Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is great! No, it isn’t.

I am in two minds about Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. It is a phenomenally dense and ridiculous playground of Traveller’s Tales at their finest. And it’s a buggy, opaque and disjointed mess of haphazard controls and direction. And I’ve no idea which one is right. It’s me. Or it’s me.

Where to go after TT’s last Lego triumph, Marvel Super Heroes? They built an entire Manhattan for that one, packed it with enough minigames and sidequests to beat any Ubisoft game, and that was just the sideshow to an extensive and convoluted plot weaving in dozens and dozens of Marvel characters. People who started it in 2013 are probably still playing it.

And indeed they’re probably still being frustrated by the litany of bugs and stupid crappy mistakes that litter all of these Lego creations, bugs that aren’t fixed from one game to the next, and that ensure every one of TT’s games is spoilt by a terrible camera, contradictory controls, and poor flagging of what should be done next all over the levels.

Where next? Bigger, more ridiculous – that’s exactly what anyone would want from them. So, once you’ve played through quite a lengthy – far too lengthy, bewilderingly so, leaving you confused as to whether you’re playing an open world game at all – opening few hours, you’re finally given the free run of, well, everywhere.

Alongside Manhattan present day, there’s a whole other Manhattan Noir, with sepia-tones and old-timey heroes, as well as a futuristic Nueva York, let alone the Hydra Empire. And the Old West. And Wakanda. And a Medieval England, next door. And I mustn’t forget Egypt, Hala, Xandar, Sakaar… None is as big as the previous game’s city alone – they haven’t gone that mad – but due to the evil machinations of one Kang, key Marvel cities from across time (oh, Asgard!) and space have been collected together in another dimension, along with all the heroes and villains who reside there. And it’s called Chronopolis. It’s an absolutely brilliant way to portray the far broader world(s) of Marvel.

It’s also exactly the same plot as Saints Row IV. Unashamedly so! They even have Kang’s omnipotent voice echoing throughout the cities, a deep sonorous tone uncannily like that of Zinyak’s, SRIV’s alien protagonist who recreates an entire city and its population elsewhere. Come on.

Things begin with the Guardians Of The Galaxy, I was expecting the familiar re-treading of a movie moment with Lego silliness. Instead, I got a whole new Guardians mini-story, with laughs throughout. Gosh. Then, jumping back to Earth, the setting in a happily united Avengers mansion made me realise this wasn’t going to let the ongoing events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) trouble it beyond providing character inspiration. So Thor’s had his haircut (in fact, the game has some quite huge Ragnarok spoilers, so beware), and Groot is a sapling, for instance, but the Avengers are still one big happy family – and one big happy family.

The Wasp is immediately a played character, despite her introductory movie – Ant Man 2 – not having been released yet. As indeed is Captain Marvel. She Hulk is there. Some of Giant Man makes a cameo… This is the complete world of characters introduced in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 1 and many more, now operating with far more narrative joining them together. (“Oh John, you big silly,” I hear you utter, all the time, awake or asleep, please just stop, “Did a coconut fall out of a tree and hit you on the head? The comics, John. They’re from the comics.” Yes, of course, but also no. But also yes. This game really does take its inspirations from the MCU, character design/attitude-wise, whenever it’s possible. But at the same time, there’s a sense of assurance that you read the books too, that you already know who She Hulk is, and that she works as a big green lawyer in her day job. Or that Capt. Marvel and Ms. Marvel are two different people now. (It had completely passed me by that a new Ms Marvel stepped into the name-shoes in 2013.))

Indeed, it makes almost no effort to introduce anyone! There are some desultory cards on the pause menu that gives each a paragraph of dull text and a first comic appearance date, but beyond this no one is introduced nor explained. For those without an extensive Marvel history, they’ll often be left bemused. Which likely includes the children to whom the game is primarily aimed.

So it’s great that Gwenpool is not only in there, but as a fairly key character in one of the Avengers Mansion rooms, but it’s just the worst that a character only invented in 2015 doesn’t get a cursory introduction.

Hold down B when playing as Star-Lord for no reason, and he’ll put on his Walkman and listen to something from the Guardians soundtrack. Mr Blue Sky perhaps. It serves no function, but it’s emblematic of the level of detail on offer here, betwixt the grand scale city exploration and side-quests, and extensive missions with a fixed roster of characters.

