Make a short list of every thing you love about the Lego game series: Solving puzzles by building Lego objects, having the ability to swap between characters, utilizing unique character abilities to navigate levels, replaying levels at your own leisure for bonus collectibles, not being penalized for losing health or dying. These are some of the things that I personally love about a Lego game, as when combined they make for a great, relaxing, stress free experience that I can sit down and play for hours on end and cannot get from any other franchise on the market today. Now imagine if a Lego game existed where my short list is flipped on its head. That game is Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril, and it should be avoided like the Kragle.
Universe in Peril follows the same story line and basic level order as the game on home consoles on PC, though that’s where the similarities end. Whereas the console game featured an open world that included a series of levels within that area, Universe in Peril is simply divided into levels with each having three different chapters. It’s a downgrade that most would feel is quite understandable, given the power of the 3DS hardware, and Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes before it also received a similar treatment. The other changes made to the games structure are extremely confusing.
The game plays from a 3/4 isometric perspective and is more or less a beat-em-up. You move from one end of the level, mindless punching on whatever enemies are in your way until you reach the end, that’s it. Your character can’t even jump, unless they’re a character like Iron Man or Spider-Man, where you flick up on the touch screen to start them swinging or flying, but these functions are absolutely pointless and could have been easily put on a button function.
Within each level are a series of sub-objectives that you can complete to get gold bricks, and I admit I do like this in theory. The levels themselves are short and great for portable play, as you can knock out an objective or two while waiting for a bus, in line, or just to kill some time. One objective may be to collect as many studs in a level as possible, of course found by hitting on objects, beating a level in a certain amount of time, or killing a set number of specific enemies. The problem, and it’s a huge problem, is that this is not something you do casually to extend the replay value of the game, you HAVE to collect a certain number of gold bricks to complete the story! Can you imagine your favorite Lego game, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, take your pick, and you had to go back and complete levels in freeplay mode in order to beat the main story? You’d trade that game back in an instant and the folks at TT Games would be out of a job.
There’s little to no imagination at play in the stages as well. There’s no puzzles to solve outside of bashing something or blowing something up, and the Lego creations you do get to assemble is a goal post to sling shot you over a gap or a fan. You can only use one designated character per stage with the other being reserved for a super attack move. For a game with the word “Super Heroes” in the title, the characters don’t feel very “super.” Hawkeye deals as much damage as the Hulk who is as tough as Bruce Banner who in turn can stand toe-to-toe with the Abomination just as well as his alter ego. The heroes who stand out the most are the ones like Iron Man and Hawkeye who have a projectile attack, but still you’ll be beating down enemies with the attack button until you maybe have to shoot something down every once in a while.
The most heinous offense in the entire game in a long list of many, is that you can actually die. I’m talking die as in “Level Failed” now go back to the beginning of a stage. After losing all my life in a stage and having been put back at the start of a stage, I uttered a confused “huh?” about what transpired, well, maybe another four letter word starting with “F” but in this circumstance the word “Fail” is worse than that word. It’s a Lego game guys, the series of no penalties and pure fun that can be enjoyed of players of all age and skill, were you just having a bad day?
If upon finishing Lego Marvel Super Heroes on consoles and thought, like me, “boy I’d like to extend the fun by picking up the handheld game,” stop that thought. Universe in Peril is not worth your time or money, even for the hardest of hardcore Marvel fans. If you’re looking for a Lego Super hero fix and don’t mind playing in the DC camp, I’d recommend picking up a copy of Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes as you can probably score it for cheap and it’s much closer to the pre-open world Lego games.