LEGO and Marvel comics have a lot in common. Both were originally conceived as products for children, which then quickly outgrew that audience to become embraced by people of all ages. Consequently, LEGO and Marvel now enjoy worldwide popularity, so it’s only logical that these two established franchises should now come together to create one of the shining highlights of PlayStation 4’s launch.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is the latest action-adventure game from TT Games, and is available on the PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita. This review covers the PS4 version.
The game’s epic plot starts when the Silver Surfer crashes to Earth and his surfboard shatters into cosmic LEGO blocks which contain great power. A cadre of Marvel villains seek to gather them up for their own nefarious purposes so SHIELD joins forces with all the heroes of the Marvel universe to help prevent the cosmic bricks being used to forge Dr Doom’s Doom Ray of Doom.
The action begins with players taking on the role of various Marvel heroes tracking down the cosmic bricks that have scattered all over the Marvel universe. Players will find themselves searching the Fantastic Four’s HQ, the superhero prison known as the Raft and the otherworldly dimension of Asgard, to name just a few locations. Exploration involves players smashing their way through LEGO levels, building items to help them progress and solving puzzles before confronting that level’s evil Marvel villain.
Each LEGO hero has a different power that they can bring into play during a level. Strong heroes, like the Hulk, for example, are the only characters who can move large barriers, while psychics such as Jean Grey are capable of manipulating certain bricks and heroes, such as Thor, who wield the power of the storm, can charge electrical LEGO pieces. The challenge of a level isn’t just about getting to the end in one piece, and using the powers of the available heroes correctly, but also solving puzzles, finding collectables and performing other tasks, many of which can’t be completed until the relevant hero and level is unlocked after completing the mission for the first time. Doing so unlocks one of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes best features, free play.
Free play is one of the great strengths of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes as it allows you to re-play a level multiple times with whatever heroes you have unlocked. This means you can now try and find all of that level’s hidden bonuses. This feature, and the fact that the whole of LEGO New York is available to explore, means that even once the game’s story mode is complete there is plenty for the player to return to do.
Bonus unlockable characters and vehicles hide via puzzles, Marvel creator Stan Lee needs rescuing from a series of perils, and mini missions galore abound. Players who complete these are rewarded with gold bricks which can unlock in-game bonuses, or they can try to find elusive Deadpool red LEGO bricks which unlock cheats. You don’t have to adventure alone either as the game sports a co-op mode so you can team-up with a friend.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes uses the full visual capabilities of the PS4 to make the whole game look radiant. All the levels are packed with gorgeous-looking graphical features: snow falls, flowing water, hordes of enemies on the rampage, and battered LEGO explodes into a myriad of colourful pieces; all with a silky smoothness you would expect from a console as powerful as the PS4. The game’s graphical attention to detail even shows in some gorgeous backgrounds, which look as if they have been painted by the talented brush of comic book artist supreme Alex Ross.
The LEGO heroes also shine and are lovingly rendered with sparkling costumes and detailed animation. To further bring these characters to life all of the heroes are marvellously voiced; a tricky thing to do since most live only on the printed page, and it’s the reader who imagines their vocal tics. As per all LEGO games, the characters are charmingly irreverent to their world, and pass snarky judgement on their colleagues and villains alike. This dialogue is very funny, and also reminiscent of Stan Lee’s sixties Marvel scripts with their unashamed celebration of being a hero.
Finally, underlying all of this graphical excellence, is a great musical score that sings mightily when Heroes battle, or is replaced with an almost Berstein-esque melody as you wander across LEGO New York. Patrolling New York in spandex is simplicity itself with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ intuitive controls. The left joystick controls your camera while the right moves your hero around. A quick button press enables attacks, LEGO construction, flying for certain characters and special moves, all of which are carried out with ease. To bring up a map requires just a straightforward swipe of the DualShock 4’s touch pad.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes looks good, sounds good and plays like a dream. The levels are well constructed and require thought to progress as you decide which hero best fits a certain situation. And, as per all LEGO games, the Marvel universe is treated with a degree of irreverence that never borders on the rude but always stays the right side of cheeky, and makes the player smile rather than wince. The fact that the game has an enormous amount of extra unlockable characters, vehicles, puzzles and bonus levels that are available after the main story line has been completed adds massive replayability, and makes the player want to come back again and again to find the game’s hidden secrets. Replayability is also increased by a bountiful trophy cabinet that rewards game completion, exploration and just having fun .
Sadly, all is not perfect in LEGOland. Camera control, for instance, can sometimes annoy and occasionally found myself stuck at the edge of the screen unable to work out which way I should turn. Also, at least two levels required a restart due to characters not behaving properly, bricks not spawning or characters vanishing. While this wasn’t a frequent feature it was frustrating, though at least the game has multiple convenient save sites so you don’t lose much progress. However, both of these problems are mere flies in Spider-Man’s web, and in no way ruin this great game.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is another magnificent entry in the LEGO series with superb use of the Marvel universe, well designed levels, and tons of replayability. With all this great stuff combined, it makes LEGO Marvel Super Heroes an essential purchase for any PS4 owner.