Any video game that kicks off with a money-shot of Earth’s mightiest mortals assembling to deliver a combination of Gamma-powered punches, Asgardian metal and explosive arrows to the face should be the kind of game that you’re keeping an eye on. And that’s the kind of video game that the latest in Traveller’s Tales and TT Fusion’s vast library of LEGO games wants to be.
Right from the opening shot, you’re thrown into a world of Vibranium shields, Homicidal AI systems run amok and a certain god of mischief looking to take over the Earth. The Avengers series has been an epically successful film franchise for Disney and Marvel, a high stakes comic book adaptation that has made billions over the years by being daring and ahead of the curve.
It’s just a pity that the LEGO adaptation is so hellbent on its refusal to actually add any new content to a very worn-out formula.
If you’ve played one LEGO game, you’ve played them all. The basic gameplay premise has you smashing LEGO blocks around you, collecting studs and assembling pieces into new tools to get through a level and make the most of the characters that you’re stuck with. It’s a simple setup, geared towards kids who want to use Tony Stark to fix stuff, watch the Hulk tear walls apart and charge equipment up as the mighty Thor Odinson.
It certainly does work, but every new LEGO game trots it out and further dilutes the process more than homeopathic medicine. And that’s a damn shame, because LEGO Marvel’s Avengers has a lot going for it. First off, the LEGO Avengers themselves are adorable. Little mini-heroes, lovingly realised in the trademark LEGO style and ready to save the world. It’s impossible to not like seeing a LEGO Tony Stark grin or watch LEGO Black Widow and Bruce Banner make kissy faces at each other.
It’s the fan service that really shines here. Spread across six of the recent Marvel movies (Avengers, Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World,Iron Man 3 and both Captain America flicks), the attention to capturing the cinematic details is mighty indeed. Various zones don’t just look the part, they feel right at home. Captain America goes into battle with trademark agility and strength, the Hulk smashes everything he sees and flying around Manhattan in one of the various Iron Man suits is always exciting.
LEGO games also pack an absurd amount of humour in between missions. They’re the Naked Guns of movie video game adaptations, surreal flights of fancy where Nick Fury is obsessed with milkshakes and Hawkeye regularly lets loose banana-tipped arrows. That humour is driven home even further by having audio ripped directly from the films and used as dialogue.
It’s hilarious, side-splitting stuff thanks to visual gags which always feel fresh and the numerous appearances of the Stan “Cameo King” Lee himself. Lego Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t take itself seriously, and I love it because of that attitude. I just wish I could fall in love with the rest of it. It’s fantastic to have movie dialogue present, but it’s an effect which doesn’t always work. Now might be a good time to not get angry.
Said audio can feel completely out of place during actual gameplay, while dialogue filled in by hired voices creates an even larger disconnect between cinematic and professional audio work. It’s also tragic that while Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johanssen and Chris Hemsworth find their lines liberally sprinkled throughout the entirety of their appearances, Andy Serkis’ magnificent Souff Effriken accent is missing in action during the mission set near the Johannesburg ocean*. At least the new lines from Phil Coulson, Maria Hill and Peggy Carter’s various actors add some magic back.
And for a game built on solving puzzles with action, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is amazingly obtuse at time. I may not be the smartest person in any room I walk into, but I usually found myself stumped during numerous levels until I had spent several minutes smashing anything. Imagine how the tweens will feel, without any sort of intuitive guide to help subtly nudge them on the right path.
Having an endless gauntlet of enemies thrown at you while you attempt to solve these puzzles is also a frustrating experience, as these fights usually consist of battering everything around you and seldomly using team-up attacks to clear the field. It’s fun at first, but it quickly becomes tiresome having to use the QTEs to finish off a random goon who can somehow absorb over a dozen Mjolnir hammer-blows to the face before going down. Having some of the best fight scenes from the Avengers films such as Hulk vs Thor/The Hulkbuster/Loki play out as thinly-disguised quick-time events also feels like a massively wasted opportunity.
But here’s the truth: None of these complaints matter. I’m not the target audience here, kids are. Children, as wonderful as you think your spawn are, are stupid. The little brats will eat this up and don’t give a damn about disruptive audio or repetitive combat. If the little buggers played through the previous dozen LEGO games, then a new one starring around 200 of everyone’s favourite Marvel movie characters and mutants will rock their socks.
I want to like LEGO Marvel’s Avengers more than it allows me to. The movie references are done up perfectly in the might marvel manner, the roster is stupidly massive, the visuals are inspired and levels are begging for you to return to find all of their hidden secrets. But having to sit through yet another scanning mini-game, endure endless hordes of punch-sponge enemies and play through the best fight scenes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe with only one button mashed at a time doesn’t spell “Avengers Assemble”.
And yet for all its various faults, I still like it. I blame LEGO Loki for touching me with his magic scepter. Excelsior!
*Yes, Johannesburg doesn’t have an ocean, I know that. Tell that to Avengers: Age of Ultron
Last Updated: February 10, 2016