By Jared Cornelius
I have never known a child to grow up without Legos, oh sure they might have had Mega Blocks, or Playmobil, but Legos were always king, and every savvy child knew it. It's been almost 20 years since I've played with Legos and after playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes I'm not sure what kept me. Lego Marvel Superheroes not only rekindled a simple almost Zen like joy for snapping tiny colored bricks together, but achieves what I thought Marvel Puzzle Quest would do for me, mixing fun familiar gameplay with a cornucopia of Marvel Comics characters.
Lego Marvel Superheroes being a product is already crazy to begin with. Developed by Traveller's Tales, a company owned by Warner Brothers. That's right folks, the company that owns and produces DC Comics made a Marvel Comics video game. That's like Wendy's making a signature sandwich for Burger King, in terms of intellectual property being used by a rival it's pretty amazing, because the game came out pretty great.
The Lego videogame history has been fairly storied, starting in 2005 with Lego Star Wars for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube and leading to almost 20 Lego games across various platforms and franchises ranging from Pirates of The Caribbean, to Indiana Jones. Traveller's Tales had very successfully adapted Batman and later the larger DC universe into Lego videogames in 2008 and 2012 and took everything they learned with those superheroes and continued their string of success into the Marvel universe.
The Lego games, boiled down to their most basic element, gives you two to three characters to swap between with varying powers and abilities placed in a world where Lego environments and bricks are effected by the various power sets. For example shiny silver bricks can only be destroyed by explosions so you need a character with missiles like Iron Man or War Machine, while shiny blue bricks can only be accessed by someone with magnetic powers like Polaris. Lego Marvel Super Heroes starts out with a handholding training mission, but soon expands to let you explore an enormous open world Lego New York City, complete with Daily Bugle, Baxter Building, and secret Hydra base. The open world leads to tons of areas to explore, secrets to find and characters to unlock via collecting the currency of studs, (not me dear reader) and completing challenges. Races, combat, timed jumping puzzles, all of these lead to more characters for your every growing Lego army. Keeping in mind that none of the challenges involved are at the level of Shinobi or Super Meat Boy, this is a licensed kids game, but I can practically guarantee that at least a few of the flight races will have you cursing at your screen.
The game allows you to progress through the story at your leisure once the world has been opened but you won't want to stay away from it as you'll be transported to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Asgard, and other beautifully designed Lego environments. Continuing with the theme almost every level will gift you with more Lego characters for your ever expanding horde, leading to new powers and new places to explore in the world.
Completing levels will also make characters available in a free play mode that will allow you to bring anyone you've unlocked into it for the opportunity to seek out a variety of rewards including Gold Bricks, Mini-kit Pieces, and Deadpool Bricks. In part it offers the collectathon style of gameplay that was popular on the Nintendo 64 during the days of Donkey Kong 64 where collecting multiple McGuffins was a primary mechanic, but Lego Marvel Superheroes finds a nice balance between collecting and puzzle solving. Always giving you the tools to accomplish your mission, but leaving enough for a second or third run. Optional side mission also make for quick rewarding distractions, there was something satisfying about making Doctor Octopus clean up the Daily Bugle offices after damaging them.
Speaking of characters: how does 132 strike you? Lego Moon Knight, Lego Beetle, Lego Rocket Raccoon are all in there. I guess if you like characters like Hulk and Spider-Man, they're in the game too. That's not even counting the two DLC packs that include characters from Thor: The Dark World, and the Super Hero pack that adds among others Beta Ray Bill. Lego Marvel is also the first Lego game to feature the introduction of Lego big figures, meaning that Hulk and similar characters will dwarf the rest of your Lego companions. Lego vehicles will also be available for your enjoyment once unlocked including a boss Ghost Rider bike and Spider-Mobile.
My biggest complaint with Lego Marvel Superheroes is that some missions felt glitchy. I tried a number of times to unlock Captain Britain in a challenge, and after almost 20 attempts I became frustrated enough to look online and find other players were having similar issues. I also had a few problems with characters showing up on the over-world map, but not being available to be unlocked until other story conditions are met. The story is fun for fans of all ages, giving subtle nods to Marvel history and even featuring current Marvel editors and writers. The voice acting is solid with familiar talents like John DiMaggio of Futurama and Adventure Time fame, as well as Gregg Clark voicing Agent Coulson.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is available on every console under the sun and digitally on Steam. I'd recommend sticking to the home console versions as I've been told the 3DS and Vita versions are inferior. Overall I'd describe the entire adventure as charming with its familiar and fun looking characters to its well-crafted Lego environments. I'd recommend this game to anyone who loves Lego or Marvel, fun for both kids and adults (or kidults like myself).
Full disclosure: I played to completion on Xbox 360 (and liked it enough to do all the Achievements).
Jared Cornelius is some guy from New Jersey's coast who likes children's toys. If you'd like to schedule a play date or learn how to avoid me in the toy aisle tweet me @John_Laryngitis