At this point, playing a new Lego game, whatever the franchise, has sadly become an exercise in rote gameplay, somewhat stale and often humorless. Where I once thought there was still a certain freshness – certainly a large dose of comedy – to be found in these installments, the last few entries have become more and more paint-by-the-numbers, starting with the introduction of voice-overs and a ramping up of the frequency of individual releases. Marvel Super Heroes offers a lot of – admittedly the same – content, but doesn’t do anything to reinvent or reinvigorate the pretty stale formula.
Rather than pontificate at length about what features the game has, or what selling points it delivers above others in the franchise, my overall feelings can best be summed up that, during my entire playtime, I failed to feel inspired in any way. I think this is likely just a case of reaching that mental saturation point, but I never found myself delighting in the slapstick humor or marvel (no pun intended) at the scope of New York City, full of LEGOey goodness. Instead, I breezed through each level, more intent on crossing the finish line and collecting stuff than actually appreciating it.
I’m not saying the game is without merit for the right audience, or entirely devoid of humor. My son had a great time playing it! But for me, this game – as well as the previous two – just feel lackluster. The structure of main storyline missions is as it always has been, including collecting a set number of studs, replaying levels in Free Play mode, and rescuing Stan Lee in each level. Hub world quests are back, and are apparently here to stay. The difference is that this time there are many more of them; there are 250 gold bricks to locate and earn, and the character roster practically bursts at the seams with 150 playable heroes and villains from the Marvel universe! There are races, character-specific puzzles, optional levels, citizens to help, and a whole host of things to keep you busy outside of the campaign, which in itself seemed more lengthy than normal with 15 main missions.
Sounds good. It’s just that…it all feels like it’s gaming targeted toward the lowest common denominator. Dumping an insane amount of characters towards me is not enough to establish quality; breaking apart a staggeringly large city is not a fun time in and of itself. There was really no impetus to even use most of the monstrous cast; once you’ve unlocked at least one character with each power – flight, telepathy, magnetism, digging, super strength, etc – the entire game world is opens up, and you’ll probably never use the remaining 130 characters. Meanwhile, controlling the powers themselves can be wildly inconsistent: I found flight to be a pain to control, morphing characters were next to useless in their mundane forms, and several other control-based annoyances popped up from time to time.
In concept, having a game spanning the entire Marvel universe is a great idea. It’s certainly only fair to give some equal time after the previous year’s Lego Batman 2. It’s basically the pastel-colored version of the same template, replacing the moody darks with bright and cheery reds, whites, and blues. But my tolerance for Lego games in general has certainly diminished as of late; Traveler’s Tales is really developing itself right out of business.