Agents of Smile: An Hour(ish) With Lego Marvel Heroes

By Alec Meer on October 24th, 2013 at 10:00 pm.

Mr Fantastic, most boring of all Marvel superheroes, has just turned into an enormous pair of bolt cutters in order to let Captain America through. Not so boring now eh, Reed?
The Hulk is tidying up New York with a dustpan and brush.
Iron Man is worried that all of this is cutting into his hot tub time.
Controlling Spider-Man is just like I’ve wished every other Spider-Man game was like, but wasn’t.
The Sandman is able to conjure more whirling Lego studs on my screen than I would ever have thought possible.
Captain America, um, has a shield. Well, he’s always been a problem, so we’ll let it slide.

Yesterday, I’d probably have said something about how Traveller’s Tales Lego games are Quite Nice but I’m bored to tears of them now and same old same old blah. Today I’m saying WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I’ll defer to Lego old-hand John for the Wot I Think, ‘pon his return from Welsh holidays next week, but as the game’s out now on PC I thought some insta-impressions would be in order. I’ve put a couple of hours in, and you can be damn sure I’ll be going back later.

Two things struck me immediately:

a) Good lord it’s weird to see logos for Marvel and DC owners Warner Bros on the same screen. What if what if what if what if that meant that one day there could be a Lego Marvel vs DC what if
b) Every frame of this game looks like it cost tens of thousands of dollars. But in a very different way to a similar effect in Call of Duty singleplayer campaigns – this is an explosion of colour and imagination and silliness, as opposed to COD’s grim hyper-detailed reality. Lavish. Preposterously lavish.

In terms of which Marvel Universe you’re in, it’s a hybrid of the everyone-in-the-same-world, full-on spandex comics one and the SHIELD-led, very glossy movie Avengers one, all parsed through the now-familiar but certainly not exhausted Lego Star Wars affectionate satire filter. Everyone is positive all the time, everyone is wisecracking all the time, and internal logic is about as consistent as the Sixth Doctor’s coat.

With full access to all Marvel characters, unlike the sad trifurcation of the movies (Avengers with Disney, Spider-Man with Sony, X-Men and Fantastic Four with Fox), the game wastes no time in offering dream-team possibilities. Hulk and Spidey, Cap and Mr Fantastic, neo-Nick Fury chatting to everyone…

Wish fulfilment all the way, in other words. It’s slick fanfic free with official blessings, no rights issues, no continuity worries and what looks like a functionally unlimited budget. A certain degree of my teenage Marvel fandom has been chased out of me by both age and the characters’ latter day media ubiquity, but so far this unabashed celebration of the House Of Ideas very much brings it all back.

It’s more than possible my innate preference for Marvel over DC colours how much I get out of this versus last year’s Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes, but it does seem that Traveller’s Tales are concertedly Going Large here. Letting us play as the Hulk, the strongest one there is, in the very first level is a statement of intent if ever there was one. Also, just look at how this game shows aquaphobic Spidey foe The Sandman:

Picture all those studs whirling and swirling around your screen, as you swing/fly/thunder through it. Honestly, it’s a next-generation shmext shmeneration moment if ever there was one. A similar level of absurd detail may be found even in less dramatic scenes – standard labs and parks and whatnot, crammed with glinting items to recklessly destroy. It’s all so very shiny.

That first level, with Iron Man, Hulk and Spidey all in play, is an enormous spectacle, and even if things do slow down somewhat with a Baxter Building incursion and a more familiar Find The Button setup on the next one, it still kicks of with a ten thousand foot skydive from the top of the SHIELD helicarrier. Also Mr Fantastic gets to turn into a giant kettle and a giant screwdriver and a sort of flying squirrel and… Well, money, money, money, visibly being spent in vast quantities. It’s glorious in its opulence, and to its eternal credit it generates at least as many ideas and sight gags as it does expenses.

What I would say is that the game feels much more like stylised Marvel than it does like Lego. It’s much more studs and massively mutated minifigs than it is bricks and building. That’s fine, though. I don’t really know why I said it.

The main thing I’m coming away with is a question of what the point of a game starring a single superhero is any more. By concentrating on just the archetypes and the most distinctive traits of Marvel characters writ large, this game doesn’t risk getting them wrong or characters wearing thin. Whereas the movies and the comics depend on character development, an especially tall order as headcounts steadily increase, this game is completely free to just get on with the action. Of course, it might all turn desperately dull in a couple of hours of time, but going on what I’ve seen so far, it seems like a true Phase Two for the Lego games.

