2013’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes isn’t just another Lego game; It’s a game that this site dubbed the greatest Marvel console game of all time. With a plot that brought in nearly every character old and new from every corner of the Marvel Universe, a campaign that felt like a tour through some of Marvel’s most famous locations and a fully explorable Manhattan that housed a pile of post game content, it was impossible not to have a giant smile across your face while playing Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Now four years later, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is upon and its name brings with it both excitement and trepidation: the former in that we’re getting a Lego Marvel sequel and the latter in that what can you do to top a game so fully featured and beloved by Marvel fans? Mechanically speaking, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 does a lot to move the entire Lego series forward, but as a Lego Marvel Super Heroes sequel, it fails to top the original but for reasons that were quite possibly out of developer TT Games hands.
Though it carries a “2” in the title, you don’t really need to have even touched the original game to enjoy Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. When the time-travelling villain Kang the Conqueror merges portions of worlds from across time and space into one mega city known as Chronopolis and places himself in charge, it’s up to the likes of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop Kang and put all the worlds back in their rightful place. The set up for Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 does a great job of crafting one of the craziest and must fun to explore worlds in a Lego game to date, but the humor mined from the scenario misses more than it hits and that is more than likely because this game was being developed as unionized SAG-AFTRA voice actors were striking.
One bright point in the vocal cast is the inclusion of The Tick’s Peter Serafinowicz as Kang who rarely gets tiring to hear, even as he says the same few things over and over on loud speakers as you’re exploring Chronopolis, but gone are the likes of Roger Craig Smith as Captain America, Fred Tatasciore as Hulk, and even Clark Gregg who at this point I’m sure has been the only actor to ever play Agent Coulson in anything. They’re replaced by for the most part actors who barely understand anything about the character they’re voicing other than a basic fact sheet they were given; Even words like “Muspel” pronounced like “Mew-Spell” and “symbiote” are said incorrectly. The latter point may be nit-picking that you can call me out on, but it goes to show just how much performance matters in video games because when the jokes hit, they’re great (the Doctor Strange level set in his sanctum stands out) but otherwise you’re cringing a lot which is not good.
No where is that more apparent when you’re presented with a character like Gwenpool who replaces Deadpool’s role from the original Lego Marvel Super Heroes as the framing device for the bonus missions that award cheat bricks that unlock things like detectors for collectibles and multipliers that raise the amount of currency you receive from studs you collect. Gwenpool is easily one of the most annoying characters in the game and you’ll want to finish all of her bonus missions as soon as possible so you never have to hear them speak ever again. The inclusion of Gwenpool is also a painful reminder that unlike the first game which featured the likes of the X-Men and Fantastic Four, the sequel doesn’t have characters from either franchise and feels more “corporate” for lack of a better term, from the opening moments where you see the Milano fly around to “Come and get your love” to the unfunny Drax being literal formula, baby Groot and a lot of elements clearly brought in from Marvel’s slate of films and TV series. It’s not all bad though, as at the very least not having either mutants or Marvel’s first family lets the spotlight shine on newer characters who have sprung up since the first game like Kamala Kahn as Ms. Marvel and Spider-Gwen (going so far as to make her talent with drums a useful ability).
If you’ve played a Lego game before, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 will feel very familiar as it doesn’t really have a new hook to help it stand out, meaning you’ll go through levels, smashing objects to craft Lego items to solve puzzles, occasionally stopping to punch bad guys and fight bosses. The end level bosses are perhaps the weakest they’ve been in quite some time with a lot just being mini fig characters who just need to be pummeled until they’re life meter drops to nothing. A lot of the early levels in the campaign fail to impress, and even are awkwardly thrown at you by Nick Fury, but as the game picks up, things get a lot more interesting. A stage in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorium as mentioned above and another in Ancient Egypt where two teams have to work through a pyramid are of the best and instead of having to go level after level, there’s normally a choice of two or three missions so you can choose to tackle things however you want. What really drags things down a little is that for the most part, you tend to be using the same few characters over and over so the objectives that you’re doing never seem that different until a little more than half way through the story.
