As I said last week, I am now in the process of wrangling together my retrospective(s) of this console generation. This is no easy task; I played a lot of games since 2005, and while I’m doing my best to make sure that certain games don’t get lost in the cracks, it’s inevitable that I’ll forget something.
So I’m saying this up front – I don’t want to sleep on the LEGO games. I’ve played almost all of them, and while I don’t think any of them have ever appeared on any of my year-end top 10 lists, I’ve generally always had fun with them, and they’ve always been great in terms of fan service.
As it happens, I’ve been a bit stressed out lately, and I felt like indulging in some minor retail therapy, and so I treated myself to a PC download of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes over the weekend, even though I knew my weekend schedule was going to prevent me from really digging in. (Side note – this is my first PC Lego experience. I’ve played everything else on the 360, and I’d been hoping to score a 360 rental copy of Lego Marvel from Gamefly, but the timing wasn’t going to work out and in any event I don’t care about Achievements the way I used to, so here I am.) I did manage to sink around 2-3 hours into it, though; I did the first 5 or 6 missions, and then spent a bunch of time running around Lego NYC.
Here’s what I can offer after such a short play experience.
On the one hand: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is by far the best Lego game yet, which is saying quite a lot considering how good the recent Harry Potter, LOTR and Batman games have been. Even though I’m not especially knowledgeable when it comes to comics (my familiarity with all things Marvel these days is primarily through the films and my wife’s rabid Marvel fandom), I can still appreciate the unprecedented levels of fan service being offered through its absurdly deep character roster, and even in the early going I can get a kick out of pairing Wolverine, Spiderman and the Hulk. (And the fact that each character has their own specific idle animation is sure to tickle the most die-hard Marvel fan.) The game also features a surprisingly impressive graphics engine – even if, on my PC, frames tend to lock up during mid-mission saves and level loads. Most impressive, though, is the open world simulation of New York City that serves as both a between-missions hub world and a full game unto itself, complete with side quests and hidden Lego bricks and races and all sorts of diversions to mess around with. It’s LEGO GTA, basically, and it’s pretty amazing.
On the other hand: the game is still janky as hell, in the same maddening ways that all Lego games have been janky ever since the first Star Wars game, and it’s absolutely mind-boggling that these sorts of control and camera issues have never been adequately addressed. Characters still get stuck on geometry; platforming still is successfully achieved mostly through trial and error; some puzzles are still never adequately explained; the controls still never feel as responsive as I want them to. Iron Man can fly – which is great! – except that controlling him is a nightmare, especially in tight areas. Certain objects can only be used by “web-slinging heroes”, except that Hawkeye can also interact with them via bow-and-arrow. Combat can grow tedious, especially as most enemies are one-hit-kills.
Still, though, I can (usually) look past that stuff, because when the game is working it’s an absolute delight. And the amount of content on display is nothing short of ridiculous; as in previous Lego games, each level is designed to played multiple times and with multiple characters in order to unlock all the hidden areas and find all the hidden stuff (and in this case, to help free all the Stan Lees, too). And – again – did I mention the Lego New York City that binds all this stuff together?
Barring some sort of game-breaking catastrophe that I’ve yet to encounter, this seems like a very easy recommendation for the Marvel fan in your life – even if you’re just a fan of the movies.