Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 Review
There’s something so alluring about dropping a wad of cash on collectibles. Spending one’s hard-earned money on something so seemingly pointless seems trivial; unless, of course those collectibles can also be used for some efficient purpose. Enter Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 (LM2, as it shall be named from hereon): an economic statement disguised as a massive superhero simulator, in which players perform laborious tasks utilizing engaging skillsets, in order to earn income to spend on a near endless bevy of more unlockable characters.
The game is essentially a virtual representation of buying and collecting Lego sets. It is less a traditional sandbox title, more of an economically supportive workspace where the player is rewarded with currency with which to unlock hundreds of characters in order to fully complete the experience.
But where the does the ‘game’ end? I completed the main storyline with hours upon hours of content still to explore and check off — a seeming list of chores reconfigured into combat scenarios and minigames. This is a great thing. The crux of maintaining variety in spite of the repetitive mission designs falls upon the importance of unlocking new characters, both iconic and obscure, each with their own unique abilities (which is one of the game’s most commendable elements) and nostalgic significance. Plus, if nostalgia doesn’t drive one to unlock Hit-Monkey or Forbrush Man, sheer curiosity into this multifarious property surely will.
Will my time with the game be complete after the endless checklist is eventually completed? Will my efforts to complete every chore be effectively rewarded? At the time of this writing, I am unsure. But regardless of the end point, I cannot stop playing. LM2 is like a rapidly-gratifying drug, each successive hit sending sparks of euphoria whenever completing missions, and then spending earned bits to unlock more and more heroes/villains.
LM2 simulates being a ‘good American consumer,’ dressing up the player as a heroic figure as a reward. Few who play will not get the sudden impulse to order a bunch of Lego sets online; though, the emotional results simply don’t match those granted within the contexts of the game. In many cases, it is also the virtual equivalence to buying trading cards for card games. Each hero is a mixed bag of powers used to eliminate baddies and obstacles. Slain enemies and completed objectives simply allow for progression on all fronts: more characters, more side quests, more enemies.
An interesting detail to investigate is that the only real means of making ‘money’ in the game is by destroying as much as possible. Breaking and rebuilding into something new: a sort of developmental cycle that promotes creativity without necessarily allowing it to the player themselves. Instead, creativity is awarded to the player by way of puzzle design, in which certain abilities allocated to certain characters are necessary to progress and complete objectives. It’s up to players to decide which hero/villain to choose as their avatar for whichever circumstances.
Every traditional level — not to mention the open world of Chronopolis — is dripping with currency bits to be collected and spent. They appear when environmental items are destroyed, and eventually fade away if players aren’t fast enough to grab them. This hasty illustration of vanishing capitol defines, through direct interaction, the anxious monetary allure to social development. Working for the sake of buying; a concept in which the act of purchasing is in itself a reward.
LM2 does nothing subtextually to highlight this, and for good reason. While it certainly affirms to its audience (ie. impressionable youths) that being a good worker in order to become a good consumer, and vice versa, defines American citizenship; LM2 does not wish to identify as propaganda as it so easily could have done. Which is encouraging, especially since Traveller’s Tales instead use their game to determinedly comment on the importance of heroic teamwork as a means of inspiring self-empowerment in others — as well as stress a longtime Lego brand fixation on creating something new with regulated tools provided.
Carnom is the likely the most interesting character in LM2 for one reason: it is a new creature designed by the developers of the game. However, it is also simply a blending of two iconic Marvel villains, Venom and Carnage. This mirrors the core idea of using Lego pieces to allow one’s own imagination to run wild. Creativity has its limits, as game designers thoroughly understand. LM2 even initiates a new ‘Customizer’ mode in which players can create their own heroes with a selection of abilities, appearances, and costumes. A chosen selection, but large enough for kids everywhere to finally create their own Marvel hero.
It emulates both the process of buying Lego sets as well as the underlying creative function behind the brand, all dressed up behind the veil of a household brand which encourages heroic figures as the most important inspiration for children to aspire to be. The game even delves into quite complex feminist ideology, as well, further indicating the promotion of self-empowerment.
But above all, the game is a genuine blast to play. That is, when it’s working correctly. Many have already criticized the amount of bugs in the game; and although my own experience has been light on the technical issues fortunately (from my countless hours of playtime), gameplay issues and instances of graphical hiccups can make for occasionally frustrating scenarios.
Most problems actually arise from, presumably, rather glaring oversights in design. Using the thumbstick to both move the camera and elevate flying characters simultaneously is bafflingly redundant, especially since elevation is also regulated to two other buttons on the controller. Combat can be a nightmare; the game will automatically lock the player onto a particular enemy, which can cause complication with player input when their character springs towards another baddie.