What Super Heroes 2 lacks with a new hook or addition to the formula, it makes up for with refinements that will make it very hard to go back and replay older Lego titles. Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 has more missions than most Lego games: Twenty over the normal fifteen, but they feel much shorter than the mutli-part missions found in the DC and Marvel Lego games. For those looking to get one hundred percent of the collectibles, which means replaying the campaign in Freeplay mode where you can use any character and unlock secrets you couldn’t normally before, it makes this sometimes daunting task more manageable and less like a chore.
One of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2’s other additions that I’m hoping is carried over into other titles is that when you need a specific character for a puzzle: for example, when you need to use Iron Man’s laser to cut through something gold in color, bringing up your character select screen will bring you right to that character. When you’re dealing with a roster of around two hundred characters, this makes replaying levels and adventuring throughout Chronopolis so much easier. A Lego game staple: racing through rings under a certain time, similarly becomes more bearable as if you fail, you’re given a brief window to restart whereas in previous games, you had to travel all the way back to the starting point and you can also open up a window similar to the one you use to pick a character instead of having to locate a vehicle drop point.. The racing however is also where Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 stumbles backwards a little.
In one of his announcements, Kang brings up how he’s built a tram system that goes around Chronopolis at the request of his beloved Ravonna that seems pretty pointless seeing as how people can both drive and fly around much faster. The addition of vehicles in the Marvel Lego games has seemed almost pointless because while it’s fun to drive around on Ghost Rider’s motorcycle or Spider-Buggy, they’re pretty superflous for races after the addition of characters like Quicksilver and Speed in Lego Marvel The Avengers. Races in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 not only force you to use a vehicle, but a specific vehicle at that. Vehicles in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 can be unlocked by completing extra side-missions on top of the standard fare you would expect in these games like destroying drones in every region or stopping crimes. As there’s no markers for such things on your map, these missions are not easy to complete for the most part so you might not be able to unlock that one vehicle you’ll need and it feels weird for this part of the game to be so restrictive when nearly every other aspect seems like it’s the best it’s ever been.
What Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 does better than its prequel and will make you overlook its rough spots is its open world: Chronopolis. Knowing that after Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Lego Marvel The Avengers, games that each had a fairly big Manhattan to explore, TT Games knew they couldn’t just retread what they’ve already did and instead built a world so crazy and bonkers that it’s incredible. Chronopolis, made up a futuristic New York, an Asgard on the verge of Ragnarok, ancient Egypt and the flying city of Attilan among others, is so much fun to explore and a lot of the game’s humor comes from seeing a horse-drawn carrage come through a tunnel into the futuristic home of Spider-Man 2099 or having the color wash out as you cross over into Noir Manhattan as Knowwhere floats overhead. Each area is distinct and it rarely becomes a chore crisscrossing through portions of the map while you’re completing missions that will sometimes send you through several unique areas that couldn’t be different from one another. Lego Marvel Super Heroes may have a leg up in terms of classic Marvel locations like the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, the Daily Bugle and the Baxter Building, but Chronopolis feels like a world that could only exist in a comic book game, in particular one that doesn’t try to take itself seriously.
If you liked Lego Marvel Super Heroes, or really any of the previous Lego games for that matter, chances are you’ll enjoy Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, just don’t come in expecting something to top the 2013 original. Due to circumstances beyond their control, TT Games couldn’t use the normal players to bring the colorful cast of plastic characters to life, and it really hurts the game more than you would think not having professionals who are comfortable with these roles hitting all the right notes on the jokes written for the game. The X-clusion of mutants and the Fantastic Four family of characters makes this game feel less comprehensive of a package overall, but the new characters do their part in making up for the characters that I’m assuming were off limits. For the Lego faithful though, what will matter most are the refinements to the formula that will make the hours of content you’ll more than likely put into this game more enjoyable than they’ve ever been in the past. If you’re a Marvel fan, this needs to get added to your collection on whatever platform you choose to buy it on.