related. Whether you’re watching the new series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (yep, Agent Coulson is here!), love The Avengers (the game takes place in New York and features multiple references to the film’s events) or have ever dreamed of swinging from a web like Spider-Man, you’ll find something to love in this game.
Who This Game is NOT For: People who don’t like puzzles or don’t have 30+ hours to burn playing one game. You can beat the game in far less time than that, but to get 100% and truly see everything the game has to offer, bunker down for the long haul.
Final Stray Thought: For years, Lego games had no voice acting. Beginning with last year’s Lego Batman 2, however, voice actors have been brought in to make the games feel more real. It’s jarring at first to hear Iron Man voiced by someone other than Robert Downey Jr., or to hear a nasal-y voice coming out of Spider-Man that’s neither Tobey Maguire nor Andrew Garfield. But the Lego team brought in a top-tier cast of voice actors (including Roger Craig Smith, Troy Baker, Tara Strong, Nolan North and John DiMaggio) who all give great performances, and they’re coupled with a few true-to-the-screen voices like Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson … or Stan Lee as himself.
How You Can Buy It: The game is currently available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, 3DS and Vita. It will be available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 when those consoles launch next month.