But you really can’t help wish a little of the time that went into cramming the game with so many microscopic treats could perhaps have gone into fixing ANY of the issues that have plagued this series for over a decade. Cack-handed, almost unusable vehicle controls. Awful clipping problems. Multiple actions assigned to the same button, the game ignoring its own on-screen prompts to trigger the wrong one. And with that, no internal consistency for how different characters control. A fixed camera in missions making jumps and balancing often a real chore. And cruddy, frustrating combat. All of these complaints could be levelled at any of the Lego franchise, and this one just as much as any before. Which just isn’t good enough.

It is, however, an awful lot better than the increasingly lacklustre entries we’ve seen in recent times since the release of the last Marvel Super Heroes, in fact. Mediocre releases like Lego City Undercover, Lego The Hobbit, Lego Batman 3, and Lego Marvel’s Avengers, as well as the truly bloody awful Lego Worlds and The Lego Movie Videogame, have seen the series in the doldrums, with the exception of The Force Awakens, for a good four years. This definitely marks TT’s reemergence, back to the best we’ve seen from the franchise.

But the best we’ve seen, over four years ago, just doesn’t seem good enough. Where’s the evolution? The big step forward? That non-italicised idiot is only celebrating this game because it’s not as bad as it’s been for a while. It’s funny in places, definitely, and there’s unquestionably vast amounts to do, of which neither of our conflicting voices has gotten deep into, but it’s just more of the same. At a certain point, over a decade since the Lego Star Wars games blew us away, shouldn’t we be expecting a lot more?

But it’s still super-fun! The emphasis has shifted away from the Fantastic 4, and I’ve yet to spot any X-Men except in cheeky disguises (I saw you, Magneto), so I wonder if the film rights to characters not even Disney can secure, despite owning Marvel, has had an impact here. But this makes perfect sense, since the MCU has developed quite so much since 2013, and perhaps more importantly, occasionally been rather good (Ant-Man, Guardians Of The Galaxy 1 and 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming) rather than just okay (all the rest). The Avenger focus here, albeit one that draws from the far larger pool of the comics, makes a lot of sense. And with The Wasp, Black Panther and Captain Marvel playing key roles, it quite neatly makes us more familiar with characters from the films to come.

But previously there seemed to have been some degree of effort to get decent-sounding voice-a-likes for the Lego games – to the point where you’d even check the credits to be certain some Hollywood A-lister hadn’t contributed. (They hadn’t.) But not so now. The voice work is all fine, but it’s really like they haven’t even tried an impression for characters like Iron Man and Star-Lord, and so on. Thor is passable, but beyond that, it’s all a bit ‘store brand version’. It also seems a that a lot of opportunities for gags were missed here, like giving Dr Strange an outrageously poor American accent, for instance.

Oh, and the bugs. It’s crashed to desktop a few times for me, losing progress. And the clipping has proved really irritating with vehicles. Worse, I’ve had characters become incapable of moving mid-level, following me around on their own, but when I take control being frozen to the spot. Bugs are nothing new for TT games, of course, but this is concerning still.

Although, the bugginess offered an extraordinarily meta moment. I tried to start a mission by jumping Spidey through a rip in reality, at which point the game promptly closed to desktop. It felt like I’d succeeded.

I’ve not gotten a long way into the game, despite plugging away at it for a couple of days. There is a vast amount here, and a lot of it is very fun. And often very funny. But I’m concerned about the bugginess, and I’m really disappointed by the lack of progress for the franchise. Yet despite this, if you want a new Lego game to sit down and play with your kids, or indeed by yourself, then this is the one you’ve been waiting for since 2013. I’ll grudgingly concede to this, especially after wasting my money on the actually unplayable Lego Worlds on Switch, about which I’m still furious.

I really am in two minds. I want to keep playing, but I want to give up because of the flaws and familiarity. I want to recommend it, and I want to warn people off it. Still, we can both agree that it’s excellent that MODOK’s in it.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is out now on Windows for £25/$40/30€ via Steam.

16 Comments

  1. brulleks says:

    “And indeed they’re probably still being frustrated by the litany of bugs and stupid crappy mistakes that litter all of these Lego creations…”

    Well, I’m not. I gave up after about three levels because of them all. You clearly have more patience than me, sir.

