It's déjà vu all over again. 15 or so Lego titles removed from Lego Star Wars (2005) and TT Games are still working their way through properties that are perfects fits for their Lego concept. With two Batman/DC games under their belt it's only natural that Marvel is next, and I suppose they only had to wait for the toyline before they could get started.
We arrive a little late to the conference room at the Westin hotel a block away from Moscone Center in San Francisco: Hulk is teaming up with Iron Man and Spider-Man in an effort to solidify Sandman and render him helpless ("I'm melting, I'm melting - oh wait, I'm solidifying, SOLIDIFYING!"). The camera angle is locked behind the characters and producer Phil Ring is switching between the three heroes on the fly. But let's not get a head of ourselves - we stayed on for a second presentation to get the full story so let's start from the top.
Naturally TT Games has opted for an original story to go with the game - there really isn't a story out there with the kind of mix of characters they want, and you'll see unusual combinations of Avengers and X-Men in each of the levels. As with most recent Lego titles Lego Marvel Super Heroes features an open world component, but what we're treated to in this demo is a look at the first level from the main story called Sand Central Station. Word puns never get old do they?
The game is set in New York City for the most part (excursions to Asgard and X-Mansion are also promised - along with locations not part of the main storyline), and it would appear that Abomination and Sandman have taken some "big wigs" hostage and they're demanding cosmic bricks in return for their release. These bricks are part of the main storyline here, even if they're not fully explained, but somehow they are sought after as a bunch of villains have plans to assemble some kind of super weapon. We're shown how Hulk, one of an unnamed number of "big figures" is able to throw cars around and bust through walls ("Walls not good. Walls only keep people apart.") But you can also calm him down and turn the giant green anger beast into Bruce Banner - a scientist capable of manipulating various machinery.
While not sporting the voice of Robert Downey Jr (as far as we could tell, voice acting announcements are due at a later date - and the voices heard could be placeholders for all we know), Iron Man/Tony Stark had an uncanny physical resemblance to the actor. As uncanny as any lego to real life character likeness ever witnessed. Iron Man hovers around the level and shoots missiles. He will also collect different suits over the course of the game, sort of like Batman. Very different gameplay than with Hulk, and Spider-Man who web slings, crawls up walls and uses his spider sense, is equally unique. If this is indicative of the variation TT Games will provide, then we're surely in for a good time.
Apart from the trio of characters playable in this level, Wolverine, Captain America, Black Widow, Loki and Deadpool are also confirmed as part of the 100 plus strong cast of playable characters. As you'd expect some of these won't be part of the main storyline, but are unlockable through completing various tasks in the open world. There is also character creation for those not satisfied with the 100 strong Marvel cast.
From a gameplay perspective Lego Marvel Super Heroes is exactly what you'd expect. A light-hearted, accessible co-operative action romp with context sensitive basic puzzle solving and boss battles. The latter is something that TT Games feels is key to the game and they have made sure that we'll see some classic rival match ups.
With seven platforms named on the fact sheet you'd think TT Games are stretched thin, but in fact this is less than usual as dropping the Wii version means less compromise in the overall design (portable versions are developed as separate projects). No next-gen version has been announced as of now, but with a fall 2013 release it shouldn't be ruled out.