Earth's Not-So-Mighty Heroes
As a huge fan of almost everything related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I was really excited to hear that an open-world LEGO game based on that particular version of Marvel’s franchises was being developed. Having played several prior LEGO games, as well as having viewed each movie in the MCU multiple times, I figured that the cute, slapstick style of humor brought on by the former would mix well with the dramatically playful banter of the latter. After all, it worked once before in 2013’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, which might be my favorite Marvel-related video game of all time. So how does the 3DS version of TT Games’ latest LEGO offering hold up? Unfortunately, like Loki’s scepter failing to turn the “heart” of Tony Stark, the handheld version of the game has performance issues that hold it back from being an enjoyable experience.
If you’ve played any other LEGO game in the last decade, you’re not going to be surprised by the gameplay you’ll find here. The one-button combat, the plethora of unlockable characters, and breakable environments are all back. And while the different heroes may play slightly differently, there is little unique to them in terms of gameplay outside of animations and attack range. You’ll still mostly just be pressing Y to attack and A to jump, whether you’re playing as Iron Man or Black Widow. Certain characters can fly, which makes them feel more unique in the more open areas, but in the self-contained levels, it doesn’t necessarily come in handy all that often. The formula has worked over the years due to its simplicity, and remains fun overall. Basically, if you’re familiar with the LEGO format from other games, you’ll be comfortable here, too. But if you were hoping for something fresh to be added to the formula, this isn’t where you’ll find it.
Whether you’re breaking the environment or crushing the skulls of HYDRA lackeys, one of the biggest issues you’ll run into is the inconsistent framerate. Depending on the level, the amount of things on screen, and other factors, the game often fails to run at the ideal speed. The most egregious offenders are the “chase” levels. Whether you’re either flying around as a character, shooting bad guys in an on-rails setting, or in a vehicle chasing after a foe, it can be difficult to tell what’s going on at times because the game simply can’t keep up with everything that’s happening. I wasn’t always sure whether it was due to the framerate or not, but there were times when the controls felt unresponsive as well, especially when the overall performance was dipping.
Two of the biggest appeals to LEGO Marvel’s Avengers before release were its tie-ins to the MCU, and the promise of an open world to roam around in. On both accounts the game falls flat. While the cut scenes look great, and mimic their big screen counterparts faithfully with plenty of trademark LEGO humor mixed in, the story is a jumbled mess that makes the X-Men movie series timeline look sane in comparison. Instead of rolling through the established movie canon chronologically, the game would rather jump in and out of each film at random. So unless you’re familiar with how all the MCU events shake down, it’s unlikely you’ll have the slightest clue as to what’s going on here.
The most exciting element of the game, the open world area, is unfortunately where I was most disappointed with LEGO Marvel’s Avengers. While I have yet to play this game on a home console, the 3DS version shows the age of the hardware. Flying around Manhattan as Iron Man could be fun, if the environments weren’t hidden behind fog that brought back memories of early Nintendo 64 games, and an embarrassingly poor draw distance. It makes what should be a beautiful environment a muddied, ugly mess that I had no intention of exploring beyond what the game required.
If you’re looking for an exciting, LEGO superhero game, you won’t find it in the 3DS version of LEGO Marvel’s Avengers. The simple and intuitive gameplay and charming humor can’t save this game from its performance issues. Inconsistent framerate, a muddled story and a poorly rendered open world keep LEGO Marvel’s Avengers from being mighty.