Whilst Marvel Superheroes 2 feels something like the hundredth (it’s actually the nineteenth) Lego game produced by the team at Travellers Tales, it never ceases to amaze me that the developers are able to continually refine and enhance the formula to keep it feeling relatively fresh. In this latest installment, The Guardians of the Galaxy team takes centre stage (amongst a cast of literally hundreds of other characters) and it is the same wit, charm and irreverent escapism that their movie franchise offers which makes Marvel Superheroes 2 so enjoyable.
Unbound by an existing story or movie tie-in, the writing in Marvel Superheroes 2 really steps things up by introducing time-travelling bad guy Kang the Conqueror as the main villain. His inclusion really means that the gloves are off in terms of level and character variety and because of his presence and the perfect way that The Guardians and Lego game worlds intersect, anything really is possible.
Across a campaign lasting around seven or eight hours you’ll spend much of your time in the hub world of Chronopolis, yet each time you leave it on another jaunt, you’ll be visiting locations as far flung as Ancient Egypt, Medieval England, an alternate New York City and a host of other Marvel Universe locations such as Xandar and Wakanda to boot. Because Marvel Superheroes 2 is made exclusively for the new current generation of consoles, these worlds are easily the best looking in any Lego game yet, and I dare say that the game overall is the biggest in terms of real estate by quite some margin.
It isn’t just the scale, variety and polish of the levels that makes Marvel Superheroes 2 fun though, it’s the smaller details as well. The first character that players gain control of is Star Lord, and we learn very quickly that by holding down the special move button, he can produce his Ultimate Mix Tape and blast out tunes that make everyone around him (including henchmen) dance to beats like “Mr Blue Sky” by ELO. It’s bang on theme both for Guardians and for Lego, and it feels perfectly implemented here, alongside a script that is full of wit and charm.
Whilst clearly not everyone in the cast of hundreds of characters features in the main story, most Marvel mainstays are present and almost all of them come complete with a range of contextual one-liners and bit part appearances. The Lego games have always had a way of packing a lot of character into each scene using a combination of great animation and very few words, and whilst the comedy relief has always worked to alleviate the heavier subject matter of games like Lego Lord of the Rings, it just feels very much at home in Marvel Superheroes 2.
Another great feature in Marvel Supeheroes 2 is the fact that it isn’t afraid to mix up the gameplay. Sure, much of the game consists of the standard Lego tropes – you’ll smash up furniture and rebuild it in different shapes, you’ll use specific hero powers to achieve complete certain builds, but you’ll also use abilities both known and unknown to traverse through interesting sequences. There’s a fantastic underwater sequence that really stands out, whilst another has the player dogfighting with enemies whilst having to simultaneously kick enemy henchmen off the wings of the plane.
Cooperative play (for two players) is certainly where most of the fun can be had in Marvel Superheroes 2, and a number of puzzles that require two heroes to take action at the same time crop up throughout the game. AI partners can be a bit weird about these puzzles, often opting to stand around instead of taking action, but it’s a relatively minor criticism that can usually be resolved by switching between the characters. If you have four players in the house, Marvel Superheroes 2 is the first game in the Lego series (at least as far as I remember) to feature a four player competitive mode – it’s fun and will distract young children, but it’s not going to win any awards for innovation or excitement.
A bigger issue is one that has been present in every Lego game since the very beginning (at least in my opinion) which is that considering the games are relatively kid friendly and reward trial and error and exploration, it can be bloody hard to find the way forwards. As an example, I was stuck in the very opening scene (The Guardians ship) for about twenty minutes just messing around with the scenery in an attempt to find my way out. I mentioned earlier that the campaign is seven or eight hours long, but it could be much shorter if only these moments were better signposted.
All in all, Marvel Superheroes 2 is a very satisfying addition to the series (if not the most satisfying) assuming that what you want is more of the same gameplay that we’ve been seeing for over ten years. Yes, this iteration does make minor tweaks and changes to the basic formula that serve to keep it refreshing, some of which are a consequence of the IP in question, but it also fails to correct the basic (albeit minor) irritations that have been picked up along the way.
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