Wot I Think: Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is out in the States, but has then horribly drowned in the oceans, seemingly not released in Europe until the 15th November. Quite why Warner would go to such lengths to screw up the release of such an excellent game we’re not sure. We’ve asked. I’ve been playing it non-stop for days, and despite being told I’m only 20% of the way through, feel ready to tell you wot I think:

This is the twelfth game in TT Games’ astonishingly successful franchise. And that’s not including the other six Lego licenses they’ve released in the same eight years. By all rights this should be a tired mess, because no studio can release eighteen Lego games (25 if you include everything else) in eight years and still keep things fresh, interesting and entertaining. Oh, they can. This really doesn’t make sense.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is bloody brilliant. I’m utterly hooked, have been playing for two days solid and am still a tiny percentage toward complete, enjoying epic set pieces that feel like worthy entries into the muddle of Marvel non-canon. It’s a massive expansion of the usual formula, this time featuring a huge, open New York to explore, ludicrously packed with missions, quests, challenges and mini-games, with the main story quests launching from within. And oh thank goodness, TT are delighting in the vast array of nonsense to spoof and celebrate within the Marvelverse.

I’ve not checked to see whether this project has been designated with an official Marvel universe number. I’m declaring one anyway. Earth-1390. Let’s all admit that’s the best possible choice. It needs one, because TT have taken all the liberties you’d expect, if you’ve enjoyed their stunning Lego Star Wars or Lego Harry Potter series. While most of their leads have been taken by the film versions of most major characters, these guys are always made of Lego. It’s their version, and it’s not beholden to your lore. The best example would be Reed “Mr Fantastic” Richards, who when bored can turn himself into a teapot and then hop around. I’m pretty sure that’s not in the books. The worst is that they deem Spider-Man as one of the non-genius characters, who can’t use computers. I’m going to start protests about that.

The array of characters is dizzying. There’s an emphasis on the Avengers (of the Whedon variety), but tons of X-Men, the Fantastic 4, Spidey, and a metric ton of baddies from every corner. As you might expect, there’s a break-out at the Raft at the start, allowing Dr Doom to recruit an awful lot of familiar (and less familiar) evil faces to help him in his quest to… to… he’s up to something.

The Silver Surfer gets kersplatted in a cutscene at the start, and his board gets shattered into blocks of “the power cosmic”. Doom’s after them, for what might well be “Doctor Doom’s Doomray Of DOOM!”. He’s got Loki and Magneto in his frontlines, and then just about every baddy you can think of from Doc Oc to Mandarin, Green Goblin to Electro, MODOK to Rhino. Each becomes playable once you’ve defeated them, either in the open city, or in the Free Play mode as you go back through levels a second time.

The core missions generally provide you with a roster of two to four heroes, sometimes changing as you go through, usually in pursuit of a title baddy. And they are very familiar Lego Something are, which is to say, invariably brilliant. As ever, each is packed with secrets to find, gentle puzzles to solve, Lego enemies to break, and absolutely everything to smash. And as ever, all the same mistakes are in place – the horrible camera during platforming sections, awkward vehicles, and the endlessly infuriating pop-up tips that appear every single time you perform certain actions. TT clearly don’t care about fixing this stuff, and that pisses me off. And then I play some more and I forget I was cross.

The open New York City is something else. Honestly, I’ve lost track of whether they’ve done something similar in a previous game, but this is a magnificent addition. And what an addition, making an already ridiculously huge game even massivier. The space is vast, quickly navigated by flying heroes like Iron Man or Thor, or best negotiated in “donated” vehicles used by grounded supers. (It’s basically the same as GTA, except you don’t punch the driver. Unless you do, of course.) There are a bunch of the 250 gold Lego bricks to get here, whether it’s solving a bunch of puzzles, platforming your way to a goal, shrinking Ant-Man down to fit in peculiar rat mazes, or driving remote controlled cars around little tracks. There are a whole bunch of races to do in the unwieldy Lego cars, people to rescue, and dozens of other characters and vehicles to unlock. It’s deeply engrossing, ridiculously so for someone who knows they really need to be getting on with the main quest for their review, but cannot run past a trigger spot for a Sentinel fight.

