They say Lego games are all the same—and they’re right. TT Games’ juggernaut of a pop culture-hopping franchise found a formula at some point in the PS2 era and essentially haven’t changed it since. That makes the release of every Lego game slightly less exciting than the one before. However, Lego Marvel Super Heroes just might have been the peak of the genre back in 2013. So when the sequel rolled around, I couldn’t help but approach it with curiosity and hope.
What I got back was indeed plenty of the Lego and Marvel fun that I craved as well as the irritatingly simple and repetitive gameplay that I feared. Thankfully, there’s just enough new stuff here to make it interesting and so much content crammed into the title to make it worthwhile. Sure Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is likely the least original game that you’ll get your hands on this holiday season, but you would have already been able to work that out from the title. The good news is that there’s still lots of fun to be found here.
There is a plot to Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, so I suppose it’s worth discussing. It doesn’t make much sense or hold much dramatic weight, but it involves Marvel C-list supervillain Kang the Conqueror taking over the whole damn Marvel multiverse. He starts by targeting the Guardians of the Galaxy to give the fans what they want, then sets his sights on the Avengers, and eventually brings in multiple universes because why not? It doesn’t make a lick of sense and TT Games’ ability to crack jokes isn’t nearly at the level they think it is, but serves the game’s deliberately frivolous purpose. It’s the bare minimum amount of plot required to give players the wonderful world that the designers dreamed up an excuse to cram in literally hundreds of Marvel characters (so many that you’re guaranteed to run into faces that you’ve never heard of no matter how much of a Marvel nerd you truly are…no X-Men though….rights issues).
The centrepiece of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is an amazing open hub world. It’s just slightly larger than the gorgeous Manhattan from the original Lego Marvel, only now due to Kang’s dastardly plot, New York shares an island with a variety of Marvel worlds from a variety of dimensions. There’s an Old West town, a few alien landscapes, a desert populated with pyramids, a giant volcano, and even a film noir cityscape that sucks the colours out of the characters who tread there. It’s an amazing hub world filled with gorgeous details and hidden crannies. Just flying around the place as the hero of your choice and diving in and out of various comic book subgenres and landscapes is an absolute blast. There’s so much to discover that it’ll suck up hours and hours for anyone who dares to attempt to find all the collectables and unlock all the characters. This is quite possibly the most fun and diverse hub world of a Lego game to date, sprawling yet distinct enough to never feel repetitive.
Obviously, the multi-dimension concept means that missions can vary dramatically in style and locale. That’s a plus because, beat-for-beat, the missions in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 play just like every other Lego Marvel game ever. You smash stuff and build out of the Lego remains to solve puzzles, different characters have different puzzle-solving skills, all enemies and bosses are beaten by button mashing, and deaths are meaningless. Lather, rinse, repeat. TT Games haven’t changed the formula—you know what you’re getting, for better or worse. It’s repetitive as hell, but undeniably fun in short bursts (which will make it a solid Switch title, given that the full experience plays effortlessly on-the-go, without any of the graphic or gameplay sacrifices necessary on previous portable Lego game ports). At times the game feels way too frantic since the designers are clearly desperate to find ways to make Lego games feel interesting again. It can be frustrating, yet the style over substance suits the excesses of the Marvel Superhero sequel rather well.
With all of the obvious heroes and plot beats from the core Marvel history covered in the last game, this sequel gets pretty desperate in an attempt to dig up new characters and concepts. Old cowboy heroes and forgotten sidenote characters pop up alongside icons in ways that are supposed to feel exciting yet often just feel confusing and desperate. Toss in an endless stream of lame jokes and you’ve got a game that varies dramatically in quality from a storytelling standpoint. Thankfully, if you haven’t tired of the Lego formula or Marvel universe excesses yet, there is still plenty of fun to be had here, but all of the usual glitches and repetition apply.
This is a Lego game after all. But the new world is a delight to dabble in and the fan-friendly nerdery of this Marvel Universe deep dive can feel infectious. It’s a good game, just not a great one. There’s a market for any game called Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 and those who want it will love it, while those who don’t care won’t even bother trying. As for me, I’m still charmed by this stuff and found enough ingenious design within Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 to put up with the standard Lego game limitations. This is the very definition of forgettable video game fun. Turn your brain off, pop in a copy, and watch the hours melt away (guilt optional).