Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 is a resplendent celebration of two experienced franchises that know exactly how to show fans a good time. You probably know what you’re getting into with these games, but this latest iteration offers a dazzling level of fun that is above and beyond anything the series has demonstrated so far. After years of refinement, TT Games now has a masterful control over the Lego game formula, building experiences that are creative, charming and joyfully hectic, all whilst remaining respectful of the worlds they are imitating. These interactive worlds are not afraid to poke fun at their own source material, using witty scripts to tease out genuinely memorable character moments. Meanwhile Marvel Entertainment is going from strength to strength, creating a cohesive Universe that is constantly growing in influence. Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 absolutely nails the marrying of these two entertainment powerhouses.
Building on the familiar recipe of the first game, and others in the Lego game universe, characters are pulled from across Marvel’s back catalogue to deal with a central plot involving a potential end of the universe situation. Setting the pace for the whole adventure, the opening scene launches straight into the story of Kang the Conqueror (a villain created for an Avengers comic storyline by this game’s writer, Kurt Busiek, back in 2001) and his time distorting, sword-shaped spaceship. At no point does anything slow down, and this makes for some fantastic fun. A delightfully varied hub world is quickly introduced by this giant time-warping weapon, creating a constantly increasing space in which to experiment with characters and engage in suitably wacky minigames. Numerous and varied areas, drawn together by Kang’s sword-ship, provide the platform for an array of individual character experiences. The scope of these areas can feel daunting at first, particularly to players new to the open-world nature of recent Lego games, and being thrown head first into them with nothing more than an occasional hint provides the games steepest learning curve. Overcoming this slight hurdle will see you introduced to a wealth of wonderful Lego worlds, and thanks to a variety of distinct settings from the Marvel-verse (past, present and future!), these each feel different and exciting in their own unique ways.
Every inch of this game is designed to let its characters shine. The voicework is top notch, leaving behind the strange juxtaposition of movie quotes mixed with lesser known voice artists that was demonstrated in the previous instalment. Super powers are brilliantly executed, giving an insight into even the most obscure corners of Marvel lore and highlighting the most extreme aspects of each hero’s personality. Traditionally strong script work sees every character deliver memorable lines and genuinely funny moments, from Spider-Man's teenage embracing of his new-found fame to Black Knight’s Monty Python-esque portrayal of medieval England and a noble’s sense of honour. The antagonists are also, as you would expect, well written, often capturing the spirit of your favourite Saturday morning cartoon villains. Evil and silly in equal measure, Kang and his cronies provide ample motivation to see the main story out to its conclusion. You’ll almost miss them when they’re gone!
The game does a clever job of tying in the now well established cinematic universe, presenting the prominent characters in their famous costumes and referencing big screen events whilst avoiding getting caught up in complicated plotlines or canon-affecting situations. It also gives fans a look at how some of their favourite niche Marvel characters would interact with their big-time colleagues, in some cases even suggesting how they might look, costume-wise, on the silver screen. The range and breadth of characters on show is impressive, with the depths of Marvel lore being plumbed to provide a comprehensive cast of available player avatars.
Gameplay is also predictably enjoyable. If you’ve had a good time with any of the modern Lego installments, you will have no problem getting on board with its breakneck pace and blistering visual effects. The strength of Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 lies in this unapologetic embracing of frantic action at every possible opportunity. Boss battles provide no respite from this whirlwind experience, always exhibiting the same level of wit and variety as every other moment of the roughly twelve-hour-long main story. It is worth noting that this is an easy game, and this is a very good thing. Ignoring difficulty spikes, punishing deaths and needlessly infuriating puzzles allows the game to embrace its most appealing aspect; fun. Freeing the player from stress ensures a constant willingness to push forward and this is further reinforced by the speed of respawns. At no point does the game allow you to put the controller down, meaning you can easily lose hours in a haze of colourful, childlike glee.
The state of euphoria is only heightened when a friend is dragged into the chaos with you, in a couch co-op multiplayer system that is now a staple highlight of the Lego games. Marvel Super Heroes 2 seems like the best fit for it yet, with character abilities being so wildly varied that both players on the sofa feel like valuable assets to the completion of the current mission. Rescuing the galaxy with a friend makes the whole experience more streamlined, removing frustrating elements of the rather clunky character switching system in single player. Having two player-controlled characters allows for simultaneous puzzle solving and makes some of the more hidden secrets far easier to reach. This is a perfect game for a social scenario, with levels being short enough for controllers to be passed around often should there be more than two keen participants. Just be ready for some arguments, friendly fire is left on at all times and occasionally the temptation is irresistible to those with mischievous tendencies.
The hectic pace of missions can make it hard to keep track of all of your objectives in certain scenarios, particularly if you are prone to collecting all the studs and bonus pieces that you possibly can. This can affect the overall pacing of the game, some urgent objectives will take a short while to complete because you miss an instruction during a battle or destruction spree. Character story arcs can fly past in moments and heroes you become attached to are often gone before you feel like you’ve seen enough of them. While reducing the likelihood of stagnation, this can sometimes leave a sense of unfinished business in an otherwise fantastic story. These complaints are the same as pretty much all the recent Lego games and a product of the genre rather than a mistake on the developer’s part, but that does not excuse them.
Players who have struggled with the Lego games recipe in the past will not find any groundbreaking innovations here. Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 exhibits many of the same level design hiccups and arbitrary video game moments as other entries in the series, with less engaging puzzles often involving mundane uses of character abilities that reflect neither the excitement of the Marvel subject matter nor the creativity of the brick-based world in which it is built. Particularly watch out for Captain America and Iron Man when it comes to these less than thrilling moments, as their powers are often rendered as little more than a means to an end and sit at complete odds with the life and verve shown in the rest of their portrayal. It is a shame that Lego seem reluctant to innovate on their current gameplay structure. Given how well they do with everything else, it would be exciting to see them shake things up a bit.
Any longing for more time with characters is easily satisfied in the post-game that provides nearly endless opportunity for yet more fun. Going back and playing through any level with any character is an absolute joy, due to the same childish thrills felt during the original playthrough. Using the full roster of heroes’ powers to solve new puzzles and unlock precious gold bricks is a charming way to extend time with one of the best feel-good games of the year. These familiar challenges yield rewards often aimed at veteran players, bestowing upon them niche characters and comic panels based on some of the most remote corners of their favourite Marvel universe.
Fans of the genre will find that Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 provides constant delight in a story filled with laughs, whimsy and gorgeous environments. A nearly endless list of characters, supplied with a script that makes each individual shine, will see players returning for more, long after the credits have rolled on their first playthrough. Luckily for them the post-game is filled with plenty of opportunity to continue the wacky cartoon adventures with some of their favourite characters. Occasionally haunted by its Lego template, the level design and arbitrary gamey moments will frustrate some players who aren’t tickled by the series formula. However, Marvel and Lego fans alike will battle through some confusing scenarios and an often bewildering amount of visual information to find a game that thrills them with the same charm and wonder as the very best Saturday morning cartoons.