TT have plundered the Marvel vaults with glee, as the game blurs the canons. All the familiar locations pop up – X-Men Academy, Latveria, OSCORP, Asgard, and so on. Although oddly you end up on an island with dinosaurs, rather than going to the Savage Land. And they do it with the lack of reverence that makes their best games shine. So encounter T’Challa (Black Panther) and you’re on a mission to catch some bad guys who stole his milk.

It’s not without its flaws, most of which – as I mentioned – are entirely predictable at this point. Alongside the incessant tip-giving, it sometimes tells you to press the wrong button to activate something, far too frequently takes control away from you to painstakingly show you something you need to do next, as if it weren’t already too obvious, and of course isn’t able to run in a window. All are excusable, especially in exchange for the astonishing detail and care that’s been poured into everything else. The animations are just exceptional, from every hero and villain having their unique traits exactly captured (Iron Man’s leg and arm swishing as he flies is perfect), to the breathtaking Technic Lego constructions that build themselves throughout. That, and the gorgeous humour with which distinct Marvel themes are realised in Lego form.

But there’s one larger issue that I think has grown from the mammoth size of the series itself. This is a game aimed at a family audience, and it’s the rare exception that actually realises that goal. It’s entirely suitable for young children to play (and has FAR more strong female characters than any other game I can think of right now), and yet absolutely compelling for adults. But damn, it’s confusing.

I think TT are so entrenched in their series that they’ve forgotten what’s not instinctively known. And even as a frequent player of the Lego franchise, I’ve often felt lost as to what’s going on. The open world isn’t available from the start, and that’s a mistake – the game’s first couple of hours are pretty bland – and then the city’s introduction is perfunctory, and suddenly overwhelming. Here you can change which two characters you have playable from those unlocked, but it doesn’t tell you that. And doing it is a pain in the arse. (Made worse by selecting certain characters who are unable to use the interface to change back, meaning you’re stuck with them until you start a scripted mission.)

Of course a key part of these games is encountering things you’re not able to do yet, or finding certain areas of levels locked out to the roster of characters you’re currently playing. But this time it’s far more obfuscated than ever before, the game’s mad pop-up tips refusing to ever explain some coloured sparkles, while insisting on telling you that you need Hulk to lift heavy things every ten seconds. It leaves you bemused as to whether you’re missing something. And this time that’s much, much worse in the open world. People offering quests ask you to do something, and the game directs you to where it’s done, but doesn’t tell you at all if you simply can’t do it yet. It’s daft. I spent forever trying to figure out why I couldn’t help a guy frustrated with people who wouldn’t stand in line, because I’d yet to encounter the mysterious pink sparkles in a mission, so did not know it required telekinesis.

It’s a mistake to say, “And so this is too difficult for kids,” because kids are damned good at figuring things out. But I think this time it may apply. And blimey, a screen like this is daunting:

The voice cast is interesting. I can’t help but feel this might have been one of the Lego games enhanced by their just making silly grunting noises, letting the animation take the strain, but all involved do a good job. It’s just the jokes aren’t that strong, and with the words in place, there’s less effort put into the visual gags. Compare to say the Star Wars games, these cutscenes can end up feeling a little wanting.

Nearly all the voices are provided by those who serve on the various TV cartoons, so should be familiar to many. The game also gives prominence to Agent Coulson, who is voiced by Clark Gregg. That’s ace, because he’s the guy from the movies. But has the counter-effect of reminding me of the continued existence of Agents Of SHIELD each time he pipes up, and then I have to feel sad for a while.

It ends up being a game that’s going to please an awful lot of people. If you’ve not enjoyed the best of the series in the past (Star Wars and Harry Potter games being the top) then no, you won’t like this one either. But then that’s because you’re a being of hate who must be destroyed. For Marvel fans, this is going to tick so many boxes, and makes up for the disastrous mess of this year’s Marvel Heroes. For people wanting a genuinely excellent game for their kids to play, and indeed to play with their kids, I can think of no better. And then everyone else, too, because you’d have to be mad not to enjoy diving into a deep, daft and ceaselessly entertaining game.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is out now on Steam in the States, and mysteriously not out for a couple more weeks in Europe. We’re trying to find out why.

