Marvel at the game's mediocrity.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is the third Lego-themed game to arrive on Wii U this year. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed Lego City Undercover, I was looking forward to getting my hands on yet another fun, Lego adventure. Unfortunately, the more I played this entry, the more I realize that more of the same isn’t always a good thing.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes’ story is a simple one: Dr. Doom is trying to collect several “Cosmic Bricks” to build a giant “Doom Ray”, and teams up with several different Marvel supervillains to help him. You play as various Marvel superheroes such as Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine and more, and use your various abilities to work together to get through each stage and defeat each boss. There’s some decent writing here, which is a staple of the Lego video game franchise, but overall feels too “wacky” for my tastes. Nothing ever feels all that clever or original, and just goes for the cheap visual gag whenever it can.
Aside from the addition of an open world modeled after New York City that you get to explore every now and again, the gameplay feels and plays no different from any other Lego game. Each character has their own special ability, for example Spiderman can use his webs to swing from the ceiling, Hulk can pick up and throw big objects, Iron Man can fly around, etc. Aside from these abilities, the characters control exactly the same. They all punch and kick, and have a projectile attack. Though the attacks don’t really matter all that much, as there is no consequence for dying. When you die, you simply respawn in the same area. No lives, no loss of the various Studs (the game’s currency) you collect through the level, you just simply keep going.
The lack of consequence makes the game feel less rewarding when you finish a puzzle or beat a stage, especially when the game is constantly flashing a hint on the screen, and telling you precisely which character needs to be used in a specific puzzle. These puzzles are about as simple as they get: destroy an object, build new object, and use new object. Some puzzles have you use a character’s special ability to find ways to progress through the level, but when the game isn’t beating you over the head with what to do next, it’s leaving you completely in the dark. I’ve spent several minutes stuck in certain rooms because I didn’t destroy a certain object with a specific character. Both the lack of contextual clues and the overabundance of them make for an uneven and frustrating experience.
Even though I sound down on the game, it’s hard to deny how much work and detail went into it. The graphics and art style are visually stunning at times, and make me forget that I’m playing a game based on little plastic toys. It’s clear that the developers really wanted to capture and recreate those grandiose moments that the various Marvel franchises represented are known for. This especially becomes apparent with the sound design as well. The voice acting fits all the characters perfectly, and the epic musical scores help create a sense of urgency. It’s hard not to get excited when the presentation is so far beyond what you would expect from a Lego game.
Even with the excellent presentation, I still couldn’t make myself care that much for the game. There’s lots of characters to unlock, but most of them only differ in a cosmetic standpoint. The Wii U-specific functionality is minimal, as the touch screen is only used to select one of the currently playable characters or to switch to Off-TV Play. After playing Lego City Undercover, I half-expected to see the game make more use out of the GamePad’s unique features, but I feel like even that wouldn’t really help an already dull game. If you have kids and they love any of the Marvel superheroes, I could definitely recommend this game to them. Otherwise, you can le’go of any hope that this game could be enjoyable.