Remember when superhero video game adaptations were common? Every big movie got an adaptation, even awful ones like Fantastic Four and Green Lantern, and each pre-Avengers Marvel film had a tie-in game. With the exception of the Batman Arkham series, most of them were terrible, and that’s probably why developers stopped making them. After reviewing Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, I kind of wish its developers would stop making them too.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 kicks off right where the first one ended, although there isn’t much brick-related storyline you’re missing if you didn’t play it. The heroes are having a sweet after-party that’s cut short when Kang the Conqueror descends from space and besieges the world. Aided by The Guardians of the Galaxy, the storyline sees the player travelling across time and into alternate dimensions to destabilise Kang’s base of power, and eventually defeat him. The Guardians helping to defeat an extraterrestrial warlord? That sounds familiar…
The game will feel instantly familiar if you’ve played any licensed Lego title since 2005. Mission gameplay takes place in linear, fixed-camera levels and players swap between several playable characters. There is certainly variety to the scenery, and the story will take you through iconic Marvel locations like Wakanda, K’un-Lun, and a Hydra-controlled Manhattan. Missions will see you platforming, smashing Lego constructs, fighting enemies, and occasionally building an object from spare Lego pieces. It’s a gameplay model that felt original 12 years ago, but now feels stale and lazy.
The game opens up a little in the hubworld between missions, allowing you to freely explore a large 3D environment. This is a rare point where the game shines, as flying, driving, or webslinging through the large area feels fun and lets players take one of the hundreds of playable characters for a spin. It was also a smart decision of the developers to connect the various locations together into one big and coherent overworld, making for a creative and visually distinct playground.
However, most enjoyment is short-lived. Let me put it like this: I play video games for a living, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 made me want to take a day off. Almost every aspect of gameplay is stale, making each moment feel like a rehash of an older title. The game barely innovates or expands on the core Lego gameplay, instead just adding more characters to the roster. Possibly the greatest sin a game can commit is to be boring and frustrating, and this game is boring and frustrating from the start. Like all the Lego games, this one supports co-op gameplay. However, this just straps another poor soul in to experience the boredom and frustration with you. And the only reason you should inflict this on someone else is to replace the useless AI.
Potentially the biggest flaw is that the game doesn’t know how to handle superpowers. Most missions ignore the fact that half the roster can fly, or create reality-warping explosions, and its puzzles are built around incredibly linear solutions. The player is forced to complete an incredibly mundane sequence of events that use multiple characters, while they scream “I can fly! Why won’t you let me solve this by flying!” at the screen. And for all the playable characters available, most of them handle roughly the same. They have special unique abilities, but they matter for little besides nabbing collectibles while revisiting stages. Combat is a visually noisy and chaotic affair, completely devoid of challenge or enjoyment. It’s just bland pattern recognition, punctuated with punching and losing sight of your character. Furthermore, the characters never shut up, constantly spouting expositional dialogue or unfunny one-liners.
If there’s one highlight to the game, besides the hubworld, it would be the create-a-character feature. I can’t find if this was present in earlier games [it’s in, like, all of them – Ed], but it’s an enjoyable way to design and customise your own heroes. It could also be argued that the game does a great deal of fan service, but this game doesn’t live up to the potential of Marvel’s roster in any way.
50Perhaps I can’t be too angry at this because Lego games stick to a formula, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is as formulaic as it gets. However, the game feels lazy, its gameplay is frustrating, and there’s nothing that truly makes it stand out.