Disclaimer: Kieron Gillen, one of the owners of RPS, writes comickybooks for Marvel. That didn’t influence this review at all, but I did ask him to remind me of MODOK’s name at one point.


  1. frightlever says:

    “The open New York City is something else. Honestly, I’ve lost track of whether they’ve done something similar in a previous game, ”

    They did that GTA style game for Wii U… dum de dum, ah here we are, “Lego City Undercover”.

    • Jockie says:

      Lego LOTR had pretty much all of the Middle Earth covered by the LOTR trilogy to explore.

      It suffered the same problems mentioned here in that there were lots of puzzles and quests that you couldn’t reach without certain characters and/or crafted equipment.

      Someone pointed out yesterday in John’s previous Lego Marvel article that link to nuuvem.com.br are selling the game for what amounts to £13, although you’ll either need a grasp of portuguese or the ability to press the google translate button. I can confirm that it worked perfectly for me.

      • frymaster says:

        “I can confirm that it worked perfectly for me.”

        I hope you’re talking about the website, and not google translate ;)

        • Jockie says:

          Well actually google translate had a server error and I had to use guesswork, but I am so amazingly good at spending money on internet websites that I managed to persevere.

          But yeah, I bought it from there, the key registered fine on Steam and the game looks playable, I only did this last night and haven’t actually had the opportunity to check if it’s locked out until official UK release date yet, but the person who originally linked it said he was playing just fine.

          • melnificent says:

            It’s not locked out for the UK at least. I did this about 5 minutes ago

          • Stardreamer says:

            Bought mine from Nuuvem yesterday. Plays on Steam fine.

      • Neurotic says:

        Poland here. I can confirm that this magnificent piece of gaming cost me exactly EUR 15.53 just now. Activated on Steam and is now installing. To be honest I’m absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that ten minutes ago, I had no LEGO Marvel and was chewing my knuckles off waiting for the UK release., and now I’m sitting here about an hour or so away from playing it. Today was a good day.

    • mwoody says:

      Lego City Undercover was FANTASTIC. At first, I thought it was a rare Lego game that ‘s not a parody, then I realized: it’s a Lego GTA game.

      Does anyone know how much this game mimics Undercover? Is the open world as expansive, and fascinating?

      • Jackablade says:

        I can’t say that I tried Undercover, but the open world is certainly expansive and I’m really enjoying zipping around doing all the little missions and occasionally entire campaign levels in it.

    • crazyd says:

      Lego Batman 2 also had an open world.

      • Stardreamer says:

        It did indeed. And it’s weird how that’s going largely ignored in favour of frothing about a Wii-U only title…not to knock Lego Undercover – sounds really interesting, actually – but wouldn’t it make more sense to discuss the other big, all-platform game to features superheroes and an open world?

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  2. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who was annoyed at Spiderman being classed as one of the unintelligent characters. When he wasn’t Spiderman he was usually busy doing geeky stuff, he wasn’t stupid at all. Nonetheless I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. The last lego game I played was Lego Star Wars 2.

    • Nick says:

      not to mention he created his web fluid and shooters, hardly a dullard!

    • John Walker says:

      He’s a genius in the comics. Until Doc Oc took over his body, he was working for Horizon on top-end scientific research.

      • Harlander says:

        For a brief, shining moment I thought you meant Horizon from Shadowrun.

        That’s a crossover I want in my life.

      • gwathdring says:

        Is it worth reading Amazing and Superior for an Ultimate fan? With a few caveats (becasue the Ultimate universe is a bit of a hot mess), I loved Ultimate Spiderman. I haven’t read the Morales run becasue while I hear it’s good I also hear it’s a bit too much like Peter Parker 2.0 … which seems silly. If you’re going to kill the character, I expect some genuine change. Incidentally if I’ve been misinformed and Bendis has created a worthy successor to Parker rather than a mere surrogate, I might have to keep reading Ultimate, too. :)

        Amazing is, of course, crazy-ass long so I’m sure the quality leaps frenetically around so I guess it’s a bit of a dumb question in that sense. I’ve stayed away from Superior mostly because I thought the Octavius/Parker mind switch thing was incredibly dumb. I can’t decide if it feels more like a cop-out or an ingenious way to get around orders from higher up to keep a 616 Spiderman title on the shelves … but either way someone comes out of the equation a loser.

