LEGO games have proved to be incredibly popular since the release of the first Star Wars titles on the PS2. While there had been LEGO games available before then, none seemed to really capture gamers imagination quite in the same way and become such huge hits so it’s no wonder that we have been treated to so many games in recent years and the Vita has certainly seen more than its fair share as well with no less than seven releases to-date. Unfortunately, they have had something of a mixed reception from gamers with the majority failing to live up to the standards set by their console counterparts so with that in mind I was somewhat hesitant looking at LEGO Marvel Superheroes…
A strange new kind of brick has been discovered that emanates an incredible source of power – the Cosmic Brick – and Doctor Doom, being the exceptional scientist that he is, has managed to locate these and is attempting to gather all of the world’s supervillains together, to located all of these bricks that are on Earth and to use them to assembly the ultimate super-weapon that will help him to destroy the world, guided by Loki. In an attempt to stop them, SHIELD’s Nick Fury has alterted the world’s Super Heroes and set them to work to – once again – save the planet from destruction.
I have to be honest and say that this is the one LEGO game that I have been looking forward to more than any other. While I’ve been a huge fan of all the LEGO Star Wars titles as well as thoroughly enjoying the Batman ones, nothing had built up anticipation to such a degree as this one. However, after experiencing the varying standards of past Vita releases and seeing the rather disappointing and dare I say worrying preview screenshots surrounding this port, I was left with a feeling of dread before inserting the game cartridge into the Vita… This game – at least where the Vita is concerned – is a major departure in terms of style and approach as far as LEGO games are concerned and there are changes to the gameplay mechanics and presentation right across the board.
On starting the game up, the first that strikes you immediately is the look of the game. It’s foregone the open world 3D approach of its predecessors and taken an isometric 3D view throughout the game. While it works well enough and certainly the graphics are well defined and well animated, it does make the game feel quite constrained. Throughout the game, there are areas of each level that you would hope to be able to explore or that it looks as if you can explore but the forced view simply isn’t designed to let you and makes for a rather linear approach to each level. In fact, the design of levels themselves added to the look does betray the design origins (this is a port of the 3DS version rather than the PS3/PS4 version). Each level is incredibly short and while the game is split over a total of 45 levels, many of these are just a couple of screens in length and some are even single screen boss fights.
With the 45 levels on offer, these are split up into section. In total the game is broken down into 15 chapters that progress the story each headed up with a primary super villain and where you take control of a main super hero, which has three levels within each with the third usually being the single screen boss battle. There’s usually a great deal of variety in the settings between stages ranging from the streets of New York, the Baxter Building, Stark Tower and countless others and with a range of characters at your disposal it keeps the levels fresh. It does take a different approach to previous games though and there’s no swapping between heroes during play. For each level you control a single super hero although you are accompanied by a second who you can call upon briefly throughout the level for short bursts of backup support where they’ll attack any adversaries around you – ideal for the boss fights. Once gone, you have to wait for what is effectively a “tag partner” meter to re-fill before you can call upon them again.
As with all LEGO games, some areas are only accessible to certain characters but you can replay levels once you’ve unlocked Freeplay Mode as levels are completed so you can then choose which character to use and head off to find anything you missed first time around. As with all LEGO games, you collect studs throughout the game and these are used as in-game currency to buy characters and special powers that you’ve unlocked.
The main difference are the unlockables and the way the levels are structured. At the start of each level you’re presented with a screen that sets you a total of 10 challenges to complete. These range from completing the level in a set amount of time, rescuing civilians, finding Stan Lee(!), defeating henchmen and so forth. Unlike previous LEGO games where objectives like this would be part of the game to be tackled at a casual pace, you’re judged on these at the end of each level and the time limits certainly are unforgiving. Probably the toughest ones to complete are the multi-challenges where you have to accomplish several tasks together. For each task that you manage to pass successfully, you’re rewarded with a Gold Brick and here’s the key difference… these are needed to unlock further stages. In other LEGO games you simply progress through the story and don’t need to worry about finding Gold and Red Bricks, Minikits or anything else, in this it’s essential if you want to move through the game and I found myself having to replay a couple of levels just to get one or two extra Gold Bricks.
Then there’s the lives system… Prior to this, LEGO games pretty much gave the player unlimited lives. You got hit or shot, you lost a heart. Lose a few and you died but then got more lives and kept carrying on. While it meant that pretty much anyone could complete a LEGO game it also meant that the games were never frustrating and stayed fun throughout from start to finish. That’s changed dramatically and now you’ve got a set number of lives and that’s it – lose them all and it’s game over. While you can restart the current level from the beginning there’s no way to just carry on playing. You can pick up extra health but while I can see the need to add more of a challenge in the shorter handheld games, perhaps it’s too big a departure? With the lives system, one things that I did find odd – and I still can’t figure out – is that when controlling the Hulk (who looks great as an over-sized character) for the most part you control him as the big green angry guy but when your health is low (so he’s taken a serious beating) he transforms into Banner. Now, shouldn’t this be the other way around?
Reading all of that you would be mistaken into thinking that I had very little regard for this game. Now this is where I surprised myself when it came to playing LEGO Marvel Superheroes… Contrary to my biggest fears and all my reservations and the problems I found with the tweaks made to the game, I actually found myself really enjoying playing this. Despite the view used in the game, it does look good as I said before and the cut-scenes are the best I’ve seen so far on a Vita lego game – clearly defined with great sound, certainly not scaled down or poorly converted. A really great touch here was the voice cast with many of the actors being regular voice cast for the characters in Marvel animated shows although the highlight had to be Clark Gregg reprising his role as Phil Coulson!
For the most part the controls work well although there are a couple of instances where the game insists on the use of the touch screen rather than allowing the player to use the Vita’s physical controls and they can be hit and miss sometimes. Fortunately this is kept to a minimum but frustratingly during the tutorial steps at the start of the game you are forced to use the touch screen even when you don’t want to even for covering basic functions such as attacking and movement. It is something you can learn to overlook though and what I was quite surprised about was that even the look of the game and the changes to the format didn’t bother me after a while and I found myself really getting into playing it. Granted it’s not as much fun as LEGO Star Wars and I do think that it would have benefited no end from the added freedom offered by adopting the same game style seen in all the other LEGO games it still works well enough to offer plenty of entertainment and play time.
Is it one of the best LEGO games available for the Vita? No. Is it comparable to the PS3 / PS4 version? No. Despite that, it’s still a entertaining game with plenty of long-term appeal thanks to the Freeplay mode, and they’ve managed to do a reasonably good job of capturing the Marvel feel and for those of you looking for a fun game to play at home or on the move then you could do far worse than this.
At A Glance
- Title: LEGO Marvel Superheroes: Universe In Peril
- Publisher: WB Games
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card / PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- PlayStation TV Compatible: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 1Mb (for physical release)