The Hulk picks up half a bus and throws it at the Abomination. Meanwhile Spider Man swings across the screen, firing webs at enemies as Iron Man soars around, using his blasts of Arc Reactor energy to destroy plant pots, phone boxes and taxis to collect tiny golden studs.
If this doesn’t sound like the best scene ever, it’s likely that LEGO Marvel Super Heroes just isn’t for you. But if the idea of controlling almost 150 of Marvel’s most famous creations interests you even slightly, you’ll be immediately in love.
Like previous LEGO titles, Marvel Super Heroes takes on a big name and transforms it almost completely into little blocks. The same trademark humour is there, and while many of the series’ issue remain, the formula has been reworked. An enormous amount of content has been added, too, and the result it a game so packed full of things to do and secrets to find that you’ll have a hard time working out where to start.
The character roster is incredible. As you might expect, the big names are all here, with the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy and many more represented in full. Thanks to Marvel’s immense marketing machine, you’re likely to recognise most of the characters you’ll play as in the main story mode, but there are plenty of much more obscure faces to discover that only dedicated Marvel fans will recognise. And discovery is one of the game’s biggest joys; spotting a character unexpectedly popping up in the background of a boss fight before disappearing, or hearing a reference to a particular character in conversation is just as fun as the game itself.
The story is set in the same universe as the Avengers movie, with Stark Tower making up part of the New York skyline and the characters often referencing things that have happened in the various films. But as you might expect from a LEGO title the tone is much more comical. Whether it’s a villain taking a pratfall, a hilarious conversation during a cutscene or characters pulling out bananas instead of guns, you’ll laugh out loud more than once. The voice acting talent is enormous, too, with big names like Nolan North and Clark Gregg lending their dulcet tones to a huge ensemble. The result is cutscenes that you’ll genuinely look forward to, and jokes delivered with perfect timing.
It’s not all good, though; the gameplay is almost identical to that of previous LEGO titles, and this isn’t always a good thing. Fighting is very basic, and dying has little consequence aside from losing a few of your studs. Building combos is a nice small addition during bouts, but for the most part you can button-bash to get through. Puzzles make a return, too. Some are very clever, most are merely brief distractions, but more than once we found ourselves stuck wondering what to do. In these situations there are no signposts or helpful hints, and when you eventually work out what you’ve been missing, there’s no joy to the discovery; you’re just grateful to move on.
Thankfully, these are just small annoyances, and there is so much good on offer it’s easy to forget a little bad. The main story spans 15 missions in a variety of gorgeous and memorable locations, from Grand Central Station to Asgard. You’ll play as a range of characters throughout, with new ones joining your team regularly, often in the middle of a mission. They all have special abilities, such as Cyclops’ optic blast or Hulk’s super strength, and they’re all needed at one point or another for specific tasks. You’ll soon realise that several characters have very similar abilities, but different mixes and character-specific animations keep things interesting. Hawkeye and Mr Fantastic can both grab faraway objects and pull them down, for example, but the latter is also super-intelligent, allowing him to access special control panels, as well as being able to transform into objects to open new paths.
Outside of the story, there’s plenty to do. The city of New York is yours to explore with any character you’ve unlocked, meaning you can soar through the skies as Iron Man or run around and use cars on the street as Black Widow. Every corner holds a challenge, race or side-quest, which will unlock gold bricks and studs to help you unlock more characters. It’s no Los Santos, but exploring is still good fun. S.H.I.E.L.D’s Helicarrier acts as the game’s hub, with recognisable areas to explore, fun little touches to enjoy and an area to create your own character.
What is most striking of all, though, is the love that has clearly gone into the title. Whether it’s the character-specific animations that occur when you leave your minifig standing still for a few moments or the charmingly named achievements, the game demonstrates time and time again just how good a superhero game can be. Sure, there are some small failings, but it’s hard to notice them when a LEGO Iron Man starts doing The Robot in a busy New York street.