        • Stardreamer says:

          I’m more into the X-Men but have dipped in and out of Spider-Man over the years without ever settling down into a run for any length of time. I’m fully aware of his history, though. With that said, I LOVE Superior Spider-Man. Killing Peter Parker in such a brutal way has allowed Marvel to basically run riot with a Spider-Man devoid of the baggage of Peter Parker’s incredibly well-known character getting in the way. The results so far have been surprising, and often genuinely shocking. Issue 9 of SSM ranks as one of the most distressing Spider titles I’ve read in a long time, where Otto’s chillingly ruthless single-mindedness is showcased to heart-breaking effect. But I’m also enjoying Otto’s unique use of Peter’s life, his very different approaches to Spider-Man’s everyday problems, some of which are quite inspired; you get the sense that there’s a wealth of ideas being used that were never quite approved before because they didn’t quite fit Peter Parker. It’s made the character genuinely fascinating to read, instead of the latest in a long line of similar adventures stretching back 50 years. I’m enjoying the dichotomy between my fascination with Otto’s progress against my utter revulsion at what he’s done to get there. He’s a monster, is our Octavious, but I’m lapping up every issue right now.

          And I have to say I love his latest costume, too. Very Iron Spider, Very Doc Ock, but so beautifully Spider-Man as well. Apparently this Lego Game will have the Superior edition as an unlockable skin for the default Spidey. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

        • sianma41 says:

          As a crazy big spider-man fan (seriously, i have issues) i would say that amazing is definitely worth reading but i’m not at all impressed with superior – I think it would be ok if it was just a temporary story-line (dear god let it be) but I hate the way doc ock has taken over. I think it comes down to it being alright on its own as a comic (having a bad guy struggling to be good and whatnot is quite interesting even if i suspect it will run thin after not too long) but its not spider-man. What makes spider-man for me is Peter Parker as a character – the way he’s me at that age basically with all his problems and yet he’s so morally incorruptible – he always tries to do the right thing whether he wants to or not. I dunno, i dont want to rant too much but I just hate the way he seems to have been just replaced by someone who is in many respects his opposite and it kinda seems like were being told “screw that guy, ock is better”. I think I’m to upset about the possibility of it lasting a while to say proper well thought out things so ill go now but yea superior ok especially if your not too invested in PP and amazing is great. Just get Marvel Comics Unlimited and read some of them :)

        • welverin says:

          Stop being silly and read the the books with Miles, if you liked Bendis’ previous USM, you’ll definitely like this.

          I can’t comment on Amazing/Superior Spider-man since I Stopped reading it at the end of One More Day.

  3. InternetBatman says:

    That’s great. Me and Ms. Internet are always looking for a new game to play together.

  4. GamesInquirer says:

    Is combat tight this time? I tried Lego LOTR and just couldn’t get into it with the controls and visual feedback of battles being utterly underwhelming and simplistic. LCU seemed improved though…

    • Jackablade says:

      It’s about the same, though with more projectile attacks and big bruisers like Hulk to tear things up, I think it’s generally more fun than before. The finishing moves that each character gets are cute but do slow things down a bit when they fire off too frequently as tends to happen with the larger characters (particularly Hulkbuster)

  5. DickSocrates says:

    Warner are publishing a Marvel game? If it is Warner, the delay is explained. They are constantly up to bizarre and misguided release strategies. There’s *always* something wrong with a Warner release, delay on a particular platform for no reason, in a particular region for no reason, etc, etc. I still think they don’t quite get the games publishing industry, treating it like movies with staggered releases, forgetting there aren’t actors going around doing promotion that can’t be everywhere at once.

