When LEGO Marvel Super Heroes initially arrived on consoles four years ago, it was Traveller’s Tales’ first outing of the next generation, but even with the restraints of developing for the older consoles at the same time, it was still an impressive debut. The roster blew my mind with its sheer size, the original story hooked me in, but despite that, the same old LEGO gameplay held it back a little. So I guess Traveller’s Tales need to top that in the sequel and their latest offering, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2.
It’s a good job that’s exactly what they’ve done then!
In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, the evil super villain Kang the Conqueror is causing a real commotion, travelling through time and space to literally capture some of the most famous locations from the Marvel Universe, along with their heroes – and villains – for him to toy with and, ultimately, conquer. He’s placing them all together in a hub, a base of operations, known as Chronopolis and so it’s down to the heroes of today, yesteryear and the future to fix the situation before Kang dominates the entire universe. But with an army of villains under his spell, it’s going to be a tough ask…
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the original story found in the first game, this one has certainly benefitted from the fact that a true comic book veteran, Kurt Busiek, had a hand in the writing. It’s well written, providing a fair few giggles along the way and I’ve been enthralled by all the cutscenes from the very beginning. For any story to be a good one, it needs to be believable – as believable as the crazy world of Marvel can be – and the concept makes a whole load of sense, leading to a great tale. The way in which the inhabitants of these stolen worlds respond to the goings on is intriguing; some villains are aware of Kang’s threat, plotting his demise whilst doing his bidding at the same time, like real baddies should do.
One of the most interesting decisions made for the main narrative is the influx of niche characters, those whom are less recognisable in the mainstream, such as Ms. Marvel, White Tiger and even Kid Colt. There’s not so much a reliance on the top dogs of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America etc. and instead a perfect balance has been created to cater for the casual fans and the hardcore comic fanatics. For example, a team provided for a mission could include Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel and White Tiger. The idea enables a fresh approach, with new relationships and ‘banter’ to be had throughout.
Taking place across 20 different missions, the general aim of each one is to use the heroes presented to you to smash a whole load of stuff up to either use in a build or to garner Studs, bash enemies till they can take no more and solve any puzzles which crop up, before confronting and defeating a boss. Sounds like pretty much what LEGO games have been doing for a while now, but fear not as there are a few new quirks included to spruce it up and elevate the fun factor a great deal.
The smashing up of bricks isn’t something that can change too much, but the fighting is certainly an area of improvement, with team up manoeuvres being a real highlight. After building up a meter, characters can launch a special team-based attack to wipe out a decent amount of the nearby minions and trying out different character combinations leads to some awesome looking moves. Enemies occasionally possess shields, health bars and special armour, forcing you to switch characters to someone more suited to the situation – you’ll want to switch to Iron Man to heat up the gold armour or Rocket Raccoon to blow up silver armour using grenades. An extra dimension has been added to the overall combat via these changes, that’s for sure.
As this is a game that must allow the younger audience to progress without too much difficulty, it should be forgiven for the easy puzzles – for a grown-up – that are often thrown your way. The variety is often where the developers have let themselves down in previous LEGO games. Not this time though. From the standard inputting of on-screen instructions and repeating patterns, to rotating mazes that transport Ms. Marvel towards a switch and playing a claw grabbing style mini-game, there really are some great ideas implemented here.
With Kang being a time travelling menace, it’s good to see time manipulation play a part in proceedings too. Certain items of interest are able to be sent to a past or future state, thus enabling it to be used in getting through stages of a mission. Sticking on the topic of time manipulation, it also allows the opportunity for locations like the Old West and Medieval England – and their respective heroes – to not be completely out of place.
There are more little nifty bits that I’ll leave you to discover, mainly because they’re super cool to naturally unearth and really shouldn’t be spoilt. I feel I’ve said too much already.
