Lego Marvel Super Heroes | Principal Platforms: Everything, Wii U (version tested) | Developer: TT Games | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive | Genre: Action | Year: 2013
For the longest time it seemed that things were going swimmingly here at CelJaded.
But then every hobby has a way of bringing you crashing back down to Earth, and so it goes with this putrescent waste of disc space: Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
Every year another lucrative Lego themed release hits store shelves and whether it’s Lego Hobbit, Lego Batman or even the recently outed Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, commercial success seems to be a forgone conclusion for these kid-friendly money printers.
And Warner Bros. have not been above milking the cash cow for all it’s worth, stretching development on each title across every video game platform they can, home console and handheld system alike.
On Wii U however, Lego Marvel Super Heroes has been stretched much too far.
Before I go any further, I should state that the only Lego game I’ve played to any real length is the original Lego Star Wars: The Video Game. The overwhelming popularity of the Star Wars franchise and its instantly recognizable narrative and characters – as well as the imminent release of Revenge of the Sith – made the first Lego Star Wars a huge success and one that was well earned.
Here was a highly simplistic, but solid enough 2 player platforming romp that practically anyone could pick up and play, with plenty of fun set pieces and balmy cutscenes helping to offset a relative lack of content and satisfying depth.
Lego Star Wars could be completely finished in a weekend at the most, but that was okay. As a proof of concept, the solid foundation that this original title nailed down was at the time fresh, enjoyable and ultimately worthy of your attention.
Whilst I had never played a Lego release in the years since Lego Star Wars, I made a rather fatal assumption that after more than a decade’s worth of sequels and spin-offs, the basic formula must have developed in some interesting ways and surely by now one could expect a dependable degree of quality from all games bearing the license.
Well as Lego Marvel Super Heroes has now proved, that mode of thinking was a mere daydream, impossible of realization.
The setup is simple enough: all of your favourite Marvel Comics characters are brought to life as Lego figures to punch, kick and shoot their way through colourful levels of simplistic platforming and light puzzle solving.
A massive problem is apparent right from the opening level though and it’s the game’s frame rate which is absolutely appalling. When played alongside a second player especially, the action chugs along at a very choppy pace and to say that it makes the game unplayable is one hell of an understatement.
There’s no split screen functionality here as the Gamepad’s second screen acts as a separate view port for the player using it. The idea is certainly solid enough – a few other games on Wii U have indeed pulled a similar trick with their cooperative modes – but this task of mirroring the on-screen action has not been properly optimized in Lego Marvel and the game never comes close to running at an acceptable pace whenever it’s engaged.
During the opening level you get to play as popular comic book icons such as The Hulk and Iron Man in a straightforward mission to bring down the villainous Sandman, but the abundance of sand-like particle effects and whizzing laser beams only seek to tank the game’s performance even more.
Every piece of Lego you see has an unnecessary level of gloss applied to it and aside from simply looking unrealistic and rather stupid, you have to believe they haven’t helped the game run any better either.
When a cutscene featuring the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier introduces the following level, the frame rate gets so bad that it’s actively embarrassing and things get no better when the action moves to the hub world of downtown New York.
The 71MB software update was the first sign of something being amiss here and if the many Internet complaints regarding the numerous showstopping bugs and progress-halting errors are anything to go by, then one assumes that this is yet another example of Warner’s atrocious track record in quality assurance across all formats and not just on the Wii U.
It’s difficult for me to say much more about the game because of this – hence my removal of the review tag for this post – because all I can really do is make some token observations about what’s meant to pass for game design in the brief sections I did manage to stomach.
Even if other versions of the game do play smoothly though, the proceedings still play out very similarly to Lego Star Wars and that’s a game that was nearly a decade old at the point of Lego Marvel’s release.
Each player takes control of a heroic character who possesses their own special ability in addition to a suite of standard jumps and melee attacks.
With such a huge bank of playable characters to draw from, the idea does have a lot of potential, but aside from a few unique beam weapons or travel powers (such as Spider-man’s web-slinging), every character controls the exact same.
This may not have been such a problem if combat actually made a blind bit of difference to anything as there’s still no consequence for failure. During each combat encounter you’re simply bombarded with minions and/or projectiles and try to stay awake after your chosen super hero freely respawns for the umpteenth time.
I fully expect the boring “it’s for kids” argument is already in many people’s thoughts so I’ll once again refer to Bill Hick’s wonderful counter quote of: “Well, when did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children?”
Aside from the shocking frame rate and decade-old game design that hasn’t budged a solitary inch, Lego Marvel Super Heroes still looks to be an unadventurous and disappointing game at best.
Voice acting has been added into the mix, but it too comes off flat as the writing is so inane and so “safe” that even kids are sure to tire of it. Every cutscene is accompanied by tedious dialogue between the heroes and villains and the overuse of bad puns comes off as irritating rather than endearing.
Similarly, the incredibly bored delivery that we’ve come to expect from guest “superstar” Clark Gregg, who reprises his lacklustre role of Agent Phil Coulson yet again, sounds even less inspiring than when he does it on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television programme and that’s saying something!
Focusing on the audio is especially problematic because of its noticeably muffled quality which gives the impression that it was downsampled somewhere along the line. When you pair this with a typically overbearing Avengers style soundtrack – something I’ve never been a fan of – the game just sounds unpleasantly noisy all the time.
The Wii U’s Gamepad hasn’t been used in any interesting ways either as the the touch screen is only used for selecting a new playable character or to switch to off-TV play and that’s about it.
I have been playing video games for over 25 years now so it makes me wonder what the world is coming to when I can buy a game in such an atrocious state as this without being reliably informed. Seriously, where are the news stories about this travesty?
No professional Internet reviews that I read beforehand made any mention of Lego Marvel’s disastrous build quality either and the more negative appraisals of the game that do exist put their gripes down to a lack of originality and tedious gameplay before any crippling technical problems.
It’s a concerning situation from a journalistic standpoint as it seems that many writers didn’t even bother testing the game properly before offering their recommendation. It’s like Wreck-It Ralph being nominating for an Oscar; just because this is a Lego game, it doesn’t mean that it’s good.
Whatever the true circumstances are here, Wii U owners have been royally shafted and the Lego series can now be relegated to the club of franchises whose publishers clearly don’t give a toss about delivering a wholesome gaming experience to customers irrespective of their chosen platform.
Normally I like to illustrate my blog posts with screenshots and insightful captions, but here I’m more inclined to take the Warner Bros. approach and simply not bother putting in the necessary effort.
And on that note, I guess I’ll just stop writing.