From the very first Lego Star Wars game eight years ago, the series immediately nailed its playfully irreverent, slapstick humour. It’s an aspect which has very much been at the core of all the games since then, and something which is evolving that little bit further with Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
This comes mainly through the use of voices, something which has been practically unused until this point. On occasion it has been added during cutscenes, but for this game it has really been spread liberally into the gameplay as well. You’ll now have a little bit of banter between heroes mixed in with villains taunting you, and it just gives that extra little element to the humour.
The plot of the game sees the Silver Surfer returning to Earth, but when he is mysteriously shot down his board shatters into hundreds of pieces, and a big tussle between the heroes and villains sparks up as everyone tries to secure the cosmic bricks for themselves.
The first level sees Sandman and Abomination taking over New York’s Grand Central Station, with Iron Man and Hulk arriving on the scene. Iron Man manages to get half way through explaining their plan of attack when Hulk gets bored and charges off up the road. A road which you may well recognise from the climactic battle sequence of The Avengers movie. In keeping with the quip-filled script of that film, you have Iron Man wondering “Didn’t we clean this road up last month?” as you take control of Hulk, and bash cars into hundreds of little Lego bricks. He makes quite the mess.
But it wouldn’t be the Hulk if he was regular sized, so a new twist here is the ‘BIG-fig’ models, and with Hulk and Abomination both in this first level you can get a taste of how these new characters will play out. Very much a tailored character, Hulk towers over Iron Man, can pick up large objects and toss them around, even pull blocks out of the ground to throw. He’s generally as smash happy as you’d imagine, but even the Hulk will need a helping hand every once in a while.
Sometimes you’ll need to transform back to being Bruce Banner, to do something a little more intellectual than kicking things, but in this level switching to Iron Man will give you a totally different style of gameplay. He’s a much more nimble looking character, shooting little beams from his hands and charging up for a chest arc reactor shot as his main attacks, or skipping up into the air to hover above the foes to rain down missiles. He can also use those missiles to blow up specific elements on the map, such as a hole into the side of a truck which is blocking the way, letting you then create some handles for Hulk to grab on to.
With a cast of 100 characters, good and bad, and with all of them playable with powers and abilities faithful to their comics, there’s a lot of potential in the level design to mix things up with different styles of play, and co-operative puzzle solving. There is, of course, the return of two player split-screen co-op, so this is perfect.
With such a vast catalogue of characters too, it’s given Traveller’s Tales such a wealth of potential to play around with the various match ups. The Hulk vs. Abomination match up early in the level I saw was a perfect blend of QTEs and humour, in an homage to the classic comic book stories involving these two. But for every rematch, there’s a new pairing which will be less familiar or iconic, such as having Wolverine and Captain America teaming up for the second level.
When Spider-Man gets pulled into the mix later in the level, you’ll be able to use his web slinging to get to areas and interact with items only he can web and pull with a mighty tug on an impromptu rope. Likewise, there are little patches where his spider sense will tingle, not because he’s about to be attacked, but because there’s a wall that he can climb or something to interact with.
It’s another sign of the freedom which the team have had in creating this game, picking and choosing who and what they want to include, and what will be fun for people to play. So that means they’ve been able to pick a pre-Avengers Spider-Man from his youth, and one which most people will instantly recognise, whilst the hub world of Manhattan is stuffed with classic Marvel universe settings. You can run and explore plenty of key locations from the Marvel universe, such as the X-Mansion and Asgard, and you’ll be let loose in a large playground.
There have been improvements to the underlying engine, allowing them to get a lot more out of it and really fulfill their level design. It’s quite nicely demonstrated by the simplest of things, where Hulk pounds on the ground, making the hundreds of little bricks which have been strewn around by his whirlwind of destruction jump up into the air. At the end of the level too, when Hulk, Iron Man and Spider-Man are all facing off against Sandman together. Except at this point he’s made up of hundreds if not thousands of these little Lego pieces swirling around in the form of a gigantic Lego man. It’s really quite a cool sight to see amidst a perfected art style, with dunes of sand absolutely everywhere as you battle through Grand Central Station, or the giant ‘A’ from Stark Tower blocking your path, neatly juxtaposed with the lego objects.
The scale is grander and more detailed, but for all that, it comes back to the tiniest of moments: back to the sense of humour. With Sandman defeated Hulk is told to help Damage Control clean up the mess which he made. Seeing him butt into Iron Man and Nick Fury’s discussion, brandishing a tiny dustpan and brush for the sand had me chuckling alongside the Damage Control guys in the game.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is set for release on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, DS, 3DS, PS Vita and PC some time in Autumn 2013.