Great, But a Lego Brick Short of a “Must Buy”
Lego Marvel’s Avengers is a game that many of you are going to love to pieces. It has almost everything that a Marvel fanatic could possibly want in a game, and TT Games has proven once again that it really knows how to take an all-star cast of beloved superheroes and give them new life in hilarious and original ways. In fact, those of you who played Lego Marvel Super Heroes already know how well the Lego and Marvel worlds can come together, and those of you coming to Avengers after playing Marvel Super Heroes may or may not like what’s changed – and what hasn’t.
Where Marvel Super Heroes was based off of the Marvel comic universe, which afforded the talented writers at TT Games a much broader creative license, Lego Marvel’s Avengers is based off of the Marvel cinematic universe, revolving largely around the events that transpire in the original Avengers and its sequel Age of Ultron . Side and filler story is also supplemented as you play through certain key scenes from the Thor , Iron Man , and Captain America movies as well. While there is certainly no shortage of thrilling material to work with here, I thought it rather a shame that the majority of the dialogue and voice acting was ripped straight from the movies. Many of the voice clips and audio in the cutscenes conflict with the game’s otherwise lighthearted presentation.
You’ll find yourself laughing out loud nonetheless as characters reenact grave scenes and regurgitate familiar lines in hysterical and unfamiliar ways. Each hero and heroine has also been caricatured in his or her particular animations and mannerisms: Hawkeye’s dexterity and agility are exaggerated as he dashes and somersaults though a hallway while two lackeys walk plainly behind, perplexed. I almost spit out a mouthful of tea when it cut to a shot of him planted in front of a door, bow fully drawn as he took aim at the lock with a key at the tip of an arrow; he couldn’t just insert a key and turn it by hand. Likewise, Black Widow can’t simply walk without seductively swaying her hips from side to side. I found myself standing still with each new character I unlocked just to see their idle animations.
I’m pleased to say that almost every single hero is just as unique in combat as well. This is a Lego game so you’re mainly going to be bashing the one, main attack button through most engagements, but all the characters have their own combos, their own powers, and their own special abilities that come in handy when exploring new areas or revisiting old ones. Iron Man, Thor, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents… literally every single superhero or playable character has the moves or powers that you’d hope they would, and you can pull them off with ease. This makes combat an absolute pleasure, especially with the addition of new team-up attacks: you can sometimes trigger these devastating, area-of-effect attacks when both playable heroes are near each other, and they’re all amazing. Any two characters can perform a unique team-up attack, and there are a ton of characters (over 100 new heroes never before seen in a Lego Marvel game are here to unlock).
When things are moving briskly and you’re being whisked from one epic battle to another, or from a QTE (quick time event) to an explosive action sequence, you never want the fun to end. It’s during those times that this really does feel like a great game. Unfortunately those times tend to be rare, as the pacing throughout this game is terribly inconsistent. Things get slowed way down, way too often. Most of the time it’s because the game forces you to use this damned sensing ability that stops everything happening (usually right at a climactic moment) to stare at a scanning grid. You’ll look for ripples in the grid in about 3 or 4 places, move your cursor to those spots, press a button, and something will be revealed in the area that will allow you to escape / unlock / power up / move on to the next area.
This happens so often throughout the game that you’ll wonder how it never came up during play testing; it really does ruin some of the best moments. Many of the collecting and exploration segments are also extremely dull and extremely lengthy. More than once I felt resentful, like the developers were disrespecting my time by making me complete some of the more tedious, mandatory objectives. I also found myself stumped at points, not by any clever puzzles or platforming challenges, but by a total lack of visual cues or indications that I was supposed to go somewhere and do something. Sometimes the spot where you have to take a necessary action glows, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there are multicolored orbs that float in the air over a key item and sometimes you have to search and run circles before you find something totally random you’re supposed to push, pull, or activate. I found myself thinking, “You guys have made a really good game, but you’re making it really hard to enjoy.”
A little patience pays off in a big way, though, and if you ever get tired of the main story trek you can always play around in free mode. In free mode you can revisit stages and parts of the story that you’ve already beaten with any of the heroes that you’ve unlocked. This is a lot of fun, and it’s actually necessary if you want to collect all of the hidden items that are often stashed behind obstacles that require specific powers or abilities to bypass. As you unlock more heroes, this game will become more about your time spent exploring in free mode and around Manhattan.
The city of Lego Marvel Manhattan is expansive and there’s a ton to see, do, and unlock. There are seven other open hub areas throughout the game that offer additional variety – everything from Asgard, to South Africa, to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base – but you’ll find that the majority of your time will be spent among Manhattan’s city streets, especially when you want to play around with faster moving characters or heroes who can fly. It’s basically an enormous playground with puzzles, secrets, quests, and petty criminals who need a whoopin’.
You’ll also find in Manhattan that it becomes slightly more obvious that this game was simultaneously developed for pretty much every major current and last-gen platform, as the visual engine doesn’t seem as optimized as it should be; textures and objects pop in regularly, and you can typically see the draw distance horizon plainly as you move about. This didn’t detract at all from the overall experience, and most of the effects, environments, assets , and animations look great. I never noticed any dips in framerate no matter how intense the on-screen action became, so that was nice.
If you’re a huge Marvel fan or a huge Lego fan – and especially if you’re both – it’s a no-brainer: get this game. You’re going to love everything about it. I tend to fall on the casual side of the spectrum in my Marvel and Lego fandom, but I am a fan of great games. I’d say that for people like me, this is a really good game, but it’s not as great as I hoped it’d be. I was absolutely delighted by the trademark TT Games humor and playfulness, and I absolutely intend to spend many hours in the game’s free mode playing with my favorite superheroes and looking for Stan Lee in every single stage (he makes several priceless cameos). Several obtuse, tedious, or otherwise frustrating objectives and some level flow issues keep me from giving this an unreserved recommendation, but like the movies on which it’s based, Lego Marvel’s Avengers is a wild ride that many will come to cherish and want to revisit again and again.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
It’s a multi-plat Lego game. It looks good enough, and our heroes are oozing with charm, but it could use some polishing here and there. 3.5 Control
Controls are solid overall but cars control horribly. Often combos will lock onto an enemy and you’ll kick and punch yourself and your foe right off a ledge. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
It’s fun to hear the original dialogue from the films delivered in hilarious contexts, but something went wrong in mixing and mastering. Volume levels are inconsistent and jarring. 4.5 Play Value
Wild, silly fun for the most part. There is so, so much to do and unlock after you’ve finished the main story. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best