Not far removed from Bioshock Infinite, a game that weaves an epic tale of redemption through a kaleidoscope of quantum physics and string theory, I sat to witness the first footage of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
It is a very different game.
LEGO games on the whole are simple, splendid and joyous. They’re games aimed at children with tight mechanics that don’t ask big questions and don’t have you scratching your head for hours after the credits have rolled. Are they any worse for this? Or course not. In fact after the twists and turns of Bioshock, the first gameplay demo of Marvel Super Heroes came as a welcome treat.
The game takes the core LEGO concept first made popular with LEGO Star Wars all the way back in 2005 and litters it with a new batch of pop culture icons. Leading on from Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, the Marvel property never felt that far off.
On the surface it is a perfect combination. Marvel have enjoyed huge success on the big screen with franchises that know precisely what they are and are ready and willing to plant tongue firmly in cheek when required. TT’s LEGO video games have always been injected with a wonderful sense of humour, so it’s no surprise to learn that previous charms return in force in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
The story begins with the Silver Surfer crashing in New York City and his board breaking up into cosmic blocks that all the villains of the galaxy are after. The action starts outside New York’s Grand Central Station, which has been overrun by Sandman and Abomination who have taken Roxxon executives hostage. On their way to stop them, and the first heroes you’ll play as in the game, are Iron Man and Hulk.
Like all of the game’s heroes they each have their own abilities based on their comic book powers. Iron Man can fire pulses out of his hands and fly around the tight, enclosed levels. Hulk is different of course, but he’s also different to any LEGO game character before him. He’s a Big Fig.
Inspired by the real Hulk LEGO toy, which stands about twice the size of his LEGO buddies, Traveller’s Tales have brought Big Figs into their game. These larger characters play differently of course, and are able to better toy with the environment, lifting cars and breaking through barriers other heroes may not be able to.
We were only shown Hulk but were assured he wouldn’t be the only Big Fig. Of course it doesn’t take much to figure out who else might be involved, because nearly everyone in the Marvel Universe will be.
Earlier I called Marvel’s heroes the latest batch of pop culture icons to be included in the series. Well this is a bigger batch than ever, with roughly 100 characters playable in the game, including villains.
Warner Bros. have kept quiet regarding most of their playable characters, limiting their announced heroes to the Avengers crew, Spider-Man, Deadpool and Wolverine, but with such a large number on offer it would be far more difficult to guess who won’t be in the game.
As Iron Man and Hulk battled their way down the same stretch of highway that staged the climactic battle of Joss Whedon’s Avengers film, we eventually came to our first boss encounter. Hulk versus Abomination was a short and sweet QTE that saw Hulk beat his adversary with his own fists. It was good to see that the humour is back even when the characters aren’t speaking.
Speaking LEGO hasn’t sat quite right with a lot of older players since it was brought into the series with the second LEGO Batman title. They talk more than ever before here, however, with each hero now free to spurt out one-liners during the gameplay. To aid Traveller’s Tales with the dialogue Marvel comics writer Mark Hoffmeier, who gives each of the characters the kind of fun dialogue you would expect.
Before long, shell-head and the Hulk are joined by Spider-Man who, free of the constraints of film rights, can interact with the Avengers characters. For a lot of the generation this game is aimed at it’ll be the first time they actually see these characters fight alongside one another.
It goes to show the freedom that TT have with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes to do pretty much as they please. In video game form LEGO may not have the freedom of the beloved brick-based toy sets, but the developers certainly do have that same freedom, and it allows the games to be as fun as they are.
Our three heroes are now pitted against the Sandman, who has become a huge sand figure and who the characters must work together to bring down. It’s basic stuff of course, but each of the little puzzles that need solving involves the switching of characters. Spidey uses his spider-sense to find a wall to crawl or somewhere to leave a rope of web for the Hulk (having transformed back into Bruce Banner) to climb up so he can assemble a water pump that brings down Sandman. Then it’s the turn of the Hulk to smash the weakened villain.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game revealed to us was the hub world. Similar to the Gotham City hub in LEGO Batman 2, this game’s hub will allow our heroes to fly, swing or bound their way around a LEGO-fied version of New York. There will be landmarks to find, including a LEGO statue of Liberty and a number of areas where you’ll be able to take characters to locations many may never have seen them, separate from the main story arc.
It’s the playground elements like this that make the games so appealing and as long as they have been producing them there have been small changes for the better. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes appears to be more of the same, but its target audience won’t care because, no matter how many LEGO games they have played, they’ll still be having fun.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will be released later this year for pretty much every format you can imagine apart from PS4, which may yet be announced.