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    Drib says:

    The final line about the game being available on steam is in italics, so that’s the critical voice saying it, plainly.

  3. Mouse_of_Dunwall says:

    I’ll have to play this at some point. The first game was flawed, but a lot of fun, and one of my favorite superhero games.

  4. Ghostwise says:

    To be specific, Carol switches to “Captain Marvel” in 2012, and Kamala makes her full debut in 2014 after a 2013 glimpse.

    Uh ? Why, *of course* these are IMPORTANT FACTS. Essential, even. Foundational to an honest person’s education.

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      phuzz says:

      And both had their costume designed by Jamie McKelvie, who’s pals with Kieron Gillen, late of this parish, RPS fact fans.

  5. Baines says:

    so I wonder if the film rights to characters not even Disney can secure, despite owning Marvel, has had an impact here

    Though Marvel publicly denies it (and certainly has ample legal reason to want to deny it), Marvel has spent much of the last several years shying away from promoting the X-Men. Heck, the new Ms. Marvel came out of Marvel’s failed attempt to flat out replace Marvel’s mutants with the Inhumans. (The Fantastic Four were also disbanded, with Reed and Sue going off with Franklin to remake the multiverse.)

    This isn’t the first game so affected, either. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite was also visibly lacking in X-Men as well as Doctor Doom (from Fantastic Four), despite them being core roster members of previous games. This led to a PR blunder when Capcom public spokesperson Combofiend publicly treated the lack of X-Men to be a non-issue because characters were just “functions”, and there were other characters present with similar abilities to the missing X-Men.

    That anti-mutant/FF attitude had changed of late. The big push for the Inhumans flopped hard. Readers rejected the comic book push. Ms. Marvel might have been the only successful comic book character launch from the push. (Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur was painfully mediocre, and the college-age Inhumans team book died fast.) The Inhumans movie was downgraded to a TV series, which ultimately debuted to a mix of disinterest and criticism. In the comics, Marvel has dropped the years-long Inhumans push and has returned to pushing the X-Men. As for the Fantastic Four, the Thing and the Human Torch will soon be reuniting.

    And a similar change in attitude appears to be affecting Marvel games. Allegedly, Dr. Doom and several of the absent X-Men characters (Magneto, Wolverine, Cyclops, Psylocke, Storm, and Deadpool) are being worked on as DLC characters for Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. (On a side note, Capcom and Combofiend parted ways last month.)

    • Werthead says:

      Also worth noting that Marvel’s increased positivity to X-Men and Fantastic Four comes at the same moment they (or rather Disney) are making a concerted effort to buy 20th Century Fox, which would reunite the properties all together.

    • Urthman says:

      The almost-dead Marvel Heroes (Omega) launched with The Fantastic Four and The Silver Surfer as playable characters (and Mole Man as a commonly fought villain). Then about a year ago they were stripped out of the game. Players who had already unlocked/purchased these characters could still use them, but they were no longer unlockable/for sale, you couldn’t get any alternate costumes for them, FF-themed gear was removed, The Mole Man disappeared, Doctor Doom–who remained–was changed to a less FF-centric version, and all the places where the FF characters appeared in the game as NPCs were replaced with other characters.

  6. Megatron says:

    Indeed, it makes almost no effort to introduce anyone! There are some desultory cards on the pause menu that gives each a paragraph of dull text and a first comic appearance date, but beyond this no one is introduced nor explained. For those without an extensive Marvel history, they’ll often be left bemused. Which likely includes the children to whom the game is primarily aimed.

    They won’t be left bemused. They’ll be straight on to Google. Or they’ll ask someone who will do that for them.

    I remember being a kid and not needing to be spoon-fed into everything I encountered. Sometimes it was okay to have things be mysteries for a while. To not have been there at the start. To find things out for myself. I can’t imagine kids have changed THAT much in 30+ years. God, can you imagine sitting through a separate introduction sequence for over 200 characters?!? I think we’ve had enough Marvel Origin stories for public consumption lately, thank you!

  7. TimQuaffsPotion says:

    Wait, Gwenpool is in the game but Deadpool isn’t? Implying she’s not legally counted as an X-Men spin-off despite being a spin-off of an X-Men spin-off? The complexities of the Fox/MCU IP-jostling are mind-boggling.

