Format: PS4 – Also on PC, XBox360, PS3, Xbox1, WiiU
Players: 1 / 2 – Splitscreen local co-op
Genre: Action / Open World
The world is meticulously realised, the humour is fun and the puzzles are simple, if repetitive. Anyone who’s played a recent Lego game knows the score: Throughout the game you unlock more and more characters with unique skills. To collect all the bonuses in each level you’ll need to use this huge pool of skills to uncover all the mini kits, Red Bricks and other secrets.
Outside of the main missions – which play as standard lego action-brawler with mild platforming fare – the open world map covers a Marvel flavoured Manhatten island, and it’s a sight to behold. The S.H.E.I.L.D helicarrier hovers high above and you’re given freedom to fly around, skydive or borrow cars while completing what seem like hundreds of tiny tasks. These can be simple jobs like finding and escorting Black Panther’s cat back to him, having aerial or ground races of more quirky involved tasks I won’t spoil. There’s a lot of variety in the open world, and the side-quests can be really fun with the second player to compete against as well as the clock and non-player heroes.
While observing three girls (5, 8 and 8) playing MLSH it became clear how great a sandbox the open world is for kids. They’d play out all sorts of strange scenarios and mess around in ways you don’t normally see facilitated in kid-friendly games. It was a lot like they were playing with physical toys and making their own rules. Interestingly some of the “pointless” characters with no powers (Aunt May, etc) serve a useful purpose in this sort of play. I wonder how much this is intentional design or a happy accident.
From a (somewhat extrapolated) Marvel fan’s perspective – This game is as much of a love letter to the Marvel universe as I can imagine a game ever being. Traveller’s Tales obviously have a great respect and appreciation for the source material and it’s visible from the tiniest details to the larger stuff like the character roster and story.
I can’t think of many characters that are missing who should have been included. Almost everyone I know of is present and intact with their main power usable. There are definitely some missing X-Men, and I’m sure there are literally hundreds of minor characters not-included, but the included roster is handled confidently with some of the more obscure/cult characters unlocking very late in the game to reward the time commitment. I’ve read other reviews complaining that X character wasn’t included when they have in fact featured heavily in later optional side-missions. For clarity – there are 155 characters to unlock and play as, including traditionally “evil” characters. There are also custom character slots you can mix up body parts and powers in to create or recreate other heroes.
The story is a fun fate-of-the-world romp that sees an alliance of bad guys led (sort of) by Doctor Doom stealing stuff and causing trouble, which snowballs into every super villain having some sort of input then Galactus attempting to eat the Earth and everyone having to work together to save it. The main campaign goes to great lengths to introduce and include as many characters as possible and take advantage of wacky team-ups. Some of the heroes are definitely over-represented in the campaign – Thor/Spiderman/Iron Man/Capt America – but probably because they’re obvious fan favourites. The most fun you can have in the game is in “free play” mode after completing a mission, where you can revisit missions and choose between any characters mid-level, as well as in the open world. In that sense the story is a secondary consideration. What’s there works though and has a lot of charming character interactions.
The controls are largely great, obviously designed to be simple enough for kids. There is one area the controls stumble quite badly in though – flight controls in the open world sections. With one button to dip down and another to pan upwards things seem straightforward at first, but some of the buttons double up – double tapping the pan down button immediately makes to stop all forwards momentum and drop downwards, losing precious seconds. If you’re trying to nudge yourself downwards, tapping it momentarily is a natural thing to do, so to be punished for it is frustrating. There’s no logical reason I can see for this either as there are button left doing nothing while you’re in flight mode that they could have used. Or they could have let you control pitch with the right stick like every other game with flying. It’s not a game-breaking problem and some people will have no issue with it, but from the amount of comments and frustration at air races around the web I’m obviously not the only one. Another minor irritation is on the character selection – if a character has multiple suits or forms those all sit in the same slot and the only way to select them is to wait a few seconds while the suits cycle through. This is particularly bad for Iron Man, who has a lot of suits that look similar but have wildly different abilities.
Graphics & Sound
Here, the new consoles (and PC) really shine. The light and texture rendering are impressively realistic, giving the game a much more tangible, solid look than the early Lego titles. The models are incredibly well crafted, and even more impressively animated. Just panning around and watching the characters idle animations is fun, but when they’re interacting and using their special powers the characters have a charisma all their own. Turning Mr Fantastic into a teapot and hopping around, swinging about as Spiderman or running around smashing stuff as the Hulk – it’s entertaining to watch even when you aren’t playing.
All things considered I can’t see how they could have done a much better job with this game. The flaws are very minor when looking at the big picture, and the biggest negative I felt while playing was while I began to clear the world map. In most games I’d be feeling happy about that, but in Lego Marvel I just wish they’d put more open world silliness in. The only other “missing” feature is online co-op, but that’s hardly a big deal considering the target audience. This is the only game I’ve spent the time to get a Platinum trophy in, and I think that says a lot about the quality of the game. (or me as a gamer, you decide!) It’s for these reason’s I’m giving a recommended rating.