Title: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action Adventure
Available For: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
Official Site: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Where To Buy It: Retail, Xbox Games Store, PlayStation Store, Nintendo Game Store
The LEGO video games cover a lot of cannon from beloved franchises and properties. None perhaps is larger than the Marvel universe which has been pumping out all manner of superhero and supervillain for decades now. It came as quite a shock to me then that instead of focusing on a particular Marvel team such as the X-men, The Avengers or Alpha Flight that TT Games decided to create a game around the larger shared Universe with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes in 2013. The game was a critical hit and the best selling LEGO video game of all time. Four years later the sequel comes with more Marvel content mashed together with the tried and true LEGO game formula in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. Like all sequels, I greeted the title with equal parts anticipation and skepticism.
The LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 story campaign decides to focus heavily on the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers characters. This is wise in that it treads some new ground in terms of characters and there is nothing more charming than controlling Baby Groot or having Star-Lord put on his Walkman headphones and get his enemies cutting a rug to the music as well. The focus on the Avengers is mostly reserved to more esoteric characters or those from other dimensions and worlds such a Spider-Gwen, She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel. You sure aren’t going to see these characters in the next Avengers summer blockbuster.
In fact, the sheer quantity of characters is almost mind-blowing with many that I was completely unfamiliar with. This was a great idea from the developer as the biggest drawback of any LEGO game is that they often feel overly familiar. Unfortunately, while many of the characters were completely unheard of for me, the way they controlled and fought was not. It quickly felt that this bounty of unique characters were really just different skins for five or six core character types. Dozens of characters fall into the category of can fly and shoot stuff. Likewise, dozens more are variants on range plus melee attack and so on. In short, the homage to the huge Marvel world does not translate to unique gameplay for these characters.
Back to the story, it is all quite boilerplate for a superhero tale. Kang the Conqueror comes to earth to…you guessed it, conquer. The catch for our hero squad is that Kang is messing with the very fabric of time. Through different portals generated by Kang’s insipid plans, our heroes end up in previous time periods, such as Medieval Europe and different timelines such as one where Hydra controls Manhattan. I was never really taken by any of the worlds the game visited with the most feeling baron and sterile when it came down to it. There is also the ability to manipulate time during certain puzzles but this really just revolves (pardon the pun) around rotating the right stick to age an item or return it to its previous shape before the ravages of time. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 should have consulted Singularity on how this mechanic could be used to both create interesting puzzles and to establish a more compelling narrative.
The overall gameplay mechanics had a few new bells and whistles that I certainly appreciated. Flying (or swimming) is leaps and bounds easier to control in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. It seemed like such a simple idea I don’t know how it wasn’t implemented earlier but elevation is just controlled by up and down on the right stick while moving on the horizontal plane is reserved to the left stick. No longer would Iron Man so blasting off in the wrong direction and I felt that I could finally harness flight like a real superhero would.
I also enjoyed the additional charged attack which I don’t recall from other games. While I didn’t use these too often it was nice having an extra move in my repertoire in a pinch. My big disappointment in the gameplay though was that the fighting in the title is an overall step back from the improvements that were made in the LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame. In that game, characters had extensive move lists that could be improved upon with RPG-lite elements. It left you feeling like you were controlling overpowered characters which were highly enjoyable. Instead, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 combat feels dated, even with the more novel introduction of boss battles.
As a big fan of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, my favorite mode in the game by far was free mode. Players could traverse a city full of life and activity and find challenges and puzzles to solve to unlock more characters and game content. This mode is back but seems to lack a lot of the unique qualities that made it the cornerstone of the original. The first reason, I suspect, has to do with the fact that free play occurs in the world of Chronopolis which combines all of the levels from the campaign into a single world. As a result, you instantly feel like you are treading old ground in the free play mode of the game. Furthermore, I noticed little new mission types from the game’s predecessor. In the original title’s free play I remember purposefully working to unlock certain characters that I thought would help me complete other missions available. I never really felt this same logical progression. Instead, mission felt like a means to an end to unlock another of the hundreds of characters that have been included in the game.
One last quibble with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is that the voicework does suffer from the SAG-AFTRA strike where union video game voice actors did not lend their talents to the industry’s top companies. Many established characters that we have come to expect to sound a certain way are almost jarring in their portrayal. While there are many great performances such as Peter Serafinowicz as Kang, the overall voicework is not of the same quality as other titles.
Verdict: On its surface, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 delivers a cornucopia of content sure to tickle the biggest comic book nerd. While the character list is out of this world most play very similarly barring a few exceptions. While improvements have been made to the how the flying characters are controlled, overall advances in recent LEGO games suggest that combat can be deeper and the free play can be more robust than what is delivered. While the title is competent and fun, for adults and kids alike, it doesn’t iterate on the original which was groundbreaking for a LEGO game at the time.
- A bevy of characters to play with
- Flying is finally fixed
- Content in spades
- Maintains LEGO charm
- Combat takes a step back in LEGO franchises
- Free play lacks novelty
- Many characters play the same