There is always something special about a new LEGO game, especially when it also just happens to be using one of my own nerd passions as the source material. I really loved the first LEGO MARVEL Super Heroes title, as a fan of MARVEL comic books and of LEGO games, it was sublime to see how large a chunk of the MARVEL universe was brought to life in LEGO with a huge roster of characters and a large world and back in 2013 when it first came out, it really was a game changer for the series after taking so much of the feedback from LEGO Batman 2 to improve its size and scale. Since that time the MARVEL Cinematic world has flourished and grown to crazy levels and instead of a follow up to Super Heroes, we were instead treated to a LEGO game based on the Avengers films and though it was fun, it was also very limited. But now finally we get the true sequel and perhaps the largest roster of characters in a LEGO game to date.
We start with the Guardians of the Galaxy doing what they do best, protecting the galaxy when they are called upon to help protect Nova Prime who are under attack from Kang the Conqueror. Soon they discover that Kang has been travelling through time conquering different MARVEL locations in order to create his own crowning city to celebrate his majesty and genius, Chronopolis. The Guardians soon rush to EARTH, realising that it is next on Kang’s list to get help to defeat Kang, and it will take all our favourite heroes to do this.
It should be mention that unlike the first game, the roster this time has been affected by licensing issues and as such, and very sadly, the game no longer features those from the X-Men Universe which means no Wolverine or Cyclops and no Fantastic Four. Even Deadpool who was a fun Narrator and extra surprise in the first game is now replaced with GwenPool, who despite dressing like and acting like Deadpool does not have any of his abilities or affiliation but based on a special run of comics following the success of Spider-Gwen (Gwen Stacey becoming Spider-Man) which saw Gwen Stacey re-imagined as different MARVEL heroes including Wolverine and Doctor Strange. With so many fan favourites now missing from the line up, there has been a obvious focus on distracting fans by featuring more recent cinematic favourites such as the Guardians of the Galaxy who take a front and centre position in the roster as well as some of the characters getting a visual look such as Spider-Man now wearing the Spider-Man Homecoming suit and Thor with short hair as seen in Thor Ragnarok. It is noticeable but does not spoil too much of the story itself but I did miss having the X-Men in the roster.
So with that said I really had a great deal of fun with this game and was genuinely impressed with the size of the playable world. There is a true open world feel to the game following on from previous titles such as LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham and LEGO MARVEL Avengers where outside of doing the main story missions, players are free to explore any of the locations that make up Chronopolis, each with their own side missions and puzzles to complete as the player works to collect the now traditional Gold bricks and to find new characters to unlock in the roster. I appreciated how the game doesn’t pressure players to stick to the campaign, simply placing a marker to where the next story mission is and simply lets players enjoy a good explore and walk about. This is where the magic that makes a LEGO game so much fun comes into play with the freedom to do and play as you want but also that the game embraces players who choose to do this by having so much extra content to enjoy and play for doing so.
I also loved the little details as always in LEGO games with the dialogue of just random people who live in the different regions often chatting about the current state of the world or talking about the heroes themselves with some really delightful moments of dialogue exchanges you can come across just randomly. That attention to detail also follows with each and every member of the roster with some having very fun character abilities when you hold B down (Circle on PS4) which fans of the series will recognise but with certain characters this will also have a superb little touch such as Star Lord who will stop to put on his walkman which will play the first 40 seconds or so of well known songs from Guardians of the Galaxy to which he will start dancing to and if any basic enemies are nearby, will also join in for a bit of a boogie, even in the middle of a boss fight! The fun of discovering such things are all part of the make up that make LEGO games so much fun for fans of them and especially for those who know the source material used really well. Also Kang is the best written villain in any LEGO game so far, the dialogue he has is so well voice acted that just stopping to listen to him on the Chronopolis PA System is a true joy.
