Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: WB Games
Platform(s): PS4, Switch, PC, Xbox One
Like a lot of people who are stressed to the point of their brain resembling month-old minced beef, I have all the time in the world for LEGO games. After picking up the controller for whatever the licensed flavour of the year is, I am instantly transported to a world where skill doesn’t matter, a silly sojourn that I am not in the natural demographic for but will be damned if I don’t enjoy it all the same.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is much of the same that we’ve been seeing from Traveller’s Tales for well over a decade now, just on a bigger scale. If you come into the game expecting something as epiphanic as Journey or as beloved as almost everything Nintendo did and released this year, you might walk away from it a little disappointed.
The basic premise for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is that an old-school villain by the name of Kang the Conqueror has commandeered several regions across universes and spliced them into one, which he calls Chronopolis. This acts as a good excuse to jam in a well-constructed open-world, which you can dive into after a few hours of hand-holding. In truth, the game never stops truly holding your hand; it’s more like it’s constantly grazing your pinky as time goes on.
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The different regions all, well, couldn’t be more different. You’re never too far from either being in ancient Egypt, the Wild West, or modern times, but it’s not just a thoughtless mish-mash of different aesthetics and themes. Arguably LMSH 2’s biggest achievement is in how it perfectly blends into one and even demands exploration of those who might be burnt out on open-world games as a whole, myself included. It’s very inviting to traipse around Attilan and discover all of its trinkets and quirks before wandering off to K’un-L’un and beyond.
It’s lucky, then, that LMSH 2 seeks to broaden its horizons in terms of scale because the core gameplay feels very much the same as always, awkwardness and all. The control system for the PS4 version of the game is nothing short of cumbersome, illogically using the same button to perform special moves as it does to build bricks, resulting in a lot of fiddling until you do it exactly how the game wants you to. Likewise, some characters can perform special prompts with triangle, but this is also used to bring up the character selection menu. In its quest to have as simple a control scheme as possible for its target audience, LMSH 2 has somehow made it almost unwieldy instead, which is extra bizarre when the shoulder buttons have almost zero functionality.
As for what you’ll be doing for the majority of your time with LMSH 2, it boils down to clearing rooms of enemies with square and some lightly taxing puzzles. As there’s no real game over state for losing all of your hearts, there’s no tension for fights at all – once your hearts are gone, you can dive back in to the game almost immediately with no penalties. It’s cathartic to not have to think about combat (or much at all) while playing, in truth, which sets the game at a leisurely pace despite the high stakes facing its heroes.
Of the heroes, there are plenty who stick out as being fun to play. Star-Lord’s jet boots and guns are a real joy to control, as is Doctor Strange’s arsenal of weirdness. On the meathead side of things, Hulk’s about as big of a blast to play as you would expect him to be. However, the characters that you unlock outside of the main quests are rather vanilla, like caricatures of more prominent heroes. Still, the fact that there are so many to collect is damn impressive, filler or not, and will give hours upon hours of extra playtime to completionists to unlock them all.
Another neat little feature of LMSH 2 is in its create-a-character system. It’s fairly limited, allowing you to make small twists on basic designs or to adopt those already used by other characters, but it’s hard not get pumped as a LEGO version of yourself leaping through cities all the same. In roughly forty seconds, I had created the stunning creature below, who I christened Oscar Jazzington and gave the power of flight as well as unrelenting sex appeal.
A facet of TT’s LEGO games that probably doesn’t get enough admiration but would be missed immensely were it to be dropped going forward is its simple approach to drop-in-drop-out couch co-op. I played through plenty of the game with my partner who, after also playing through Hidden Agenda with me, has played more games in the past week than she has in a year. We had a lot of fun together while messing around in the open-world, her constantly losing track of where I was and shrieking in frustration whenever I would accidentally attack her. That’s what these games do best: bridging the gap between people who play more games than they reasonably should and those who almost don’t at all.
As fun and straightforward as it may be, LMSH 2 makes work for itself by technically being rather unpolished. It crashed a couple of times during my playthrough and made me revisit entire levels, but it also rather frustratingly made me replay the same mission I had just completed on a few occasions for no discernible reason. Another time, one of my characters became stuck in a death loop, constantly burning to death before being reborn and then dying all over again in an unending cycle of torture, as if Groundhog Day had been made by sadists. I couldn’t swap to another character with triangle and eventually had to play through the whole level again after restarting the game.
Even with a couple of pretty unavoidable grievances to consider, I had a lot of mindless fun with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, despite the fact that it clearly wasn’t intended for me. If you’re stuck for something to play with young family members, LMSH 2 could be one of your best options on the market right now.