Jesus Christ, I very seriously considered ending this article with an ‘Excelsior!’ Just shoot me.

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63 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    I have no interest in comics. I have no interest in the LEGO games. But something about this, right from the first mention of it on RPS, has really appealed to me immensely, and I’m glad to hear it’s as good as it looked. Another one added to the wishlist backlog!

  2. lukibus says:

    Bang!

    Drivel – a waste of time typing, compositing and electrons storing and propogating – an exemplar of pointless waste of energy – no useful comment of the game was imparted – not even whether it was enjoyable!

    Next time in front of a keyboard yopu only need to remember to “DON’T TOUCH THE KEYBOARD” and the world will be improved.

    • rapchee says:

      if you couldn’t decide if the writer enjoyed the game or not, i think the problem might be on your end

    • airmikee99 says:

      When someone types:

      Today I’m saying WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

      You really think that’s a negative opinion about the game?

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      You’re reading the wrong website.

    • eldwl says:

      I believe I shall paraphrase Jim, and say “oh, do fuck off”. What’s wrong with a gleeful post saying “it’s great!”? Actually, don’t reply, just go away.

    • Antsy says:

      Thank you for your excellent demonstration of irony.

  3. Juke says:

    My curiosity has moved from Zero Interests to Several Interests on the old wonderometer. An infinite increase!

  4. Mctittles says:

    word-wrap:break-word;

    Just saying…

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      And ruin a perfectly appropriate visual effect?!

    • Ross Angus says:

      I never realised that CSS declaration was so nineties hip-hop.

  5. Optimaximal says:

    …and internal logic is about as consistent as the Sixth Doctor’s coat.

    A statement that just makes me want Lego to get the Who license from Character… :(

    • MacTheGeek says:

      Last night, my wife and I were playing LEGO Lord of the Rings when she stopped, turned to me, and asked, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if they made a LEGO Doctor Who?”

      I have the bestest wife ever.

    • n0m0n says:

      Yes.

  6. Eight Rooks says:

    Nice writeup, but: “The main thing I’m coming away with is a question of what the point of a game starring a single superhero is any more”? I think this is more an indication of how you approach/think about the medium, mister Meer. No interest in playing this, I’m not a Traveller’s Tales fan, and ordinarily I can’t stand most classic Silver Age superheroes – I like to take things seriously, even if it’s got to be in the same way I take Michael Bay movies seriously.

    Nonetheless, Zen Pinball turns me into a fully-fledged Comic Book Guy every time I fire it up (got me buying Thor and Hawkeye’s latest reboots, and meant I actually got excited to see Thanos at the end of The Avengers)… and while I love the “event” tables in that game, I also love many of the ones focused on a single character – I’ve spent more hours on World War Hulk alone than countless stand-alone AAA titles. I can hear “I am the Green Scar! I am the world-breaker!” over and over and over and not get tired of it. Occasionally I want to suspend my disbelief and give myself over to the story, no matter how daft it basically is.

    Maybe you’re just more drawn to the sandbox aspects, the childlike daydreaming and general silliness (I did say -like), rather than specifically thinking “Whoo! I am The Hulk/Mr Fantastic/Iron Man/whoever”? Or maybe not, I’m just guessing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if so. Just saying, some of us are fine with stepping into just the one costume for long stretches of time, even with games like this giving us the opportunity to have all of the action figures ever battle to the death for our amusement.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    That last shot made me want a Lego XCOM. Walls blown into bricks by rockets, little arms popping off of injured minifigs. A tiny Lego machine gun drone.

  8. Beebop says:

    I know RPS is against discrimination in all it’s forms so I know that they won’t mind me mentioning that, as a Christian, I would be much happier if “Jesus Christ” weren’t used as an expletive.

    Thanks for the endorsement of the game though, I suspect I’ll be picking it up not long after John does his WiT.

    Bee

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I concede that it’s unlikely that Alec is asking Jesus to shoot him.

    • airmikee99 says:

      You should reread the first few verses of Matthew, chapter 6.

      • Josh W says:

        I don’t think he’s doing it for browny points, it’s a “dude that’s my girlfriend” thing.

        • airmikee99 says:

          The first few verses of Matt6 say to keep your religion to yourself, only hypocrites announce their faith in public.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            Unsure that’s quite the point of the verse. Also it’s a reasonable request, made politely. No need to score scripture points off of it.

          • airmikee99 says:

            RE: Gap Gen

            So he’s allowed to make reasonable, polite requests, but I’m not?

