When Lego Dimensions came along, it seemed like it would be the shot in the arm the Traveller’s Tales Lego series needed. Mixing and mashing popular franchise, their characters, and the worlds they inhabit was a wholly unique selling point that offered a freshness to the kid-friendly, but well-worn, puzzle platformer adventures. Now Dimensions is dead, and it looks like we’ll be returning to the regular Lego games. Now is the time to reboot what is expected of the standalone franchise adventures, but when one of the first post-Dimension demise entries is a Marvel one, it’s almost inevitable that we’d be getting more of the same once more.
Lego Marvel Superheroes goes with a brand new story at least, rather than rehashing a set of movies. Kang the Conqueror is rounding up the best of the best in terms of locations that have adept fighters, warriors, heroes, etc, all so he can store them on the time-defying world of Chronopolis. This leads to the tantalising team up of The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy in a journey through time and space with all the usual Lego trimmings.
There’s an interesting mix of character designs, with the prominent MCU heroes and villains involved getting their most up-to-date movie look and character traits (so of course Star Lord can put his Walkman on to play ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by ELO, and Thor is in his Ragnorak costume), whilst the likes of Kang, Man-Ape, and Klaww look as daft and campy as their comic book origins allowed them to be. Occasionally this mix of styles is jarring. Certainly, having an antagonist who looks far more cartoonish than those opposing him is a bit daft, but the game does at least explain away some of this with the time and dimension hopping plot.
It’s easily the most diverse Marvel roster of the three Lego Marvel titles so far. It is unfortunately missing some heavy hitters as a result (basically any big names not featured in the MCU), but there’s a lovely combination of old and new. The core characters have been retained over the course of each entry, but the additional cast have rotated to highlight and champion all corners of the Marvel universe. Here, the likes of Wasp, Captain Marvel, The Inhumans, Gwenpool, Kang (and Korg!), and more get some of the spotlight. The remaining gaps are filled with a slew of alternate costumes, personas, and variants such as Spider-Man 2099 and Bruce Banner’s Maestro persona, The voice acting seems to have taken a hit though, with some really off matches of voice to characters, especially those who are based on the movie versions. For example, Star Lord does not sound remotely like Chris Pratt, nor does Doctor Strange sound like Benedict Cumberbatch with an American accent.
There are traces of Lego Dimensions to the hub structure of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. Instead of a singular hub, there are several, smaller world chunks which have their own secrets, and give access to relevant story missions. There’s a slice of Manhattan again, including a Secret Empire-inspired twist on it, a bit of Wakanda, and more (which are nice surprises). Each is accessed via small rifts that connect the collected world slices, and the benefit of this is it gives certain story beats their own identity, breaking up a bit of the monotony that has come with Lego games as the years have gone by.
Sadly beyond that it’s business as usual. I say sadly not because the game is poor, but because, as I implied earlier, the opportunity to properly refresh Lego games was there for the taking, and this is so much of the same tried and trusted formula that’s been going on for twelve years. The UI has had a bit of a spruce up at least. Many enemies have a health bar above their heads, and the button prompt meters look snazzier.
Another downside has to do with the button prompts funnily enough. The placement and context of them is poorly-implemented. Often there’s times you’ll be following a prompt, only for it to be ignored for a character action. Or the object you’re supposed to interact with isn’t close enough to the prompt you’re given because it interferes with a separate prompt. This creates needless frustration on multiple occasions until you figure out what the issue is, and it made the early sections drag. Lego games have, despite sticking to a fairly rigid template, gotten a bit bloated with extra iterations on said template, so when things drag, it adds to the already increasing amount of time to get through everything, and doing that has become more and more of a slog with each Lego game.
That does downplay the fun that is there. Sure, this is just another Lego game with a few minor tweaks, but it’s still a good time to bound about with a large selection of colorful Marvel characters, and there’s enough different new additions to make it at least a little fresh. Besides, I, an adult male, am not the target audience here; this is for kids first, and while it may not rip up the rulebook, cull the bloat, or break new ground, it does its job of being family-friendly entertainment well for the most part. I’d just expect more than that in future if the Lego games don’t want to go from fun to footnote.