Tt Games struck gold with Lego Star Wars in 2005, and the concept still works more than 10 games later. Lego Marvel Super Heroes, thankfully and unsurprisingly, takes its cues more from Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes than from Lego Lord of the Rings, which means that while the world is wide open, it feels a bit more contained. Normally in an open-world game you want more space instead of less, but packing the activities closer together for a dense experience works when the traversal is just a means to an end. As much as I love the Lord of the Rings universe, I was ready for a central hub and level select like the older games have, and I never felt that way while playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
Running around the Lego-fied New York City is fun, and while the storyline isn’t great, it does what it needs to do. It supplies me with set piece battles, lots of things to break, the opportunity to use fun powers and the gradual unlocking of over 100 characters. The threat of a hungry Galactus is more than enough to justify every Marvel hero you’ve ever heard of (and probably a few you haven’t) teaming up to take down the threat. Past that, everything you get is everything you’d expect from Lego Batman 2 with a Marvel coat of paint. And that’s okay: Tt is cribbing from its best work.
There is a great stable of characters to choose from, and the different heroes’ powers make level replay feel natural instead of tacked-on to pad out the game’s length. Of course you can’t save Stan Lee yet, you don’t have access to Magneto. There are more than enough powers to go around, and it’s all sorts of fun to shoot force beams as Cyclops, bend all over the place as Mr. Fantastic and transform over and over to watch the adorable animation as The Hulk. That’s right, Tt managed to make The Hulk adorable, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’ll surely choose your go-to character, but everybody is useful, and they’ll all be eligible for some time in the spotlight saving the world and going for a 100% save file.
Overworld activities also borrow from Lego Batman 2 in that gold bricks are obtained by completing a level, collecting enough studs on a level, finding hidden items in a level and wandering about the hub. The hub bricks are where the influence is clearest, as a good number of them are rewards for solving puzzles. It’s not enough to know where the brick is; you’ve got to navigate environmental puzzles with the right character and use his or her abilities to gain access to it. Sure, other times you get a brick for beating the snot out of some scenery, but these puzzle bricks are the most fun to get, and made me the most excited when I found another puzzle to solve.
The series’ trademark drop-in drop-out cooperative play returns and performs as admirably as ever. I do wish the player count was higher and that the mode was online-capable, though. Tt implemented online only once (in Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga), and I wish it’d go back. I love couch co-op, and it’s how I personally enjoy Lego games, but not everybody is fortunate enough to have a buddy living under the same roof. Being able to play split-screen with my wife and then invite my friend from across the country and his daughter to smash our way through levels sounds like an absolute ball. Until then, I’ll just continue my brick-smashing in local co-op and work toward another 100% save file. These games (Lego Lord of the Rings excepted) are too fun not to.
Pros: 15 long levels, huge array of characters and powers, high replay value
Cons: Local-only co-op, still just two players, admittedly-derivative ideas