            Interesting.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            If we’re playing literal interpretations, I never said you weren’t allowed to suggest (s)he read the passage.

          • Josh W says:

            Also do you listen to hypocrites? Because if that was Jesus’s intended meaning, preaching about it would be automatically in breach of it’s own rules!

          • dragonfliet says:

            That’s not at all what Matthew 6 says. If you weren’t being a pedantic twat, you would get that. It is condemning those that practice religion entirely for the sake of impressing upon others how pious they are–ie, for social, and not religious purposes. What we have here is a religious person kindly asking others to refrain from language they find offensive. In fact, Jesus expressly commands his disciples to preach and to convert, this isn’t a contradiction of it, but a warning that religion isn’t about social status. Beebop isn’t claiming to be better or holier than other people, but making a reasonable and polite request that people, when expressing a casual form of exclamation, please choose one that doesn’t insult their religious beliefs. Not only is it not in any way counter to what Matthew 6 says, it was worded very politely and nonagressively.

          • airmikee99 says:

            RE: Josh W

            Wouldn’t be the first time those scriptures contradicted themselves.

            MAT 1:16 Joseph’s father is Jacob.
            LUK 3:23 Joseph’s father is Heli.

            MAT 27:5 Judas hanged himself.
            ACT 1:18 Judas spontaneously popped like a balloon.

            PRO 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
            And in the very next verse..
            PRO 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

            During Jesus’s trial what color was the robe that was given to him?
            MAT 27:28 Scarlet
            JOH 19:2 Purple

            And thank you, dragonfliet, for showing me the true meaning of the religion I’ve come to enjoy mocking so much. :)

    • Urthman says:

      I’m not really offended by using “Jesus” as a swear (maybe I should be). Christians aren’t exactly an oppressed minority here in the States. But it certainly would be downright hospitable of you not to do it.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Christians aren’t exactly an oppressed minority here in the States.

        You mean the “War” on Christmas, the “Assault” on religious freedoms, the “Attack” on the sanctity of marriage are just rhetoric?

        Geez, and here I am sitting in my underground bunker for nothing? I’ve got to watch less cable news.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          Just rhetoric. Propounded by people who care more about what ballot boxes you punch than about actual religiousy things like faith and kindness.

    • Stardreamer says:

      [Comment redacted because I wasn’t playing nice – apologies, all]

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        Can I respectfully ask why is your sense of offence is being made someone else’s problem?

        From the tone of the rest of the comment it’s clear that you can’t.

        • Stardreamer says:

          Aye, that was indeed a failure. Thanks for keeping me right.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      While I apprehend your conviction, I fear that ship has sailed long hence.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    Only three weeks to go before this game is actually released on PC (..in Europe). At that point it has been out in North America for almost a month meaning us filthy European peasants can probably pick it up for half-price.

    The benefits of having games released nearly a month late, I guess?

    • PopeRatzo says:

      us filthy European peasants

      Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think “filthy” is probably an exaggeration. A little grubby maybe..

  10. The_B says:

    Yup, I have a feeling (unless it’s different for press versions but I’m suspecting not from my friends list) that when John does get back next week he won’t be able to play the game until the UK release date. There was a period where people in the UK could indeed play it the same time as the US release, but they since “fixed” the issue and even if you could play it before, you’ll now find it locked. (I’m presuming Alec played the game yesterday during the brief grace period.) 15th November we have to wait for.

    TL;DR: Probably needs a No Oceans tag :(

  11. Premium User Badge

    DrScuttles says:

    Alec, did something happen between you and John Nathan-Turner during your time off? Is he you? Once again you invoke the tumultuous times of Colin Baker.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Jackablade says:

    I quite enjoyed playing Lego Marvel Superheroes for the few hours that I had it before STEAM DECIDED IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE RELEASED YET AND DISABLED IT! I’m not usually one to hate on Steam, but this is bullshit of the highest order. Fair enough someone screwed up, but if the product is already in the hands of the user and active, simply taking it away again without further comment doesn’t exactly strike me as good customer relations.

  13. Urthman says:

    There’s no need to take Alec’s word for it. You can download the demo and play through the Hulk, Iron Man, & Spidey vs. Sandman level here:

    http://videogames.lego.com/en-us/lego-marvel-super-heroes/demo-download

    Don’t despair at the initial lack of options in the main menu. Once the game gets going you can hit escape and there’s options to change the resolution, controls, and amount of graphics.

