What is it? A tired Lego game version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
Expect to pay: $40/ £25
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros
Reviewed on: AMD FX-6200 CPU, 16GB RAM, AMD Radeon HD 7870
Multiplayer: Local co-op
Link: Official site
All Lego games are the same, except for when they’re not. Lego Batman 2, with its open world Gotham City and brilliant videogame interpretation of Superman was far more interesting to play than its 2014 sequel, for example, which mainly focused on some boring Green Lantern space adventures—and I love me some Green Lantern, even after the much-derided 2011 movie. The light puzzles and collectable-heavy platforming remains the same in each Lego game, but for each worthwhile entry, there’s a bunch of duff ones that are worth skipping. Lego Avengers is somehow both at the same time.
Avengers offers a similar deal of stud collecting and switch-hitting, this time based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, with some other bits and pieces stuck on. The basic Lego formula by itself is not too bad, but when a lot of attention has been paid to the accompanying fan service or the environments look like they’ve had a ton of work put into them, the Lego games can end up being fantastic fun, both for irritating children and hungover adults. This is TT Games on autopilot, though, and there's not a lot of passion in the results.
I’ve rarely been this bored playing through the story mode of a Lego game. The meat of the content is based on The Avengers, with other levels covering Marvel’s superior phase two films, like Age of Ultron, The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3, sequels that all benefitted from having the bar significantly raised by Joss Whedon’s 2012 team-up flick. There’s even a (not very good) flashback level based on the first Captain America featuring Cap and Bucky. The level design for the story stuff is just uninspired, though, and the attempt to make the character dialogue feel authentic by using recordings straight from the movies ends up backfiring in an almost Return of Chef-style fashion.
Problem is, they sound like they’ve been grabbed straight off the DVDs using Final Cut Pro, and have been awkwardly cut into the Lego cutscenes, with the series’ arbitrary slapstick bolted on for good measure (Thor twats a guy with a hammer, but there’s a pig there now, etc). It’s unconvincing and cheapens the game more than if they’d just kept the characters silent, like the Star Wars games did. Worse still is when the game plays quips mid-game, so you have Cap using his ‘if you get killed...walk it off’ line from Age of Ultron but with the movie's background noise seemingly still audible—it sounds like something I knocked together in Garageband with a deadline of about ten minutes.
There’s not one visually interesting or inventive puzzle in the entire Avengers section of the game, and it falls short of 2013’s colourful, location-filled Lego Marvel Super Heroes. TT Games barely conjures an illusion of this feeling like the films. This is a game for young, noisy children, sure, but even they deserve a little better than this. I yawned my way to the closing credits, which is such a shame when the source material the devs are working with is a bunch of the most fun blockbusters of the last decade.
Still, there’s more to the game than that, if you know where to find it. Exit a couple of menus, and you’ll find the Manhattan open world from Lego Marvel returns with new sidequests to do, as well as a near full-size replica of Asgard, and several other locations linked to the movies. These hubs are pretty much buried by the story mode, but wandering around them (some are better than others) with your changeable roster of characters is way more enjoyable than the main game. It's sandbox-y and less rigidly connected to the movies.
I nerdily flew Captain Universe through Times Square. I had Bruce Banner changing into Hulk and running down Asgard’s rainbow bridge (which, to be fair, may happen in a movie next year). Luke Cage sent me on a sidequest around Manhattan then berated me when I got beat up by Hydra agents (“If I’d wanted to spend the day babysitting I’d have stayed at home. With my actual baby.”) It’s entertaining fan service, as usual, and the characters are wonderfully animated, but the presence of the movie stuff sadly brings nothing to it.
Missing, presumably due to movie studio politics (or because I couldn't find them on the map), are Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and X-Men, which were all present in the last game. There’s some neat, nerdy choices to compensate for that like Squirrel Girl or Jessica Jones, but they might only appeal to comic book dweebs like me rather than the children that are supposed to play this stuff. I'm reliably informed that children, when they're not being annoying, love Spider-Man.
Collectively, then, there’s not enough for me to recommend this over Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which is usually $5/£4 in Steam sales and has the edge with level design and fan service. Being a fan of the Marvel movies isn’t enough to justify buying this as well—there's no passion in the translation from screen to game.