‘LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ preview: Galactus is coming, everybody look busy

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The Punisher might be a grim vigilante with a serious case of bloodlust, but his LEGO equivalent is a dedicated eco-warrior. We didn’t get to see his planet-preserving tactics in action during a recent hands-off demo of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes on PlayStation 4, but his oddly PC (that’s “politically correct,” not “personal computer”) rendering is representative of what TT Games is working toward in its latest effort. Marvel Comics’ deep roster of superheroes and supervillains isn’t always kid-friendly, but the publisher gave the game’s dev team the all clear to massage canon with its trademark witSure, the thought of a toned-down Punisher – or Deadpool, or any number of other vaguely frightening superheroes – is alarming, but all indications suggest that fans are in for yet another goofy LEGO game.

Story/Concept

Eater of plastic fantastic worlds. The roster of 150+ playable heroes and villains demands a big focus for the story, and there are few plot points in the Marvel universe that are bigger than a Galactus threat. The story kicks off when the Silver Surfer arrives on Earth as Galactus’ herald. His surfboard is shattered after an unfortunate encounter in the sky and its pieces scatter across the world, in the form of Cosmic Bricks.

Each piece of the shattered surfboard carries an immense amount of power within it, so of course Doctor Doom sets out to retrieve them all. His ultimate goal: to use the scattered Bricks to build his “Doom Ray of Doom.” Doom enlists the aid of every supervillain in his rolodex, which in turn prompts S.H.I.E.L.D. bossman Nick Fury to get a massive gang of heroes together. Looming over all of this, of course, is the fact that Silver Surfer has come to Earth. Where he goes, Galactus is sure to follow. And that’s never a good thing for anyone other than Galactus, given his tendency to devour entire planets.

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The Fantastic Avengers. Our demo begins on the flight deck of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, which floats high above the open world streets of New York City for the duration of the game. Captain America and Mr. Fantastic are teamed up to take back the Baxter Building – headquarters of the Fantastic Four – from Doctor Octopus, who is in on Doctor Doom’s plot. The mission begins when our two heroes leap off the deck of the Helicarrier and plummet down into Bryant Park, with Cap deploying his parachute and Mr. Fantastic turning into one at the last moment. It’s adorable.

Gameplay

It’s a LEGO game. Seriously. If you’ve played other LEGO games, you know what to expect here. Superpowers amount to puzzle-solving tools, such as when Mr. Fantastic transforms into a giant bolt cutter in order to snip a lock sealing Bryant Park shut. Of course, he can’t simply transform from out of nowhere. LEGO games are built around light puzzle-solving, after all. First he needs to slip through a sewer grate in order to get to the street outside the park, then he needs to break some objects and use their pieces to build a power-activating pad right in front of the locked gate. Only then can he transform and free Captain America, even though comic book Cap probably could have vaulted over the 15-foot high iron fence with no problem.

Disbelief, suspend thyself. This is a LEGO game, after all.

Toying with the Marvel Universe. The fight with Doc Ock eventually spills out onto the rooftops of New York City. As our heroes pursue the many-armed no-goodnik we catch sight of a big Marvel billboard in the background. It’s actually the LEGOfied site of Marvel’s real life NYC headquarters; go there, and you’ll meet up with a team of disgruntled comic book writers who need some help.

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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is filled with easter eggs like this. There are 50 “Stan in Peril” moments that amount to Stan Lee cameos in which players help the legendary comic creator out of a variety of jams. Find them all and Stan Lee unlocks as a playable character… and yes, he has every power you can imagine. Finish the game’s story and watch the full credits sequence and you’ll get another easter egg, in a playful nod to Marvel Studios’ work. Some of these easter eggs even put you in the shoes of the villains, such as one in which Magneto and Mystique face off against Mysterio over a stolen chess set. It’s not clear how you find this or what level of interaction you have with it, but it’s worth mentioning that Deadpool, voiced by Nolan North, narrates it.

Presentation

Shiny plastic play. The look of LEGO games haven’t changed a whole lot from release to release, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is no exception. Our demo showed off the PlayStation 4 version of the game, and while there aren’t any content differences separating the next-gen versions from the current-gen ones, you can definitely see the difference. The characters themselves look like actual, physical toys running around on your screen, with very convincing visual effects – particularly in the way light reflects off their multicolored bodies – selling the illusion. There’s somewhat less detail in the surrounding world, but it helps to make both the characters and important points of interest really pop. 

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We unfortunately didn’t get to see a vast chunk of the open world New York City, so it’s hard to really give you a sense of what the “next-gen difference” means for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. We’re told that the new consoles will deliver more enemies, more bricks on the screen, improved post effects (like the aforementioned shiny plastic), and a busier city overall.

Takeaway

If you generally enjoy LEGO games, it looks like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will deliver. It’s definitely a product of the same thought processes that created the dense, content-packed worlds of Middle-earth and Gotham City in LEGO The Lord of the Rings and LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, respectively. If you don’t tend to go for these games, a love for all things Marvel might still pull you through. None of this should come as a surprise. TT Games hasn’t carved out a successful niche in the family-friendly market by changing its approach again and again. The play here is as LEGO as ever, for better or for worse. 

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes comes to – get ready for a long list – PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS this fall.

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