Build 'em up, knock 'em down
Lego Marvel's Avengers is shaping up to be a virtual museum of Marvel comics goodness. While the core of this game focuses on a handful of recent Marvel films - orbiting the periphery are countless references and callbacks to the comic company's colorful past. If you ever wanted an interactive primer covering the who's who of superhero comics, this is it. And you better believe Stan Lee makes more than a few cameos. This is also a Lego game through and through - right down to its simplistic, beat-'em-up play style. The game will be released in January of 2016 on, well, pretty much everything - but until then here's what you need to know.
It taps all corners of Marvel's cinematic universe
This game draws in a lot more than the first Avengers film. There are characters and locations from all across the films and comics - with an emphasis on Phase Two of Marvel's cinematic universe. This means you'll be clobbering your way through Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and more.
While the sections taken from the films play out in linear fashion, there are also several sandbox areas to explore. Each one - from Asgard to Manhattan - is its own little mini-open world game, complete with its own set of challenges and objectives to complete. And because this is a superhero game, there are also random acts of petty thievery that pop up as you play and will need to be stopped. Any hero (or villain) that you've unlocked can be used in this freeroaming sections - and there are a lot of them.
Over 100 Marvel heroes and villains, past and present, are playable
This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the entire game: the roster. And it's massive, with over a hundred heroes and villains, past and present, from Marvel's inexhaustible stable of characters. Naturally, the mainstays are all accounted for: Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, and the rest of the Avengers, but there are plenty of surprises as well.
Who would have expected Egghead - an obscure Ant-Man villain from the '60s - to make an appearance? Squirrel Girl, Diamondback, and Skaar are just a few of the fan-favorites that are playable here. Each of these characters has his or her own special ability, whether it's Captain America deflecting projectiles with his shield, or Hulk charging head-first through enemies. There are even multiple versions of some characters - including about a dozen different Iron Man suits.
This is a cooperative experience first and foremost
Just like in previous Lego games, there's a strong emphasis on teamwork and cooperation. The entire game - from the linear story missions to the free roaming open world - can be tackled in local cooperative play. Of course, friendly fire is also enabled between the heroes, so if you want to haul off and start wailing on your teammate that's fine too.
Team attacks play a big role throughout the game. Any two characters can pair up and perform a special combination attack. Some, especially those from the core Avengers team, are unique to a specific pairing - such as when Hulk scoops up Captain America and throws him around the screen like a torpedo. However, if you were to pair up Hulk with, say, Egghead you'd just get a generic, screen-clearing attack.
Since it's Lego, you know it's going to be silly
Lego games are known for being a little more slapstick than their source material - and this one's no different. There are tons of great little visual gags and classic Marvel references littered throughout the game. When Lou Ferrigno - who played David Banner in the '70s TV series The Incredible Hulk - transforms into his alter ego, he does so by spraying himself with green spray paint. And when it's time to change back, none other than Stan Lee himself appears to hose the paint away.
Actually, Stan Lee appears a lot in this game, such as when he helps Tony Stark suit up in the Mark I version of the Iron Man armor. There's also an entire quest line dedicated to taking selfies with the Hulk - a gag from the game's trailer that got such a strong response it was made into an actual part of the game. Finally, there's the Thanos Copter. It's a crappy, banana-yellow helicopter built for one that Thanos - the Mad Titan - apparently used to get around town and do evil stuff back in the day. You can fly it, and it's so terrible it circles around to being good again.