While other studios are put under pressure to innovate, evolve and generally lead the pack, the developer behind the Lego titles added features here and there but hasn't altered its basic gameplay template in years. Not only that, Traveller's Tales seems able to weave its building-kit magic over any IP it so chooses. Stars Wars, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Batman and more have been given the Lego treatment and all have been unqualified critical and commercial successes.
One of the reasons for this is that Traveller's Tales seem to be unabashed fans of every single IP they apply the Lego formula to. Sure, players should expect to bash bricks, collect studs, hunt down construction kits, build stuff and batter enemies, but in each of their releases, TT's genuine love for their subject matter imbues their games with a genuine sense of freshness. This is one aspect that is clearly present and correct in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, the latest addition to TT's ever-growing list of Lego hits.
In it players gain access (eventually) to over 100 characters from Marvel's pantheon. Most will recognise the big names - Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman - but True Believers will be astonished at some inclusions - such as Moon Knight or Howard The Duck. While most of the action adheres the aforementioned Lego template, TT has given every single character their own unique abilities; for example, Mr Fantastic can transform into items like screwdrivers and teapots at certain times, while Thor can use his lightning to power up objects.
The heroes powers are available to be used in battle, but they're also used extensively in puzzle solving to progress through the levels. This is perhaps the one misstep that TT make with the game in that the on-screen prompts may be confusing to newcomers. For example, Mr Fantastic, Hawkeye and Spiderman all have the ability to grab raised hooks and pull on them, but the onscreen prompt for this tells the player that they need a ‘web-slinger'.
The look of the game is a mash-up between the comic books and the recent spate of Marvel movies. Gregg Clark reprises his role as Agent Coulson as the voice of Shield while Nick Fury looks and sounds like Samuel L. Jackson. There's even the odd nod to the events of the movies in the script; at one point Fury demands Shield order shwarmas for lunch noting "Stark knows a place".
The plot involves items called ‘Cosmic Bricks' crashing to Earth and Dr Doom and Loki hatch a plan to use them for nefarious ends. A vast array of Marvel Super Villains jumps on board with this plan and it's up to the heroes of the Marvel Universe to stop them. Players can take the shortest route through the story missions, but the game rewards those who examine every nook and cranny of each environment the most.
Besides the studs the player collects to unlock content later on, there's a boat-load of collectibles and Easter Eggs dotted around the different maps. Stan 'The Man' Lee even pops up in every level to offer players a Gold Brick and a snappy comment if they manage to find him. There's even a vast open free-play zone set in a Lego New York to trundle about in after you've finished the story.
As has been mentioned, the knock on the Lego games is that a lot of them feel overly familiar after a while, but to be honest, their familiarity has become something of a strength over time. If you have never had much time for the Lego games before now, this one won't change your mind. But if you know the difference between Dormammu and Deadpool, you'll be right at home here.