Mystics have often foreseen events such as the Moon landing, the Titanic sinking and every financial year LEGO dunking one of their licensed properties into their particular brand of gaming. Last year we saw the latest Star Wars film jump into the mix and this year we’re slipping back into the spandex with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2.
Not to be mistaken with LEGO Marvel’s Avengers which was released in 2016, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, is the direct sequel to LEGO Marvel Super Heroes from 2013 — confused yet? Let me explain. Where the Avengers entry focused entirely on the Marvel Cinematic Universe taking from the movies and television shows, Super Heroes instead delves into the much larger back catalog of 78 years worth of comics. What this means is while Marvel squabbles with Sony and Fox over who can be an Easter Egg in which films post credit scene, we finally get to dive back in and play as fan favourites the X-Men… oh wait no they aren’t there. Well at least we have the iconic Fantastic Four… nope… not there either… who do we have? Bowman… and Stingray… cool…
Here lies LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2’s first hurdle. The first installment that came out in 2013 was a massive surprise hit to me as I bought it on a whim being a fanatic comic book fan but a little burnt out from the frequent LEGO video game releases. At that time the Marvel franchise was doing alright but had not turned into the behemoth it is today. As such LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was released into a world before Marvel systematically tried to replace any franchise they didn’t have the right to in their comic line up.
The problem here though is that by removing the Fantastic Four and the X-Men you’re losing a massive chunk of recognisable characters as it’s not just the heroes we can’t have, but also their villain counterparts. Look I love the lesser known characters from Marvel, some of my favourite characters make some very rare appearances. But fans love the X-Men, they were great fun in the first game, and it’s too late to pretend you never made them, Marvel!
Roster aside, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is the best looking LEGO game so far and not being connected to a film franchise, allegedly, means that we also get an original voice cast. This lets the team properly flesh out the brand new story instead of relying on treading on old plot because that’s the only audio they have to work with from the films.
The story is pretty much par for the course. Kang the Conquerer turns up and grabs cities from across space a time to slam them into one mega city where the inhabitants need to compete for supremacy and joins Kang’s army of conquest. You’ve got Manhattan of the Past, Present, Future and alternate timeline, Wakanda, Asgard and others make up the fully explorable city cut off from the rest of reality. The goal of your ragtag team of heroes is to stop Kang and put everything back where it belongs.
“It’s always important to remember with a LEGO game that their key demographic is children, so don’t expect any George R. R. Martin level twists and turns.”
If you’ve ever read a comic book cross over event the story is nothing new but they do a pretty good job of keeping the plot moving without over-complicating things. It’s always important to remember with a LEGO game that their key demographic is children, so don’t expect any George R. R. Martin level twists and turns.
Your main story quests will see you run closed off levels with a set roster where you’ll enjoy platforming, combat, puzzle solving by building things in locations and using your powers to break other things… usually so you can build more things. While these start in a linear fashion you’ll begin to unlock the option to tackle them in your desired order. What this achieves is lost on me but I guess it means you can enjoy manufactured variety?
As previously stated you’ll have a big open map to explore, with small challenges and puzzles to complete. These will grant you either collectibles or another unlockable character. Sometimes these side challenges will also open up Gwenpool missions, short and mostly cute little side missions that break up the usual mechanics of the main game with bizarre stories. Beating these as you would expect will add more characters to your already up-sized roster.
The breadth of content here really isn’t a problem, it’s what you do with this content that matters. Controls feel oddly lackluster here, with much more focus on combat it just doesn’t feel all that fun fighting hordes of enemies. Button presses take a moment to register while movement can feel sluggish at times, all of this adds to a feeling of bedlam in fights rather than tactical control. However, this isn’t the worst culprit when it comes to an awful control scheme.
Flight. Super heroes are best known for flying high without a care in the world. Flight in video games should be fun and it should be an easy mechanic to control. This is not achieved by registering ascend and descend to both the X and O buttons respectively as well as the up and down directional control for your camera. What’s that? You want a better view of the thing you’re flying above? Well how about just flying straight up instead, but don’t worry the camera won’t look where you want it to either because flight control overrides camera control. I’ve no clue who asked for this change but it is painfully frustrating and the fact that you can’t change the control scheme means that this is my life now, watching Dr Strange eat asphalt over and over. Even worse is that the flying in the original LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was an absolute joy! How did we go backwards in four years time?
However, this is the crux of this game: everything is shinier, there are more characters, the world is bigger but somehow LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 manages to pale in comparison to its predecessor. While the new addition offers a bevy of worlds to explore it feels very bits-and-pieces and empty, resulting in a boring backdrop. Manhattan in the original was a delight to explore because of how full and busy it was. It gave the game life and character.
Returning is the custom creator but this brings with it a mix of its own frustrating mechanics. I am still baffled as to why it wouldn’t let me have hair and a collar or why it gave me a pistol but then would only let my character use melee attacks. This time around you’ll also have access to a battle arena but as previously stated, combat isn’t the games strong point so my time with that was short lived. I could make an argument for 2 player split screen co-op but that’s one of the few things they’ve left alone for the last 10 years of LEGO titles and with good reason. It works.
The Bottom Line
I feel like I’ve been harsh on LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, but when I heard the first was getting a follow up I was super excited. The reality is this is not a bad game per se. It has some clunky mechanics but it is not fundamentally broken. The problem is that when compared to the stellar prequel that came before it, this entry into the LEGO licensing line up just doesn’t come out on top. But hey, I got to team up as She-Hulk and America Chavez and that’s the kind of kick-ass girl power I’m here for.