This is it: the holy grail of today’s popular culture finally transformed into a LEGO game.
Where LEGO Batman 2 was a test run in creating an open-world Gotham City filled with iconic superheroes, the Marvel interpretation of that takes the idea much further, and is one of the most comprehensively geeky and excelsior bits of merchandise a House of Ideas fan could ask for.
A story involving many of Marvel’s villains teaming up leads the heroes of this universe to rally together. LEGO Marvel’s grab bag of cut-scene quip-offs retains the series’ trademark daft (and oddly British) sense of humour, lightly parodying the publishing giant’s icons in a broadly amusing way.
If you’re enamoured with the look of next year’s LEGO Movie, the comedy value here seems roughly the same, with all of your favourite comic-book champions titting about as opposed to playing at high-level melodrama. But the scripting, crucially, has the same multi-generational humour as LEGO Batman 2, and indeed, Marvel’s own stable of interconnected movies, and remains the underlying appeal of this series.
The Hulk, especially, is dialled up as a crowd-pleaser with his own aggressive moral compass forming a real highlight, while the voice-acting, mainly borrowed from the Avengers Assemble cartoon, does a fine job of evoking the movie interpretations of the characters without being reverential to them.
While you’re unlikely to ever see Spider-Man and the Avengers in the same movie, here you at least get to sample them co-existing in a fairly cinematic framework, facing threats on an intergalactic scale that zones in on many touchstone from your favourite superhero movies.
The gameplay is roughly the same as it has been since 2005’s first LEGO Star Wars game, a two-player-friendly easy mix of puzzles, platforming and a little bit of action. As with LEGO Batman 2, other than the proliferation of groups of heroes turning up in the story, the main fun is to be had outside the main missions. The open-world Manhattan available to players is populated by unlockable Marvel supporting characters. It’s a Marvel Manhattan, after all – jumping off the Helicarrier is one of the game’s defining moments, and the city has a flavour that suits the source material.
The character roster is colossal, and though the main story only really exposes you to a snapshot of its full 100-plus character breadth, the presence of less obvious heroes like Gambit, Black Bolt and Iron Fist, alongside expected faces like Deadpool, Daredevil and Black Widow shows how much the developers care about the property. Unless your expectations are ridiculously high and you’re bitter about Sunspot, Quicksilver or Hyperion not making the cut, there’s so much to be satisfied with.
The familiar sound effect of Iron Man’s lasers, the Hulk animations that evoke the fate of Loki in Avengers Assemble and the cameos by Stan Lee – this is the sort of stuff that will mean something to Marvel aficionados of many shades, both casual filmgoers and hardcore comic-book fans, and then there are even subtler embedded references to Superior Spider-Man and shawarma.
There’s so much good will here, and while the LEGO formula has only really been slightly furthered over previous entries, you should absolutely revel in this very giving slice of fan-service wish fulfilment.