    I played though it twice it was so much fun — flying around as Iron Man feels more like a proper superhero game. I’d have bought it yesterday if I weren’t in the middle of Arkham City right now.

    • Stardreamer says:

      Oooh, thanks for the heads-up. Will be downloading that at the first available opportunity.

      I like a setting of 5250 graphics – good to know these options are present.

  14. DiamondDog says:

    Still waiting for an Agent for H.A.R.M. video game.

  15. Strutter says:

    But turning into a bolt cutter isn’t something mr. fantastic can do!

    • Premium User Badge

      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Then how fantastic can he really be?

      • Stardreamer says:

        The man can stretch any part of his body. Clearly Sue Storm coined his name. That tells us all we need to know about his degree of fantasticism.

    • YogSo says:

      Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought “that’s not how Mr. Fantastic’s powers work!” when I saw that screenshot.

      • tigershuffle says:

        first thing my 11yr old son will probably point out too !! hes stretchy rubbery man….no more no less

        Watched him play the Xbox360 demo last weekend and it looked lots of fun (he will have to wait til Christmas though)

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      It is something that Lego Mr Fantastic can do.
      Evidence.

    • Urthman says:

      They seem to have gotten him mixed up with Plastic Man. To be fair, Plastic Man is a lot more fun than Mr. Fantastic. Also, every LEGO figure is a plastic man.

      • jorygriffis says:

        My thoughts exactly. Whereas, obviously, Mr. Fantastic is a bit more akin to Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man!

  16. mechabuddha says:

    I’ve played through the first two missions. My impressions:

    1) I love the combination of Silver Age and Cinematic universes. Somehow it fits really well.
    2) It’s pretty epic. So many bad guys and awesome killing animations.
    3) A little on the easy side, plus there are cutscenes that steal control about every 15 seconds. Side quests give a trail to follow, but don’t show your final destination, so you’re forced to follow the glowing guide.
    4) A Venom character that actually plays well. He can “Hulk up” as well!

  17. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I played the first part of this game with my daughter yesterday. It takes control away from you for cut scenes at an almost Max Payne 3 level of annoyance. Hopefully that gets better (?) but it was a big turn off for me.

  18. guvuhmann says:

    I wonder what he meant by this being the way he wishes Spider-Man games were….
    when he’s talking about the controls. I wish he’d talked a little more about that. I love Spider-Man games, especially Spider-Man 2, and am always interested in hearing more about what Spider-Man games actually play like.

    • Urthman says:

      That comment of Alec’s was baffling to me. LEGO Spider-Man moves basically the same as any of the other flying characters except he has web-swinging animations as he’s floating around. He doesn’t actually swing on his webs and it feels pretty lame. Note I’ve only played him in the demo, maybe his web-swinging is better in the open world?

      • guvuhmann says:

        interesting, kinda what I had imagined it was probably like, that’s why I was surprised to see it singled out for mention.

        I can imagine people not liking to think much about web swinging with Spider-Man and my best guess is maybe the reviewer just means that…. that they are happy to have a Spider-Man in a game that is easy to move around.
        to them, I mean.

        To me, I love the Spider-Man 2 mechanics and wish the games would go straight back to that system.
        I liked some things about the pause and web zip to certain locations in the most recent Amazing Spider-Man game, and I can see how it works effectively for some things about the game, but it should’ve been imposed upon a system more like Spider-Man 2’s.

        It think of Spider-Man 2’s web stystem as being a lucky thing that just happened exactly perfect. and every Spider-Man game after that should’ve just taken that as a magnificent gift from heaven, kept it and focused instead on making better combat mechanics and making the open world seem more rewarding to explore and more interactive in an organic way.

        that would be progress. the evolution of Spider-Man games. ::) instead it seems like every 2 games or so, we got everyone reinventing things from the bottom up in a certain way.

        anywyas, this Lego game is not what I mean by a Spider-Man game and I don’t want to come off as sounding like I wish there were better web swinging in the game. I’m not crazy.

        It’s just that Spider-Man 2 is one of the only reasons that I’ve ever paid attention to videogames much. and Spider-Man games practically deserve their own genre in video game, so i never seem to get sick of hearing about them or talking about them.

  19. Stardreamer says:

    “Mr Fantastic, most boring of all Marvel superheroes…”

    *coughCaptainAmericacough*

  20. Wedge says:

    Eh, this feels rather exactly like every other TT Lego game, except with a bit of the clunkyness refined out by having so many different characters at your disposal to use for specific tasks, instead of all that awkward inventory fiddling of something like Lego LotR.