Boss battles do have a usual formula to how they are laid out, especially in terms of how many times you’re required to exploit their weaknesses. I don’t care though, simply due to the fact that it’s so much bloody fun bringing about the demise of some really great villains. Helping Spidey take care of a whole host of classic baddies – which I grew up watching and adoring in the animated shows – and aiding Black Panther stick it to the likes of Man-Ape and Klaw, never grew tiresome. Often the actual solutions to defeating the villains are mightily different which helps.
Credit where it’s due, the visuals are about as good as one can expect, which ensures the animated cutscenes are enjoyable to watch at all times. As long as I can recognise every character I know of and the environments that surrounded them, then it’s a job well done and that’s the case here. In regards the voice acting, especially for Kang – that’s the magic of Peter Serafinowicz – it is solid and the script really helps lighten up the impending doom factor.
The levels aren’t short either, with some stretching to almost an hour’s worth of action, and when all is done and dusted, you’ve got the humongous Chronopolis hub to explore. With over 15 areas to venture into, full of side missions, more Gold Bricks to obtain and additional characters to unlock, there’s always something else to do on the road to 100% completion. There are plenty more opportunities to save Stan Lee from a perilous position too.
Whether you’re roaming the streets of 1920’s Manhattan, being the Champion of Sakaar, or sludging through Man-Thing’s Swamp, you’ll seldom be disappointed by what’s presented to you. Traversing between them is entirely possible by flying or web-slinging, with only a millisecond of loading time needed whilst in transit; it’s very impressive, even if things are just made out of LEGO, and I appreciate the design of each area.
But that’s not all. Deadpool has been replaced by the always entertaining Gwenpool, swapping out those Red Bricks for Pink Bricks, whilst still offering Stud bonuses and other cool extras. Some of which you can only unlock by participating in her ten additional missions, prolonging the adventure further.
And then there’s the roster. I don’t know a word suitable to describe it, other than amazing. With over 200 unlockable characters and vehicles in total, I’m in awe at the sheer amount on offer. Sure there are a few incarnations of the likes of Hulk and Captain America but mostly they are heroes and villains that freshen up the experience massively. Traveller’s Tales realise a lot won’t be familiar to the masses, however with the help of the character card’s filling you in on their abilities and giving a little bio, it can be a wonderful learning tool for newcomers to the Marvel Universe.
Furthermore, if those on offer aren’t satisfying your needs, then there are always the customisable options. You can mix and match at will, giving your creation the super jump of Hulk, the blasters of Star-Lord and the dress sense of Peter Parker. It’s a far better custom creation setup than we’ve seen before, no doubt.
For all its greatness, it isn’t all plain sailing on the technical front for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. Whilst in-between missions, it has been known on occasion to crash, flinging me out of the game and back to the Xbox One home screen. Fortunately it’s yet to happen during a story-based level, but nevertheless it’s a tad irritating. That’s not quite as bad as the unresponsive player controlled characters, who simply refuse to build for no apparent reason, or the heroic characters who cannot be taken control of until you’ve beaten and broken them up – like a heavy handed reboot of sorts for the character. These are nothing major in the grand scheme of things, but still, it puts a dampener on the enjoyment when such hindrances occur.
I’m also not a massive fan of the Battle Arenas game mode, as the options within seem like tacked on additions, given how there’s not much to them. Basically, unlike the main game where two players can play in local co-op, up to four can partake in the Battle Arena antics. The game types available are Capture The Infinity Stones, where the title is self explanatory, and Colour Clash, which wants you to paint the arena by running over tiles. With just the two modes and a handful of arena/map choices, there’s no longevity at all and after one game of each I’d had enough.
The motto for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 appears to be out with the old and in with the new, seen clearly in the choice of main characters and the inclusion of many new faces alongside just a handful of old favourites. I haven’t had this much fun in a LEGO game since the third Batman iteration, and that’s testament to the new gameplay features, excitingly fresh heroes and intriguing story. It helps that there’s so much to do and plenty of variety to stave off any boredom. The technical issues are a pain in the neck though, and it annoys me that the Battle Arenas mode is so lacklustre, when so much effort has been put in elsewhere.
You will absolutely get your money’s worth in the fun-filled adventure that is LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2.