It would be fair to say that the focus of the gameplay now revolves around playing as a team and most of the story missions themselves feature anything from a three character team to up to five. Now the player can switch between the characters quickly using the shoulder buttons and each character is there for a reason based upon their powers for what is required for that mission. Some of the team ups can be quite fun but I did find that the same core characters are used a lot with the introduction of a new character whenever the location of the story moves to next visiting a new city that makes up Chronopolis. Teamwork is vital in solving some of the puzzles to gain progression with certain powers required and the design of the levels both from a gameplay and visual point of view are truly spot on. The only real niggle I had to the level design has to come in the form of the push for ‘Free Play’ to complete everything. For those not familiar with LEGO games, when you complete a story mission you will unlock the ‘Free Play’ option which allows you to replay the mission but with free choice over which character from the roster you can pick, with the added ability to freely change during the level just by holding down Y (Triangle on PS4) to bring up the large character roster.
My only complaint with this comes in just how much of the level is really designed for Free Play, a lot of the mini kit collectibles, new character cards and even rescuing Stan Lee, who returns to make his famous MARVEL cameos, will require a different character power then your team will have. The fun of first hearing Stan asking for a super hero to save him soon becomes one of disappointment when you are unable to save him but his cries can be heard right up until you move to the next section of the level.
One of the downsides to having a fairly large hero team each level is that the combat itself can feel really clumsy, especially when using big characters such as Hulk with the combat just becoming a button mash which then undoes the attempt to feature the hero team up combo moves with the hit detection being off at times. The loss in precision just makes it ugly at times which is highlighted more in the boss fights with no real reaction when you hit the boss character and even at times you can get their health bar all the way down but the fight carries on until the animation sequence is completed. The camera can also be a pain at times with flying characters and during some levels not offering enough view or moving too slowly to help you know where to go or see where to land. But these niggles do interfere too much but are noticeable enough and hopefully future updates can smooth these out.
LEGO MARVEL Super Heroes 2 is a return to form for the LEGO series in the MARVEL universe after taking a time out to focus on adapting the movies into a game. With the freedom to tell their own MARVEL story in their own LEGO MARVEL universe, the game is able to tell a better and original story with the TT Games spin and it more than delivers enough fan service for MARVEL fans and LEGO game fans. As someone who worked to get 100% of the game done on both the Xbox 360 release and PlayStation 4 remastered of the first game, I will admit to being a little daunted by just how much there is to do in Super Heroes 2 but the world is just such a fun place to be in as a player that I know I will relish every moment until that final Gold Brick and roster character is discovered. I get a real kick out of seeing the different variations of heroes from different time eras so having Spider-Man Noir meeting modern day Spider-Man before meeting Spider-Man 2099 is a real treat. I do appreciate the blending of their own vision of the MARVEL universe and that of taking cinematic MARVEL universe as different players will know these heroes from different mediums either comic books, the films or TV animation shows. The effort to include every form of MARVEL fan here in the fan service appeal is something I found satisfying.
With Christmas approaching this is the perfect gift for any MARVEL fan, although I am still very disappointed that online co-op is still not included but they have tried to encourage some sofa team ups with the new four player Battle arena but what I have pleaded with for so long now is a return to having actual online co-op for these games and with team ups now standard, it would be so much fun to share this experience with friends online instead of it purely being a solo experience story wise. There is just so much to do and enjoy in this game which made me smile from the very moment I started the story to the moment the credits finished rolling, by the way there are also post credit scenes you do not want to miss so do watch them fully even if the only song that plays is Mr Blue Sky which will have you dancing for the first two times it plays but by the time the fourth repeat of it kicks in you will have to right the urge to skip the credits.
The season pass is a very acceptable £11.99 and will being six new levels and character packs to an already huge experience, some will be based on future MARVEL cinematic films such as Ant-Man and the Wasp as well as Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. There is so much MARVEL content to come with this game in the future that it is just staggering how much they can put into these games which just keep getting bigger with each release.
Now I am just hoping the next release will either take us back to the DC Comic universe or my own personal hope is a fully fledged out Doctor Who game…but for now, I am going to indulge in my MARVEL fanboy and I still have a lot of work to do in Chronopolis!