Traveller’s Tales arguably perfected the LEGO game at the first attempt. Sure we’ve seen graphical improvements, gameplay enhancements, and a glut of different properties given the Lego treatment, but so much of the template found in Lego Star Wars over ten years ago remains in place today. Smash the scenery, swap the character, swing for enemies, it’s all at the heart of the experience, and it’ll come as little surprise that you’ll find it all here in the latest entry, Lego Marvel’s Avengers.
Alongside those classic gameplay elements, Marvel’s Avengers’ additions to the combat include finishing moves and team-up attacks, and though neither of them hugely alter the way you play the game they do add a pleasing sense of variation and spectacle while taking the opportunity to cram in some more comedy.
Maria Schriver tossing her gun in the air while she unleashes a volley of punches and kicks, only for her firearm to fall on their head to finish the combo was genuinely amusing, and while these moves slow down combat a touch, they’re definitely worth it for the added variety. There’s also the returning Resogun-esque shooting seen in Lego Batman 3 to help break up some of the on-foot sections.
Based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the game’s opening jumps from Age of Ultron to Avengers Assemble, and then Captain America: The First Avenger. It not only keeps everything at a pleasingly high pace, but it also keeps you guessing as to where you’ll head next. Seeing the Red Skull again, alongside Loki and Ultron, as well as other key villains adds greatly to the rogues’ line-up, and expands the scope of where you can go and what the game can pit against you.
It doesn’t stop there though, with levels from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World making an appearance beyond the central narrative, and packing the game with some of the most memorable scenes from the MCU. It’s a wonderful piece of fan service.
As with the previous Lego successes, Travellers Tales brings a light sense of humour to proceedings, though it’s not quite as all-out as some of the earlier games and their silent protagonists. Of course, the Marvel movie franchise is well known for its own humorous slant, and with much of that in place alongside the Lego games’ traditional slapstick and silliness, it makes for a very amusing package. There are a number of stand-out moments, from Quiksilver toying with Clint Barton to Bruce Banner hulking out after hitting his head on a number of things, and you’ll definitely come away with a smile on your face.
While the orchestral score sounds fantastic throughout, there’s some issues with the sound effects and speech lifted directly from the films. At times they’re clear and easy to follow, at others too low in the mix, or even perhaps too low quality to carry through. Some of the voicework hasn’t made the transition – notably Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts – and while you have to assume that’s due to licensing and not some anti-Lego agenda, it can be jarring jumping between the two.
Audio aside, the game has been lavished with the level of detail that you’d expect from Travellers Tales at this point, from the authentic Lego detailing of Thor’s cloak through to trophies with titles like Shakespeare In The Park. This is a development team that know both of their properties inside and out.
Following the outstanding work on Lego Jurassic World, the graphics engine is put to great use here, allowing for some of the best lighting and graphical effects we’ve seen from the franchise. There’s also no sign of any stuttering or slowdown, no matter how many enemies are on screen or how technical the environment may be, which all adds to the feeling of quality.
As ever with the series, there are niggling problems with Lego Marvel’s Avengers, but they’ve been cut back even further by Travellers Tales continuing effort to streamline the experience. Jumping sections have been pared back, meaning there are far fewer times where your progression will be halted by consistently missing a jump. The scan function that appears at various points and asks you to follow its pattern is also very simplistic and requires no real accuracy, while a series of pair-matching puzzles are hampered instead by an overly precise pointer.
Another oddity is the loss of the character select wheel, instead reverting back to the original tap of the Triangle button that invariably chooses the wrong character. Thanks to the fact that most sections of the game only see you in control of two characters it’s less of a concern, but it’s an odd step backwards for a series that has steadily improved.
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments however is how some of the movie’s key battles are handled. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor’s iconic bout from Avengers Assemble, for example, boils down to hammering the Square or Circle button, while the same canned animations are repeated.
They last far too long given the repetition, and are a bigstep back from the way key dinosaur combat was handled in Lego Jurassic World. However, in other cases they’re handled perfectly, such as where Thor takes on Loki later in the same film. It makes very little sense why they’re so different, and it’s a shame when one approach is distinctly more enjoyable.
Lego Marvel’s Avengers is another great entry in the brick-based franchise, and fans of both series, and in particular Lego Marvel Superheroes, will likely lap it up. It combines a fantastic property, with a pleasing level of narrative variation which of course plays home to the atypical value for money that Lego games are renowned for. However, there are a number of oddities to the way various sections or components of the game have been handled, and the formula remains much the same as it was ten years ago, keeping it from being anywhere near to a revelatory moment for the franchise.
Version Tested: PS4
- Developer:Travellers Tales
- Publisher:Warner Bros
- Platforms:PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, 3DS
- Release Date:29/01/16