Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a good LEGO game. That feels like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not meant that way, mostly. It combines a vast roster of Marvel heroes, a virtual cornucopia of locations to smash into studs, and a story that… well, look, the story’s not great. In fact, given what they’ve been able to do with the LEGO Batman games, this feels like a step back in most instances, with only a few of the set pieces standing out as anything but forgettable.
I know that sounds like a real “duh!” kind of statement, as the Lego games have never told great stories. So many of them focus on retelling important moments from other properties in funny, cute ways, that they never get to stretch their wings and do their own thing, making the times they do, like LEGO Batman 3, really standout.
The two Marvel Super Hero games try to tread that line, telling their own stories while incorporating aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. LEGO Marvel 2 is supposedly set about 4 years after the first one, though you would be hard pressed to draw that out of the game itself. It opens with the Guardians of the Galaxy rushing to rescue a planet from Kang the Conqueror, one of Marvel’s time-traveling baddies and a near constant enemy of the Fantastic Four and Avengers. After helping to save the populace, but not the planet, the Guardians follow Kang to Earth, hoping to both warn and help the Avengers before it's too late.
Naturally, it’s too late by the time they arrive, and Manhattan, home of the Avengers Mansion and the vast majority of Marvel’s most popular heroes, gets pulled into Chronopolis, a kind of time hub used by Kang as both a prison and arena. This serves as the overworld of LEGO Marvel 2, and its weird mix of different worlds and biomes is one of the highlights of the game. Flying over Chronopolis is an absolute joy, as both tone and palette change effortlessly. The world shifts to a sepia tone as you step foot into Manhattan Noir, takes on a neon hue in 2099’s Nueva York, or reverts to the old world with a medieval castle.
The heroes and villains of the different time periods join their worlds, with the expanded roster including the likes of Spider-Man 2099 and his villains, a gaggle of medieval-themed folks like the Black Knight. A number of more standard heroes, like Luke Cage, wearing costumes that throwback to some of their earlier looks, join the fight as well. Most, though, are sporting their more modern threads, with Tony Stark tooling around in a Mk. 47 Iron Man suit, Spider-Man swinging in his Homecoming Stark-tech suit, and Thor/Hulk running around in duds from Ragnarok. Having played through and unlocked most of LEGO Marvel 1, the heroes that are missing from the roster so far are the real eye-openers. I have not unlocked any of the bevy of mutants Marvel has featured in any of the X-Men related comics, nor have I found anyone related to the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom included.
As per all LEGO games, LEGO Marvel 2 is divided between two main modes. There’s your overworld, where you can run, jump, fly, drive, fly, climb, and fly to your heart's content. It’s populated with activities like races, small puzzles, and random encounters, while also allowing you to freely switch between any of the heroes or villains you’ve unlocked. The camera controls are a bit slow, and while flying seems to have gone through another overhaul since the last time I played one of these, it’s still not quite intuitive enough that you can go without a learning curve.
The second mode is the story mode where you first go through an encounter with a pre-determined set of heroes and then are free to come back in with your entire roster available, making it possible to complete the myriad of collection time sinks. It’s your standard LEGO filler: 10 minikits to collect every level, character tokens to find, a True Hero meter to fill up with studs, and a Stan Lee to save.
The levels themselves are a mixture of simple puzzles, simple combat, and slightly more complex boss fights. Mainly, you break everything until you find the shaky pieces that indicate you can build something, build the thing, switch to the hero that can use the thing, and kill anything that moves that is not in your party. Getting stuck in a room every three or four levels is part of the charm, as you search at a near pixel hunt pace for the item you forgot to break or the thing you forgot to build to progress. As it happens, the game itself managed to bug out on me twice, making it impossible to continue without a reload. Thankfully, it was not indicative of the total experience, but it was super annoying when it did happen, especially when getting stuck and searching for a way out is kind of standard practice.
The system they’ve built works, and is still entertaining if you’re into collect-a-thons, but I am beginning to suspect that, after 12 years, it might be growing a bit stale. I have collected my way through Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, and Marvel, and I’ve never not wanted to get all the things. I don’t want to get all the things. At least, not right now. And whether that is finally my age catching up to me, the lack of available spare time that I would rather spend doing other things, or just being done with what these LEGO games have to offer, I don’t know. But I’m ok with this.
One other thing that should be mentioned: all the voice actors you are normally used to hearing in the majority of these roles, especially from LEGO Marvel 1 are not here this time. Due to the strike, and the majority of voice actors in the last game participating in it, the vocal quality is kind of lacking. There are some notable standouts, mainly Peter Serafinowicz as Kang, or the noted Oreo-reviewer Greg Miller as Howard the Duck, but there’s also some real downers, like whoever they got to do an impression of Nolan North’s Rocket Raccoon. It is just the purest of torture whenever he speaks, and he plays a fairly large roll in the story.
Beyond that, there’s really nothing more to it. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a not terrible time and a pretty good game. While the story is nothing to write home about, and the gameplay is beginning to feel more than a little played out at this point, you know, definitively, if you want to play this game or not just based on the title. After 12 years, a LEGO game is a LEGO game is a LEGO game.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!