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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes review

With great hardware power comes great, er, games?

Remember your complaints about LEGO games? How simple puzzles with brightly displayed instructions explaining which present character could complete them and a lack of consequence for death combined to make for games that felt like pop-up books? Traveller's Tales doesn't care about that. What it does care about is forcing you not to care either.

LEGO Marvel is a step up, not just on Nintendo consoles, where TT finally feels the need to leave the Wii's technical constraints behind, but as a whole; an acknowledgement that it's time for its hugely successful series to step it up a notch and truly harness the power of the next generation.

You will realise this when, as the X-Mansion burns down around them, you see Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm perform a choreographed dance number to the sound of a piano smashing itself to pieces with the force of its own tune. All of which leads to a door half-opening.

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It took a single character three button-presses to start that interlude, it had no discernible effect on what's going on in the room, and the door you're working on will take another 'puzzle' to actually open, but you'll enjoy every second. That approach, to smother straightforward events with pure, ludicrous bombast, is a philosophy that drives the entire game.

An ultra-simplistic 'good guys stop the bad guy ' tale weaves together as many playable heroes and villains as possible (that being around 150, including henchmen, the Statue of Liberty and, brilliantly, a superpowered Stan Lee). The storyline's so simple, in fact, that it relies on TT's writers, fresh from an excellent turn in LEGO City: Undercover, to pepper it with cheesy jokes, so much so that it ends up playing out like some lost 1940s comic - puns, American jingoism and 'Dr Doom's Doom Ray of Doom' all intact.

The game, a straightforward set of missions in self-contained stages hung on a fully open world version of Marvel's New York (in which the Daily Bugle sits on the edge of Wall Street and Stark Tower overlooks a tiny Central Park), is about as accessible as it gets. Essentially a guided tour of locations from the comic publisher's various film franchises, the emphasis is on familiarity, but it never breeds contempt.

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It's a gentle ride, with the eight-year-old rhythm of puzzles (ranging in difficulty from 'draw a shape with a laser' to 'make The Thing stand on a switch') and combat making up the bulk, but both sides of that formula have been spruced up considerably.

For the former, it's in a push towards the spectacular. Far from LEGO Harry Potter's watch-a-brick-move-for-a-bit approach, Marvel sees fit to reward almost every solution with explosions, complex machinery activating and, occasionally, fairly gruesome results for baddies (although electrocuting a minifig is a little different to the real deal, worried parents).

Combat's been approached rather more simply, by just adding more of it. It's not at all unusual to have four heroes disassembling 10

or more goons at once, with the addition of character-specific combat animations (our favourite is Hulk's reference to The Avengers' 'Puny God' scene) a nice way to ramp up the chaos and disguise simple button-mashery.

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Building on LEGO City's, er, city, New York is speckled with hundreds of gold bricks, side-missions and character unlocks (all handily waypointed from the GamePad touchscreen), every one of which requires a separate challenge, power or puzzle to unlock. The framerate takes a hit, doubly so when you're using the GamePad/TV splitscreen, but it's a small price to pay for such an immaculately created, and creatively rammed, environment.

Traveller's Tales' final trick for getting you invested in its simple, easygoing world is the visuals. We've been impressed by how good TT has made a load of Danish bricks look before, but we've never been astounded. This time a combination of beautiful lighting and bewildering attention to level design means every new stage, even a new corridor, is a treat, particularly when there are dozens of secrets waiting for a replay with all your characters in Free Play mode. Just wait until you see plastic Asgard...

Playfulness and a real love for the source material can be found everywhere. You'll see it in the twisted minifigs created for The Leader and M.O.D.O.K., in how the Avengers theme plays every time you basejump from Helicarrier to New York streets and in the tiny touch that one character among throngs might have, a shout-out from fan to fan. That's the game's philosophy in a nutshell: the challenge is to see everything it has to offer. And you'll want to.


10 comments so far...
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  1. 5OUNDWAVE Monday 16th Dec 2013 at 16:24

    there's a glitch in the doom's house level - you collect 11 minikit piece's instead of 10 - it stopped me from getting 100% - cause of this glitch it stopped me from getting 1 character + skin and 1 gold brick

  2. BulletPhil Monday 16th Dec 2013 at 17:53

    Wow, 91... Almost as good as 3D World.

  3. EdDeRs1 Monday 16th Dec 2013 at 19:33

    needs more Deadpool

  4. SamManSam Monday 16th Dec 2013 at 22:57

    Glad I'm getting this for Christmas, then :D

  5. imbusydoctorwho Tuesday 17th Dec 2013 at 14:20

    For unsure about getting this game for a while, but I gave in at the weekend and got it, and I'm so glad I did.
    I done about 6 levels and spent most of my time doing the side quests and exploring,

  6. Imperfect_Dark Wednesday 18th Dec 2013 at 01:52

    I hope my younger brother gets this for Xmas, I want to play it :D

  7. CraigEmberson Wednesday 18th Dec 2013 at 01:55

    Decent enough game but I have loads of issues with it:

    Yet again, no polishing to the games - They refuse to use the Wii U's anti-aliasing, people in the environment rise into the air and walk through walls and glitching is rife throughout. I'd rather they covered areas with fogging or a blur effect than just have textures look terrible from a distance, yet noticeably so.

    The levels drag on - Often being the same thing, just with slightly different abilities and characters or filling the level with things you just smash... the majority of the time.

    The extras to do around the city are just dialogue you can't skip, where the map tells you where to go and what you need to do. Not just that but the races around the city are clunky and this goes for controls in general. For some reason, your character starts going superspeed, causing a loss of control and it's terrible.

    I like LEGO games but this plays out worse than LEGO City Undercover. It's like they're just copying and pasting, rather than actually having a love for creating a proper and fantastic product that they genuinely care about. Nintendo they ain't.

  8. ReturnOfTheDan Thursday 19th Dec 2013 at 00:07

    The game really is a mixed bag at times, because when the gameplay works its very, very fun but the rest of the time it just seems messy and every so slightly rushed. The controls are pretty bad too - the x button can be used for about two or three things at once which just ruins the overall fun and just makes it frustrating.

  9. RainbowGazelle Saturday 28th Dec 2013 at 23:30

    I've found a bug that freezes the Wii U every time, without fail, rendering this pile of crap uncompletable. ONM, you should be ashamed of yourselves for giving this such a high score, when it's a bug-ridden mess. You're only tempting poor, unsuspecting people to pay-out for a broken game.

  10. hikkirocks Tuesday 31st Dec 2013 at 17:50

    Just started playing this through the story mode as two players, every chapter has been blighted by random bugs and glitches. From the sound suddenly turning into blaring static or the game crashing to a black screen, to characters getting stuck in the landscape and more minor stuff like the stud trails in the city only appearing for one player and not the other. Quality control clearly took a hit to get it out for Xmas. Persevering past the glitches, it is fun to unlock all the Marvel characters and use their powers, but each chapter does get quite repetetive. Very, very strange that the review fails to mention the bugs.

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