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      Masked Dave says:

      To be fair, the character of Gwen Poole (her actual name) has nothing to do with Deadpool. It’s one of the jokes of her introduction that on telling people her name people think she’s a female Deadpool hero and she just rolls with it.

      Gwen is a girl from a reality where Marvel characters exist only in comic books that got accidentally stuck in the Marvel Prime universe (616) post-Secret Wars when the multiverse was rebuilt. (YAY COMICS!) Her superpower is basically that she was a comic-nerd and so knows everyone’s secrets and understands the rules of narrative. (She got a costume so she didn’t just become a bit player in some heroes narrative and thus risk dying.)

      So she’s like Deadpool in all that meta-stuff and knowing she’s in a comic book. (Although he doesn’t really talk about that stuff anymore.)

      She’s only actually met him once and admitted that his was a book she’d never read and it was a bit “lol memes!” for her.

      Which is a really longwinded way of saying that it makes sense that her rights aren’t connected to Deadpool’s.

      • Baines says:

        That isn’t necessarily the whole story. The character Gwen Poole wasn’t created out of a vacuum.

        The original design/appearance of Gwenpool was for a variant cover of an issue of Deadpool. Marvel was running a themed variant event, depicting (Spider-Man character) Gwen Stacy as various Marvel heroes. Gwen Stacy + Deadpool = Gwenpool.

        Why was Marvel running such an event? It was because of the success of Spider-Gwen. Marvel had previously run a big Spider-Man storyline that crossed over the Spider-Men of various alternate realities. One of those alternate realities had seen the radioactive spider instead bite Gwen Stacy. The character proved popular, so Marvel launched her own spin-off title, Spider-Gwen.

        Since Spider-Gwen was so popular, Marvel decided to celebrate/cash-in on the joke of Gwen Stacy becoming other heroes in other alternate realities. So one month saw 20 covers portraying Gwen Stacy as over 30 different characters (team books turned every member into a Gwen Stacy version).

        Gwenpool stuck as a fan-favorite, which led to Marvel giving her a spin-off special, and then turning her into an on-going character as teenage offically-not-Gwen-Stacy not-alternate-reality-Deadpool Gwen Poole.

  8. fray_bentos says:

    “Multiple actions assigned to the same button, the game ignoring its own on-screen prompts to trigger the wrong one. And with that, no internal consistency for how different characters control” Indeed! I had precisely those frustrations with the first Lego Marvel Super Heroes game. I loved the setting and the characters and the humour, but the gameplay was summarised thus: travel until hitting an (in)visible barrier, then try and remember the button combination/character that lets you perform move X that clears said barrier. On failing to get the correct combination, I would get a hint from the game, but still fail to trigger a switch by not standing in the correct place/doing things in the right order/pushing the buttons correctly. It didn’t help that after playing for 2-3 hours my game save just magically disappeared and took me back to the start…retired to the “will not complete pile”.

    • Mouse_of_Dunwall says:

      I found a lot of the gameplay in the first game’s story campaign to be rather tedious too (and it bothered me that Spider-Man couldn’t be used when a puzzle needed a super-smart character). Most of the fun for me was in traveling through the open world and unlocking new characters.

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    Neurotic says:

    I don’t know John, you seem to have many more problems with the TT LEGOs, and this one specifically, than me and my two LEGO-loving boys have ever found. We have a complete collection of the games on Steam, plus a few on the PS4, and have rarely or never had any of the problems or difficulties mentioned here. Okay, I can agree on the sign-posting — sometimes it’s quite annoying, for example when mobs are hassling you at the same time (good example is Attuma in the underwater bit in this one), but we like to think of it as part of the puzzle.

    The only thing I find consistently annoying between games is the fiddliness associated with rebinding controls and assigning controller devices. Not saying you’re wrong of course, just that we’ve not had the same terrible experiences over the course of, well, all of the games.

  10. thomavo says:

    My boys (aged 5 and 7) have been waiting for this since it was announced, and they’re loving it. They don’t care about bugs and design flaws, they just work around them.

    Since they’re not fluent in English yet, I have to act as translator and mission guide, but we’re all enjoying the huge amount of stuff to do and even the buggy gameplay.

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