It’s understandable why the developers would choose to let players destroy NPC allies, since it can make for kid-friendly jesting during cooperative play. But the option is such a nuisance during single-player; I can’t imagine how many times my player-character accidentally targeted another hero in the middle of an intense brawl.
The Devil is in the details, however. Most issues with the game can be summed up as mere nitpicks — characters will get stuck on polygons; too many buttons enable various functions; switching between the incredible amount of characters can be a real chore; combat-oriented side quests can sometimes feel more laborious than Fun — and the sheer amount of them culminate into one big, flawed adventure overall.
Yet I can’t stop playing. It’s difficult to argue that the good necessarily outweighs the bad in LM2, since so much of the bad points towards an unfulfilled experience in total. But what LM2 likely most successfully accomplishes is building a giant complex playground for players to explore, with some of the most satisfying action game mechanics ever prescribed within a major title. Blasting through enemies as Iron Man, pummeling through hordes as Hulk, starting a dance party as Star-Lord, eviscerating baddies with electricity as Thor (specifically Jane Foster); it all feels immensely satisfying and addictive, given the sheer variety of weaponry and combat mechanics at the player’s disposal.
LM2’s familiar open-world experience otherwise feels appropriate for its overarching stylistic concept. Completing the plethora of side objectives throughout Chronopolis reminds one of collecting and building Lego sets in the real world. A virtual experience that compromises the hassle and economic weight of consumerist tendencies. Shopping can be an addiction much akin to checking off chores to finish on a list. Only these chores are (mostly) Fun, and their rewards are a consistent allure.
Players travel to specific points to open up a bevy of activities and mark them on the map. Similar to Ubisoft’s infamous ‘tower’ procedures, these eliminate the mundane laboriousness of climbing, instead simply offering the choice to litter the map with icons whenever players deem necessary. Plus, the disconnect from realism inherent in other titles doesn’t arise here in a game full of animated toys.
It’s an exceptional arrangement of separate brands and concepts all cohesively tied together into a single engaging product. A flawed action game masterpiece with its own philosophies which allow it to aspire above a mere kids game that adults can enjoy alongside them. There’s simply too much good here that it demands appreciation. Puzzle design intriguingly functions primarily as a means of choosing the correct character to proceed. The level of care placed in each of Chronopolis’s locales is staggering, and deserves an exploration of every nook and cranny. So much attention was spent on providing side missions with charming little stories and objectives, that the repetition often goes unnoticed. The accolades go on.
I can’t recommend LM2 enough; however the recommendation comes with a fair warning. The game is very flawed, and nearly every hour spent, most players will come across frustrations that make them question the true quality of the overall product. Fortunately, they’ll likely be having too much Fun to seriously question their adoration of such a genuinely ambitious title. Fans of Marvel, Lego, action games, superhero movies, will all be right at home; a broad variety of fandom that will likely attract just about any modern gamer.
To conclude, I will share one of my favorite moments in the entire game. Many side missions are miniature adaptations of comic stories of old, including but not limited to: Hulk’s son, Skaar’s attempts to capture his father’s attention; Blade teaming up with a vampiric cow; Peter Parker snagging photos for his Aunt May (herself an unlockable character, hilariously enough).
But the most surprising and personally satisfying quest unlocks Howard the Duck. Waddling around in his signature tux and hat, a rocket launcher laying on his shoulder, with a double jump function that illustrates his inability to fly, the details in his design rival the more significant characters of other action/adventure titles.
It’s a testament to both the creativity infused within Lego properties, as well as the sheer magnitude of the Marvel universe, plus TT’s admiration and respect towards it. LM2 lets players run wild as their favorite superheroes and villains, plus constantly introduces more obscure personalities for them to fall in love with, generously paying comeuppance to each to signify their own unique additions to the surrounding universe.
Here is a personal defining moment for the game: whilst switching to another character from Howard the Duck, he transformed into Iron Duck, far less a mere skin for Iron Man (as would be the case in lesser titles from less involved developers), and more of a goofy homage to his cult status. Few games have made me laugh out loud at my screen, but jumping around as Iron Duck in LM2 comes close to the funniest scenarios I’ve ever had on my own.
Consumerist ideals, self-empowerment encouragement, gargantuan superhero simulation, plus a dash of charm and nostalgic adoration; all boil down into an unfulfilled but highly commendable mixing pot of pop culture and positive social lessons for its target audience. There are significant flaws hiding beneath its fanciful veil, but the virtues and complexities more than overshadow any repetition or irregularities.