There aren’t many times where you can witness Groot pull out an ice lolly to attack an enemy, Captain America surfboard on his shield or J. Jonah Jameson try his hand at live streaming. Then again, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a game that lives for embracing the joyous and the absurd. It’s refreshing to see a game so readily committed to having fun. It oozes out of every pore (or should that be brick?)
As a follow-up to Lego’s Marvel Avengers and the original Lego Marvel Super Heroes, it’s better in almost every way: it’s funnier, there are locations aplenty to explore and even more characters to play with. It’s a love letter to Marvel wrapped up in the best Lego game yet. While technical issues, overly-long and simplistic boss battles, and some unfocused locations dampen the final product somewhat, this is the definitive version of Marvel’s heroes, taking the best comedic sensibilities from the MCU and meshing them with Lego’s unique brand of humour.
Kang you feel the love?
The game kicks off with supervillain Kang the Conqueror using various timey-wimey abilities to craft his very own city of Chronopolis drawn from some very familiar locales. Throughout the city are various districts split up into iconic Marvel locations and stereotypical time travel destinations. There’s The Old West, Iron Fist’s Kun’Lun and Neo-Noir Manhattan all within a few blocks of each other. The end result is a little unfocused setting-wise (it feels like the developers wanted to cram in every good idea they had) but it makes for quite a view, and keeps things fresh as you’ll always be eager to see where you go next.
While the story only really serves as a roundabout way to bringing the locations together, and Kang isn’t around nearly as much as you’d like, it’s tonnes of fun to see characters who rarely interact reluctantly team up. Alternate versions of Spider-Man will crop up, as will part MCU-part comic book counterpart variations of other heroes. There’s over 150 heroes out there, and half the fun is in the little quips they make in each other’s company. A scene with The Avengers huddled behind Cap’s shield trying to shush an overly-dramatic Captain America mid-speech is one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year - and it seems to have taken its best cues from MCU’s recent successes in comedy, as well as the flamboyant Silver Age of Comics.
As for the gameplay, it’s all still… very Lego. Whilst aimed more towards the little ones (a click of the left stick will bring up a hint to make sure they’re never stuck), there are a few slightly more complex puzzles this time around. But it still boils down to smash everything and put together something that will clear a path through the next obstacle. Having said that, it’s still fantastically therapeutic and you’ll always be playing with a smile on your face.
Brick and haughty
This simple sensibility, though, unfortunately also translates to bosses. While it is undeniably cool to go against some of Marvel’s biggest bads, most just turn out to be feverish button mashes. Even more frustratingly, most bosses run on for a couple of minutes too long by retreating into invincible states and sending more minions at you. The end result is a bit of a chaotic mess, and something that is disappointing to see when everything from the cutscenes to Easter eggs you spot out the corner of your eye are lavished with such attention and care.
Technical issues can also plague the game somewhat. It won’t be uncommon to see frame rate drops during cutscenes and sound levels to be out of whack. The Enchantress, for instance, booms her lines out at twice the volume of any other character in the game. I’m fairly sure it’s not an obscure in-joke. Bosses and characters also have an annoying tendency to get stuck on scenery. One level in particular saw a boss refuse to change into his next form because he was submerged in a pool of water. Restarting the level fixed the problem but it’s something to be aware of, and hopefully one that can be remedied easily.
No matter the flaws, if you’re a Marvel fan (or even just someone who likes 3D platforming) then you owe it to yourself to play this. The game is bursting at the seams with little references - you should definitely check out Gwenpool’s room, complete with meta lines from Gwen herself about tutorials - and that even translates to the characters’ actions. With a click of circle/B button, the heroes can unleash their special movies. Spider-Man unleashes a torrent of webs, Hulk (inevitably) smashes and Star-Lord, brilliantly, dances whilst listening to his officially licensed mixtape. Yes, you can complete levels to Hooked on a Feeling and, yes, that is as amazing as it sounds.
TT Games has approached this sequel with the right frame of mind. There’s so much extra content and, yet, it rarely feels like it’s been tacked-on. Levels are more vertical now, encouraging exploration, and there are lists upon lists of side missions for you to get stuck into. Your completionist itch will most definitely be scratched through not only the 15-hour runtime of the story but also the dozens upon dozens of hours you can put into the optional content.
The game may funnel you down the story path but you can still choose to tackle the 11 side bosses to be found in Chronopolis, as well as just mess about with a ragtag team of your favourite heroes and villains. Fancy taking the Quinjet for a spin with Kingpin across Ancient Egypt? Sure, go nuts. There’s even a competitive multiplayer element this time. The Grandmaster’s Battletorium is little more than a mild distraction but its Infinity Gauntlet game – think Halo’s Oddball mixed with Smash Bros – is perfect for a family get-together, or to keep the kids quiet for half an hour.
Lego games invariably have a reputation for being a bit samey. While Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 doesn’t completely buck that trend, it’s undoubtedly a confident, swaggering step in the right direction. There are so many ideas hurtling in from so many different directions that it can create the illusion of being a tad overwhelming but the game, like Lego’s trademark bricks, fits together snugly. Just don’t step on it.
Reviewed on PS4.