There was a time when those LEGO games seems like a cute little diversion, but now we’ve had what seems like a half-dozen Star Wars games, we’ve seen Indiana Jones, Batman, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and more that I can’t even remember get the LEGO treatment. I played the first few games but then they started to feel very similar. Sure they were still funny (it’s actually a bit shocking how great the LEGO humor consistently is) and the variety of LEGO dudes was always impressive but the fact was these were basically kids games and not only were they easy, the core concepts weren’t really changing. Collect bits, search for hidden stuff that can only be reached with X’s powers or Y’s assistance, unlock stuff, repeat. Between levels you’ll hang around in a hub and buy upgrades before heading off into the next episode/chapter/level.
You know what? None of that has changed over the years! However, they have learned to refine and expand on all those concepts so that when you look at Marvel Super Heroes you see something that only vaguely resembles the Star Wars games. It all starts with the hub world which has evolved to contain both a floating aircraft carrier and the whole of New York City. Yes, it’s a pared down Big Apple but there is still a lot of real estate to cover here. Within the city you’ll find entrances to familiar Marvel locations like the Baxter Building, Avenger’s Mansion and Empire State University. These locations are where the missions take place, but that doesn’t meant the rest of the city is an empty wasteland. On the contrary, there are side-activities scattered everywhere to give something to do that isn’t an hour-long commitment like the story levels are. While there are well over a hundred of those side activities don’t think just anyone can access them. Most are only accessible by characters with a specific power and each one is tailored to take advantage of that particular power.
Oh the powers! That’s another big step forward from the old days. There are a stunning range of powers that Marvel characters can have. You’ve got fire characters, ice characters, LARGE characters, web characters, claw characters, telekinetic characters and many more. Some can fly, some can’t (hilariously, all of them can drive around town! Did I mention you can drive?), some can operate special machinery or locks and others are confused by them. Heck, Reed Richards can turn INTO a car! With such a range of powers and abilities none of the characters feel like they overlap or are just reskins. There is a massive cast here as well, and if you can think of a particular hero or villain they are probably in here, along with their “real life” counterpart and any variants they might have. Non-super beings like J. Jonah Jameson and Jarvis the Butler are here too!
The story missions themselves are well-layered affairs that can take up to an hour and focus on three or four heroes who shuffle in and out of the mission at varying times. You’ll go up against all manner of villains and their henchman, puzzling out some simple conundrums using the various powers. Like all the other games, finishing the level unlocks it for “free play” mode letting you take along a custom team of characters that you’ve unlocked. The more of those side missions you do will unlock more characters so you’re encouraged to really do everything.
The real fun is in those side missions and going back into the story levels in free play to find all the secrets you couldn’t access the first time through. The story mode itself could take you a dozen hours alone, but true believers will get exponentially more time trying to figure out how to rescue Stan Lee from every level and figuring out how to get all 250 of those gold bricks. That’s another thing that’s been a hook in this franchise and once again they’ve found ways to keep making it fun to come back to.
One caveat… this game can be tough for smaller kids. My daughter and her friends played on battle in the intro for 45 minutes, never even remotely being able to figure out how to advance, but still having fun smashing stuff with Hulk and flying around with Iron Man. I think you’ll need a more mature gamer to figure out all the power puzzles BUT these games are very forgiving when it comes to death, only costing you a few bits to reappear exactly where you died.
For someone like me who’s been choosy with which LEGO games I’ve played over the last decade this game was fantastic fun. The whole Marvel catalog is on display here and they’ve really packed the hub world with a lot of unique and addictive content. The move to real voice acting (whenever that happened) went incredibly smooth and is a welcome change from the cute but long-in-the-tooth mute thing they had going on.
Here’s the thing folks. I didn’t have any expectations for LMSH going into it and maybe because of that it really impressed me. I’m going to keep going at it to find all those hidden collectibles and end up putting way WAY more time into it than I ever imagined I would. Easily my favorite LEGO title to date.