The long-awaited sequel to the highly popular Lego Marvel Super Heroes is finally here and this time we venture far deeper into the world of Marvel than with its predecessor. TT Games has created an expansive game that draws from over 70 years of comics and movies. Rather than attempting to follow the stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as in previous Marvel games, a new story incorporating some of the best known (and some lesser known) characters from the huge catalogue of comics has been created.
Although Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 isn't a direct sequel story-wise, a clever use of time travel and interdimensional travel has given TT Games free reign story-wise, allowing them to craft a new story without having to stick closely to canon.
The story begins with time travelling super villain Kang the Conqueror, who has managed to rip some the best places from the multiple universes and timelines of Marvel and assemble them in his new world located outside of time and space, known as Chronopolis. The Guardians of the Galaxy, with the help of the Avengers, Inhumans and a whole host of lesser known characters, attempt to thwart the plans of Kang and return the multiverse back to normal.
Chronopolis is an impressive open world made up of 18 areas. Each has been taken from a different series such as the familiar Manhattan from the Avengers, Thor's Asgard, and Zandar from Guardians of the Galaxy. Even Wakanda from the upcoming Black Panther movie is represented, as well as more obscure alternate timelines of a Hydra controlled New York and the 1940s Manhattan Noir. These are dotted among others like Medieval England, The Old West, and Egypt and each one is represented by the corresponding Marvel heroes and villains throughout the story.
The staple formula for the Lego series so far has been to destroy everything, build items, and complete puzzles, and while it is a tried and tested system that works and there is the new addition of moving time forward and backward for a few puzzles, there is, unfortunately, no groundbreaking changes within the gameplay itself. They could have added in the new combat mechanics we saw in Lego Ninjago The Movie Video Game, a game which we really enjoyed, but we don't believe shoehorning this in would have made it possible to showcase the huge variety of special moves that each character has, which is a shame as it almost feels like a step backwards in terms of combat.
Many characters have very unique abilities and it seems that extra care has been taken to do them in a way that should please fans. Doctor Strange, for example, can conjure his fiery magic spells to unlock portal gateways, complete rune puzzles, and even draw his whip while in combat, all of which look amazing as sparks of orange and gold shoot across the screen. Ms. Marvel also has some fantastic elastic abilities such as stretchy arms and legs, massive fists, and ground pounds that make combat hilariously bizarre.
With over 200 Minifigures to unlock it would be difficult to remember everyone's abilities, but thankfully on the pause screen is a character card depicting not only their core attributes but also a brief character profile detailing their history (including their first comic appearance which we found to not only be useful but also quite informative). Each character is also given its own little personality; in his downtime, Spider-Man will play with his web slingers or a camera, Doctor Strange will pull out the book of Ashanti, and Rocket Racoon will mess around with some electronics. The voices though are a little under par but this may be down to the fact we are so used to Hollywood actors portraying them on screen, and so hearing another voice sounds wrong. The script, on the other hand, is excellent, with pop culture references to Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and even poking fun at itself. J.Jonah Jameson, the Daily Bugle's editor and Peter Parker's boss, acts as a narrator and gives a story update between each level to help keep players clued into any parts of the plot they may have missed.
One interesting part of the story is certain quests happen at the same point in time, you can choose which part you wish to play first before continuing on with the second. This choice has a clever way of rearranging the linear story giving the illusion of picking a story path but without disrupting or changing any outcome in the plot. There is nothing too taxing here, even younger players should be able to follow the story and understand the mechanics of the game as nearly everything has a hint available at the hit of a button.
Scattered among the missions are plenty of boss fights including some well-known villains such as Doctor Octopus, M.O.D.O.K., and Kingpin. These require a little bit of combat and puzzle solving to beat, more so than your usual grunts, and there are probably some great techniques to take these bad guys down but, as there are no repercussions to dying (other than losing few studs), we found that button bashing usually worked just as well.
The whole menu system is given the comic book makeover with its storyboard panelling and bold comic font gives a more authentic look. Each level is well built, filled to the brim with breakable objects, Minikits to find, puzzles to solve, and of course enemies to defeat. There is even the recurring cameo of creator Stan Lee in the form of a Stan Lee In Peril, which requires a certain ability (that you may not have on your initial playthrough) to rescue him.
It's impossible to collect everything in the levels on your first playthrough and it will take at least a couple more runs once you unlock the free play mode which gives you the ability to swap characters in and out if you have them unlocked. This, coupled with the vast number of characters available and the huge amount of activities in the 18 areas of the hub world making up Chronopolis, means there are many, many hours of fun to be had. Some may find a few of the mini-quests a little repetitive, but spreading them out across the game between story missions helps reduce the sense of grind.
Being a Lego game there are a few cheats built in but rather than collecting red bricks and visiting Deadpool (who is now missing along with the X-men and the Fantastic Four) in the Helicarrier like in the first game, you get to meet Gwenpool who's tucked away in the Avengers Mansion where she sells her pink bricks and has a TV screen where you can enter any cheat codes you may have found. As per usual, there is no penalty for using any cheats, in fact, it's pretty much a given that you'll need to use them if you want to reach 100% completion of the game.
The Avengers Mansion also houses the Battle Arena room, which is hosted by The Grandmaster. From here you can access the multiplayer games, of which there are just two: Colour Clash and Capture The Infinity Stones. Both are quite fun to play but with only four small and uninspired arenas to play in, it soon becomes a tad tiresome even playing split-screen with friends.
TT Games and Marvel have managed to squeeze a long, rich history of superheroes and supervillains from multiple universes and timelines to create a fun and interesting game that caters well to Marvel fans old and new. We awarded Lego Ninjago 8/10 as it had a fun story, a new combat style, and although it may have been a smaller game, it felt like the developers were trying something new. With Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 it feels like they are sticking to more closely to the same formula as the previous Marvel outings and, while the story here entertains, a lack of innovation has held it back from being an essential recommendation.