Marvel Super Heroes 2:
I was thrilled to hear that Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 had dropped the less inspired Avengers adaptation and gone back to the streak of brilliance present in the first Lego Marvel game. That tile was a veritable smörgåsbord of hilarious and thorough fan service, and I was pleased to dive back into that rich world here.
Marvel Super Heroes 2 presents another original story that manages to wrangle endless universes, characters, variants and villains all into one delectable package, and picking through it was the game’s biggest treasure. Traveller’s Tales obviously have an astoundingly deep grasp on Marvel’s history, and relish throwing as much of it into one game as they can. Whilst on the surface you’ll be taking a lot of characters from recent Marvel movies up against an intergalactic threat known as Conqueror Kang, who is attempting to build a super-city out of existing landmarks of the known ‘verse, there’s a lot more to this package than that.
The Super Heroes line of Lego Marvel games represents something special and important for Disney’s Marvel universe. By gleefully diving into decades worth of history and lore, and slapping relative unknown heroes front and centre, Traveller’s Tales is enriching the universe we all love exploring in the bevvy of shows, games and – most noticeably – movies that we’re all obsessed with at the moment.
There’s an emphasis on upcoming cinematic characters, of course, such as Captain Marvel, Black Panther and the Wasp (all of which have upcoming feature films). This is a brilliant way to introduce kids and older gamers to characters we’re all about to get to know on a much bigger screen, but stranger, more oddball cameos and cast members flesh out a universe and build a potential cast for the future. I’d love to see Spider-Gwen (or Gwenpool for that matter) and Beta Ray Bill (one of my favourite comic book characters) become a part of the lager MCU.
Whilst the story does most of the heavy lifting for appeasing Marvel superfans, the gameplay takes the usual Lego formula and does very little to shake things up in meaningful ways. You’ll still be walking through neutered levels with no threat or challenge, holding a button to build solutions to simple problems and chugging through dull moments of button-mashing combat. I understand this is a game aimed squarely at kids, but even children must be getting bored of this tame gameplay by now.
The addictive nature comes from 100%ing levels, unlocking a wide variety of bonuses, cheats and characters, and returning to areas previously visited to use new powers on puzzles you couldn’t complete before. This backtracking, however, has also lost its lustre in 2017. I tend to rush through initial playthroughs of Lego games because I know I won’t be able to do anything until I’ve completed the game proper, and that is unchanged here. Various puzzles will require solutions from characters you’re hours away from unlocking and you have to simply ignore them and soldier on – hardly satisfying stuff.
It’s a shame, because with a few tweaks, a little bit more challenge and a respect for the player’s time Lego games could still feel relevant and – more importantly – fun. For me, however, my interest is severely flagging. There are still brilliant moments and fun character powers, such as Star Lord’s ability to use his Walkman to make enemies dance, and certain puzzle solutions and accompanying quips that brought a smile to my face, but these instances were few and far between.
Even in the face of more and more powerful hardware, there’s only so much you can do with Lego bricks – though that doesn’t stop Traveller’s Tales polishing those bricks to a reflective sheen at every opportunity. There’s a charming visual identity to Lego games that goes beyond the brands bricks, however, and it’s as good looking as ever here. Cutscenes are especially well animated, bringing a fantastic, cartoon-y life to the proceedings. I can only hope that these games rival the visual spectacle that the Lego movies have achieved in recent years, but for now this looks just great.
Sound design is another high point, with some excellent voice acting bringing the wickedly funny script to life time and time again. It’s a shame that a lot of the voice cast from the original game were unable to return, but their stand ins do a fine job, accompanied by a measured score that falls somewhere between playful and safe.
Ultimately, “Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2” is a fantastic piece of fan service wasted on an aging formula. The Lego games are in desperate need for a reinvention if they hope to retain the interest of the people who fell in love playing – essentially – the same game twelve years ago. Despite all this, however, Marvel Super Heroes 2 manages to remain an engaging experience on the strength of its fun story and characters, and as such is worth the time of any Marvel super fan.