Wednesday, December 10, 2014

[REVIEW] Lego Marvel Super Heroes (Wii U)

Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Platform: Wii U
Genre: Open-world action-adventure
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros.

I've always seen Lego video games as inoffensive little diversions that didn't really deserve my attention in a big way. Last year, everything changed when I played the fantastic Wii U exclusive Lego City Undercover, which is not only the epitome of the Lego series in my opinion, but also one of my favorite titles on the console's entire library. Of course, this also means that Undercover will forever be a point of comparison for newer Lego games I play, and in the case of Marvel Super Heroes, the comparison isn't flattering.

The game's general structure is pretty much what you'd expect from a Lego game: it features loads of possible characters for you to unlock and play as, in this case, heroes and villains in the Marvel universe. Each character brings their own skillset to the table, allowing you to overcome challenges and solve puzzles. The traditionally tongue-in-cheek approach to storytelling is also present, and in this particular case it's a bit hit-or-miss. It did help me get into the "superhero" vibe, since, given the conceptual absurdity of costumed vigilantes combating crime, I tend to cringe a bit at all the grittiness and seriousness that permeate the genre these days. (Except for Batman. Batman is awesome.)

Even the mayor was more pleasant in Lego City Undercover.

Like Undercover, Lego Marvel Super Heroes features an open world (in this case, a Lego version of New York City), but there are key differences. For starters, while in Undercover you were free to wander around from the get-go, LMSH tasks you with completing several mundane story quests (more on those later) before you get to the exploration part. And when the exploration finally comes, it suffers from poor pacing choices: you can simply become Iron Man and fly over almost the entire city the first time you ever set foot on it. This took away the sense of mystery and wonder I felt in Lego City, where protagonist Chase McCain's limited early exploration skillset kept me guessing about all those initially inaccessible rooftops and hidden spots.

Limitations help foster a sense of wonder in exploration sequences. Not that Iron Man would know anything about that.
The city itself is populated by citizens in need, who the heroes have to help in order to unlock collectibles. Most of these are merely fetch quests, however, resulting in boring gameplay. Other points of interest are the many unlockable characters and vehicles scattered around New York, often needing a specific hero's power to reach. Given that you're not free to change between heroes at will, it becomes hard to bother with going back to a changing spot, getting into a new skin, then going all the way back to the item to claim it. Overall, collectibles are handled in a quite unexciting way, which is a further blow to the game's exploration aspect.

Story missions, of course, are the other main part of the game, and here things go completely awry. They are boring, buggy, unimaginative romps through famous Marvel locations, featuring some extremely forced puzzle solutions. During one of the early missions, for example, I had to get the Hulk to the top of a small building. There was a platform that looked like an elevator (with the generic futurist design of every gadget, you're never sure), so I stood on it; nothing happened. I proceeded to scour the place for more hints on what I had to do, coming back to the elevator a few more times, all to no avail. When I was about to give up, I went back to the elevator one final time, stood on it again, and voilĂ : now it worked, just because. Thing is, the game has terrible prompt detection, resulting in situations like this one, or the many times it asked me to hit a button to activate a setting-based ability, only to prompt an entirely different ability when I did so.

Deflect that laser ray... somewhere. Because, reasons!

On the plus side, Lego Marvel Super Heroes does offer a load of content, and this should be enough to keep you entertained for a long time if you can overlook the game's missteps. I openly admit I'm not the biggest super hero enthusiast in the block, but I'd be more than willing to dedicate long hours to this game if it weren't for all the bugs and poor level design. As is, this is a title better suited for die-hard Marvel fans or less demanding gamers.

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