The LEGO video game franchise hasn’t changed all that much over the years, and why should it? It’s a formula that works, albeit a fairly basic and straightforward one. It’s usually through this meeting of straightforward, accessible gameplay and lighthearted, comical presentation that the games make themselves so endearing. Let’s take a look at whether or not the LEGO Marvel Collection meets the enduring standards of its predecessors.
Firstly, we should break down what the collection actually comprises. There are three games overall: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, LEGO Marvel Avengers and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. First released in 2013, the first Super Heroes title was available for pretty much every platform under the sun, including handhelds and mobile, as was Avengers (2016) for the most part. Super Heroes 2 was released in 2017, and it was developed with current-gen platforms in mind.
The timeline of these games is important because, while gameplay isn’t hugely different across the three titles, there are some differences in presentation. Comparing the two Super Heroes titles shows a noticeable difference in environment and animation quality, with the earlier title looking a little dull and washed-out in places. To their credit, LEGO games sport a charming, easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic that ages reasonably well, so each game in the collection looks like exactly what you’d expect from something based on children’s building blocks.
Gameplay is easy to pick up and has a surprising amount of versatility to it. These are games with rosters consisting of over one hundred characters from the Marvel universe, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Iron Man can fly, so immediately he presents himself as a go-to character for getting rid of annoying ground enemies. Spider-Man can web-sling around, as you might expect, so he’s good at keeping out of harm’s way. On the other hand, there’s Hulk who . . . well, we all know what Hulk does. That’s just scratching the surface; the amount of characters you can choose from is staggering.
Progressing through each game’s story is how you’ll unlock most of the roster, and they’ll be available to play once you’ve encountered them in a mission. Individual abilities aside, heroes are also categorized into particular groups, and you’ll need to keep these in mind to tackle each level’s hurdles. Brutes like Hulk, for example, are the only ones who can interact with obstacles adorned with green handlebars, which is essentially the game saying, “Throw this at something.”
These aren’t complex titles, and they’re all the better for it. Obstacles and puzzles are color-coded to indicate what type of hero or ability you need, and the games aren’t exactly stingy with on-screen hints either. For younger players, I imagine there’s a lot of fun to be had in using your favorite Marvel characters to smash through enemies and figure out how to tackle the newest threats. This is the heroics of comic-book heroes combined with the whimsical childhood fun of LEGO, after all.
If you’re on the older side, well, you likely aren’t going to find the puzzles very engaging. Fortunately, there’s plenty to enjoy for whose love of Marvel isn’t limited to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plenty of characters who so far have only appeared in the comics are featured here, including Sam Wilson as Captain America and Jane Foster’s Thor, amongst many, many others.
Story-wise, Avengers is the only game in the collection that follows any of the established MCU plots. Its story mainly mirrors that of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, whilst also incorporating elements from earlier films focusing on Captain America, Thor and the rest of the early team. The irreverent, cocky charm of the films is still there, impressively, though in a more child-friendly manner.
The two Super Heroes games both follow plots independent of the MCU’s story arcs. The first game focuses on the Silver Surfer, who is attacked and captured by Doctor Doom; the battle between them causes powerful “Cosmic Bricks” to scatter about the world, and it’s the heroes’ job to get to them before the bad guys do. Super Heroes 2 begins with the Guardians of the Galaxy facing off against Kang the Conqueror as the latter attacks the Nova Corps. On Earth, a series of simultaneous worldwide incidents force the Avengers back into action.
All three stories carefully walk the line between being appropriate for kids and entertaining for adults. They generally accomplish this pretty well, though the focus is decidedly on younger players. I doubt any of the three plots will linger in the minds of older players once they’re done with the game, but there’s a compelling blend of comedy and earnest superhero fun in each game to keep people interested. For the most part, the voice acting is on par with the storytelling, though there are a few characters whose voices sound like awkward, ham-fisted impersonations of their MCU movie counterparts.
The LEGO Marvel Collection really begins to shine when played with a friend – no matter the game. They’re all perfectly entertaining experiences when played solo, but there’s certainly a risk of repetition starting to spoil your enjoyment after all. When played coop, there’s an extra dimension to it all, which is certainly in the DNA of LEGO as a whole. It seems unlikely that any part of the collection would be made drastically easier by teaming up with someone, but there’s nothing quite like pulverising enemies into little LEGO bricks with a friend.
The LEGO Marvel games are hardly the pinnacle of expressive storytelling or deep, nuanced gameplay, but that was never the point. What they do excel at is providing dozens of hours of straightforward, no-nonsense fun, and that’s an uncommon thing these days. Whether you want to unlock the full 100+ characters or simply feeling like smashing things to bits as Hulk, this is casual, easy enjoyment at its best.