LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

I’ve Got One Hand In My Pocket

And the other is playing as Iron Man in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril on the Vita.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: December 3, 2013
There’s been a long-standing backlash against the Lego series on portable franchises. It’s true, these versions aren’t usually as robust as their console counterparts and in general they’ve had issues with graphics not being up to snuff. Part of the problem has always been that the games are developed for the DS or 3DS and then also ported to the PSP or Vita and those versions don’t take advantage of the more powerful equipment that Sony usually provides over its Nintendo counterparts.


Given that history it’s fair to say that I was a little leery of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Heroes in Peril when it arrived for the Vita. I really had a great time with the PS3 version and I was interested in seeing how it was going to translate this time around. I thought that LEGO Harry Potter wasn’t bad at all, although my opinion may have been a bit clouded by the fact that I didn’t play the console version at all.

It’s true that the changes are more drastic than just adding in a subtitle. The biggest difference is how there is no longer a hub world. Instead each mission from the main game is broken down into three small sections that are a slice of the main games levels. I wasn’t quite observant enough to see if they are identical sections or if they were reworked a bit, but they are close enough. Those sections each have a fairly robust set of challenges that cover everything from getting bits to finding kits to level-specific stuff like not damaging civilian stuff or smashing tons of flowers. It’d not really comparable to the flow of the main game at all, but this almost feels like an early Tony Hawk game that throws you into these short little levels that you’ll likely have to run through multiple times to do everything. It’s telling that every level has a time challenge that almost all under 2 minutes.

Don’t look at that as a deterrent though! I find that to be the optimal way to approach these levels on that platform. Frankly the levels in the console could run a little long, taking almost an hour if you really take the time to explore and get all the goodies (and do it all again in free play if you really want those collectibles!). In this format you just hit all the highlights from the story and you can play for 2 minutes or 2 hours and either way it feels like you are getting a complete experience. Plus each challenge is like a little puzzle. It’s not out of the realm to say at times I found that setup to be more enjoyable than the long-form versions of the same missions.

So yeah, the gameplay is fine, but you can’t ignore some of the more glaring things that are missing. You’ve got much more limited powers in each character and the freedom of movement feels a lot more restricted. Part of the joy of the console version was flying around as Iron Man or Thor and zipping in and out of LEGO junk. You’ll feel a lot more grounded here, and the range of things you can interact certainly feels a lot more restricted. I am not 100% positive, but I don’t think that the roster is quite so filled out on the Vita either. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a great selection of guys to use here and almost anyone you can think of will be unlocked at some point, but I don’t think some of the deeper stuff that was on console is here.

The other HUGE missing piece is the hub. In the console version the hub plays out as a LEGO GTA almost, with various vehicles everywhere to steal and drive around in, a hundred or more side missions stranded about, and a dozen major plot areas where you start each level. On the Vita this is all wiped away. You’ll just dump to a menu area between missions where you can shop and your progress is only barred by how many challenges you’ve completed in earlier levels. You’ll just hop into area after area with nothing more than a loading screen in the way. Sure, the hub isn’t the be-all end-all but it was a big part of the console and this bare-bones approach is a noticeable aspect of the handheld version.

What ended up happening for me was that I found the Vita version to be a nice companion piece to the PS3/PS4 version. I loved my time with the game on the console, and truthfully if it were the same thing on the Vita there wouldn’t be a whole lot of reason to have both (unless they were cross-buy of course!). I’m actually fine with this stripped down version as being almost a third way to go through each level (along with Story and Free Play on console) as opposed to a replacement for the home version. That doesn’t mean I am satisfied with the blurry cutscenes and nerfed power set and if this was to be your only version of the game I do feel it would be a letdown if you knew what existed in the other version.

For me, someone who had already put a ton of time into the PS3 version, this game was a charming little challenge-based platformer that was my go-to game on commutes for a month. If you’ve got the LEGO itch and only have a handheld system this is also a fine product. It’s only disappointing to those expecting a rehash on the console on a small screen.
The Verdict
7.5

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes on the Vita is certainly a scaled-back version of the console game but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of fun here. There are enough differences to set the Vita version apart rather than decrying it as crippled.

7.0Graphics:

It's not the best looking game on the Vita, that's for sure. The series has long been plagued by blurry movies and the trend continues. The colors don't even seem to pop like they usually do on the system.

8.5Sound:

The voice acting is fantastic and I'll never get tired of the click-clack of Legos assembling.

7.0Control:

The touch screen stuff work well, but I found the combat and especially the flying to be far less responsive than I would expect. It's serviceable but not satisfying.

7.5Gameplay:

It's more bite-sized than its big brother, but that actually works well given the platform. You'll still get all the same levels just in an abridged form and with new sets of objectives. Still a lot to unlock here.