  6. Optimaximal says:

    This is a game aimed at a family audience, and it’s the rare exception that actually realises that goal.

    By finally realising that a LEGO game should be just as much about puzzle-solving and building stuff as obsessively smashing everything in sight into its component parts?

    It’s entirely suitable for young children to play…

    Define young children, because as above, encouraging children to break everything they see is not ‘entirely suitable’.

    Yes, it’s what they’re genetically programmed to do, but *my* persistent issue with the LEGO games (since becoming a dad, I might add) is the LEGO brand is simply perfunctory/a template for the character designs, with the attached license the overriding decider on how the game plays.

    Yes, Super Hero play is inherently physical, but the lack of problem solving beyond ‘push this button’ or ‘hold down this button to build something’ is where the series really falls down.

    • Koozer says:

      Haven’t you heard? Kids are thick and are incapable of solving any kind of problem more complicated than putting a square peg in a square hole. Of course this also requires a pamphlet to tell them that square things fit in square holes, with lots of pictures.

      If you’re looking for an actual LEGO game, try ‘LEGO Creator.’ I used to get up a couple of hours early on (primary) school days just so I could get a bit of extra building time in. As an aside, I think Nintendo are the absolute masters of making games that are suitable for all ages while still being a challenge.

    • John Walker says:

      If someone wanted to let their kids have fun, it’s perfect.

    • Reapy says:

      Played lego lotr with my 3 year old, was great. Open world for me to explore, and tons of characters for him to change into and walls to run against while he figured out how to control a character in 3 dimensions. After a bit of time he was running from minas tiras all the way to the pass of caratas. This involved about 5 minutes of navigation, switching out to using a rope to climb up amon hen with a tough jump, navigating and entering a row boat and finding the pass, followed by elation every time he got there. The game was honestly perfect for both of us to play and be interested.

    • Duncan Harris says:

      The Lego games are brawlers, which is a good thing to establish before deciding if your kid should play them. If you’re hoping to teach them how to interact with their siblings through it then it’s probably not the best mentor. If, however, you want to expose them to some superlative craftsmanship in the fields of animation and characterisation – and trust me, kids are far more sensitive to that than what we perceive as violence – then they’re absolutely appropriate. My son is three and half and has loved and finished all of them with no ill effects.

  7. marach says:

    It should perhaps be pointed out that in city mode the character swap terminals are only needed to BUY characters, just holding down the character swap key for a few seconds brings up the list…

    • John Walker says:

      Oh my goodness, you’ve changed my life.

      • mechabuddha says:

        I’d also like to point out that for characters that you get stuck in because holding Y activates a power (like Venom), if you press and hold Y while jumping in the air, you can force the menu to pop up. Aaand you can buy characters from that list, too. The only thing I can’t figure out is that I can’t change characters this way unless I visit the terminal at least once first.

  8. jlivius says:

    It’s worth noting that RPS co-owner Kieron Gillen writes for Marvel.

  9. Martel says:

    This looks great. I am still a few lego games behind (I own them, some bundle on Amazon I got a while back), but that just means this will be on sale by the time I get to it.

  10. mikmanner says:

    As a family game I this series works brilliantly, but I don’t think the format works for cynical 30 year olds playing solo haha. They all look fun and are full of charm but I’ve never got on with the games mechanically. I’ve always just found the gameplay quite dull, I’ve played Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and the combat doesn’t ‘feel’ good to me, the puzzles are quite repetitive too. But I am a being filled with hate.

  11. Mana_Garmr says:

    Are the flying controls decent? I remember it was a pain in the ass to fly around the city, and especially through checkpoints in the time trials, in the second Batman game. (This was with keyboard and mouse, don’t know if using a controller made it better.)

    • Duncan Harris says:

      Not sure if it’s my place to say – I’m actually reviewing the game elsewhere – but the flight controls are catastrophic. A horrible mix of analogue and button-press controls where functions that should be independent are mapped to the same buttons, resulting in a system that never flows as it should, strips half the fun out of the open world, and makes flight in general something to be avoided. It’s a step down from Lego Batman 2 if anything, and much of the reason my son quit even trying to enjoy the game beyond the campaign and promptly returned to Lego Star Wars III. Many of the flight challenges are almost impossible due to the controls.

