Can there be too many Lego video games? After the less than overwhelmingly positive reviews that previous Lego video games like Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Lego Jurassic World, is it time for the Lego video game machine to stop churning out more mediocre products? Could Lego Marvel’s Avengers buck this downward spiral? Let’s find out.
Lego Marvel’s Avengers follows the tried and tested Lego video game formula and adapts several movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to give that extra depth to the Lego Marvel franchise that began with Lego Marvel Super Heroes in 2013. Or at least, that was probably supposed the plan.
Instead, we get a disappointingly faithful adaptation of the Avengers movie and its sequel Age of Ultron. Yes, you heard right, I said “disappointingly faithful”. If there’s one thing I liked about the Lego video game adaptations, is that it never took itself seriously, and always had a joke or a punchline that came out of left-field. Unfortunately, not only is that zany sense of humour significantly reduced in this game, but Lego Marvel’s Avengers actually takes what little fun there was out of the source material. The comedic timing of the punchlines are lost in translation, and you’re left with an almost soulless recreation of the movies.
Once you look at the game’s development, you can understand why. Unlike Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which was replete with original voice acting, Lego Marvel’s Avengers is constrained by the need to adapt audio directly from the movies. While this is clearly done for budget reasons, it really takes a lot of the fun out of the game and explains why most of the humour comes from awkwardly timed cameos by Stan Lee, who returns to voice himself.
The other problem with being faithful to the source material is that Lego video games are traditionally 2-player games, while several scenes in the movies don’t involve two heroes. This becomes obvious when one player has to be a generic S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Agent Williams, but truly becomes detrimental to enjoyable gameplay in the Hulkbuster mission, when one player has almost nothing to do while playing the orbital tracking platform Veronica.
That said, this game may actually be a good starting point for newcomers to the Lego video game series, or to the Marvel Universe, or both. The levels in the story mode follow the movie so faithfully that each level plays extremely linearly. There’s almost no complexity to the puzzles in the game and therefore, none of the frustrations that emerged from playing through the larger maps of Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. That being said, the smaller maps meant that I had to destroy almost everything in each map in order to receive the “True Avenger” status – which is awarded once you collect a specific number of Lego studs.
Lego Marvel’s Avengers does include several new gameplay features, including a finishing move when fighting enemies. Though this increases your score, the animation ended up being so repetitive that there were times when I definitely preferred button smashing. Another new feature of the game is that each pair of characters have their own team-up moves, which can be triggered by either player when a certain cue is given. The team-up move clears all the enemies in a wide radius, so you’ll definitely want to use this as often as you can. Several of the team-up animations are definitely fun to watch, though it was difficult in the one-player game to actually find the right timing to do the move, since it used the same button as the finishing move.
Once you get through all the chapters of the main story, though, the game really takes a turn for the better. The main story only takes up 20% of the game’s entirety, with the majority of the game happening around several hubs like Asgard, the Helicarrier, the Barton farmhouse and of course, the main hub of New York City. Within these hubs you have a smorgasbord of side quests, from puzzles to beat-them-ups, to races, each unlocking either a new playable character, a vehicle or a gold brick.
And this is where the game truly shines. Marvel fans will relish the opportunity to play with some more obscure characters, like the stars of Avengers Academy (the comic title, not the mobile game) Hazmat, Reptil and Veil, the stars of Young Avengers, Kate Bishop, Wiccan and Hulkling, as well as slightly more familiar characters like Ms Marvel Kamala Khan and Jessica Jones (in her Jewel costume), for the first time in a Lego game. With over 200 playable characters to unlock, I imagine this is what most Marvel fans will enjoy. It also doesn’t hurt that several of the missions reference comic book storylines, like Jessica Jones looking for a babysitter for Danielle Cage, and Ms Marvel fighting off crocodiles armed with lasers.
Though we weren’t too impressed with the main story’s voice acting, in the 7 freeplay hubs, things do get a little better. Agent Phil Coulson (voiced to perfection by the actor who originated the role, Clark Gregg) gives some hilarious commentary as you travel through the streets of Manhattan, completing quest after quest, often making side references to events of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and once, even paying homage to his Dubsmash battle with Hayley Atwell. On her part, Hayley Atwell does also get a small voice cameo when you discover Peggy Carter in Manhattan. Even the generic extras on the street have lots of humourous things to say, like someone with an Irish accent wondering why all the currency in the US is the same colour.
All in all, Lego Marvel’s Avengers is definitely not for everyone. It really doesn’t add much to the tried and tested formula, and the main story (though short and only taking up 20% of the entire game) is still a bit of a chore to endure. That said, hardcore Marvel fans, especially fans like me who enjoy the more obscure characters will be relieved to know that many of their favourites have been faithfully adapted into the zany Lego universe. That said, Lego Marvel Super Heroes still remains the superior offering, so only get Lego Marvel’s Avengers if that one didn’t satisfy your Lego Marvel fix.