    • John Walker says:

      They’re not great, no. Far too fast, being the main issue. But once I got used to the bizarre controls, it became tolerable.

  12. melnificent says:

    Beware if you have a touchscreen laptop for playing the overlay cannot be disabled from within the game and will take up a good portion of the screen.

  13. Csirke says:

    Is there a problem with Agents of SHIELD I’m not aware of? I mean, it’s not terribly original so far, but I still like that show.

    • Mitthrawn says:

      Yes, this. Logged in to say the same thing, been enjoying the series so far. Not the greatest thing to ever grace my TV, but perfectly watchable and more of Whedon’s Marvel, so pretty much exactly what I want.

    • LionsPhil says:

      From what I’ve seen of it, it’s godawfully corny; way beyond tolerance*. Which is a shame, since I actually liked the film.

      * Then again, plenty of people put this as a strength of Doctor Who, so I guess you’re all just wrong.

  14. Focksbot says:

    Hmmm. I loved Lego Star Wars and Lego Batman, but there’s two things they badly need to have improved for me to bother with this:

    1) The combat. In Lego LOTR, as someone mentioned above, it’s incredibly dull. Enemies glow read a couple of times when hit, then fall apart. You can’t knock them, and you never feel much of an impact. You also never get to fight hordes – enemies always attack in groups of 2-4.

    2) Character availability. It drives me up the wall that TT brag about how many characters there are in the game, only to force you to play as the same three or four throughout the core missions. Basically, if I can’t play as Gambit and the Silver Surfer from very near the start, I’m out. I’ve got zero interest in Iron Man, Hulk and Mr Fantastic.

  15. Themadcow says:

    £24.99 on Steam…. but £17.99 pre-order on Amazon. Seems like a strange price from Amazon considering Play.com are also selling for £24.99.

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    Aerothorn says:

    Is there any online co-op in this one? That seems to be missing in previous Lego games, and I’ve really wanted to play them with a friend.

    • HamsterExAstris says:

      Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga had it, but I think TT has left it out of all of the subsequent games.

  17. SillyWizard says:

    What’s the significance of 1390?

    Also, is the Agents of SHIELD show awful? Are you sure it’s not just the ubiquitous Whedon growing-pains which end up being eccentric fun after the show is canceled?

    • thekelvingreen says:

      1=L, 3=E, 9=G, 0=O.

    • AngoraFish says:

      Yes, Agents of SHIELD is truly awful.

      Some examples: two uber nerd team members are so brilliant that they are more or less able to cure cancer in less than two hours under pressure. Main hacker chick can crack NSA algorithms in minutes, but otherwise has more in common with the meatheads. Sets generally suck, but that’s a more widespread Joss Whedon problem. Also, no superheroes.

      • Erastoinen says:

        It is set in the same continuity as a movie where someone constructs a fully functional suit of power armor out of random junk, you know. Agents of SHIELD has its fair share of problems, but a few smatterings of comic book science don’t even register among them.

  18. KDR_11k says:

    So what’s next? I’d like to see Lego Warhammer 40k.

    • Stardreamer says:

      Lego Doctor Who! (please!)

      • GallonOfAlan says:

        This. Doctor Who is perfect for it. People always say stupid things like ‘LEGO Breaking Bad’ without considering what the core audience for these games is – kids, and kids playing with their parents.

    • Mitthrawn says:

      In the future there is only WAR. WAR and blocks.

      But seriously, TT taking the piss out of warhammer would be epic, hilarious, and very welcome.

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Agreed. I’d love to see comedy Lego Space Muhreens and the Orks build their tanks in a Legolike fashion anyway.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Oh gods yes.

          I want to see Adeptus techpriests worshipping a fragment of the manual from the Technics sportscar they found.

    • Pippy says:

      Lego Venture Brothers

  19. Magnusm1 says:

    Spidey is an Avengers-character though.

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    Phasma Felis says:

    Oh my God, is that Howard the Duck in the last screenshot? Wow. Wow.