I didn’t know I ever would want a game in which J. Jonah Jameson frustratingly tries to livestream from the Daily Bugle or the frog version of Thor rallies to save his amphibious friends until I played Lego Marvel Superheroes 2.
As a sequel to the 2013 hit Marvel game, Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 doubles down on the zanier elements of the long-running comic imprint to offer a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure.
This time around, classic Avengers villain Kang the Conquerer (wonderfully brought to life by The Tick‘s Peter Serafinowicz) has used his time-travelling abilities to pluck different places throughout history to create his own new world to rule — Chronopolis. While the first Lego Marvel Superheroes featured a New York-centric open world, Chronopolis is a mish-mash of 17 different time-displaced Marvel Comics locations.
TT Games uses the time travel conceit to great effect here, offering settings that range from the more prominent, like Manhattan, Agent Egypt, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Nowhere and Black Panther’s Wakanda, to the deeper cuts, such as a Spider-Man Noir-inspired New York City, Iron Fist’s K’un L’un and The Inhumans’ Attilan. While none of theses areas on their own are particularly large, together they create an open-world that feels very diverse and engaging.
What you’re actually doing here, however, is quite similar to previous Lego games — for better or worse. The game features the same brick-smashing, stud-collecting, simple puzzle-solving gameplay that’s been a staple of the series since the original Lego Star Wars in 2005. It’s serviceable, for sure, but it can feel quite dated at times.
Where the Lego games have always most excelled, though, is in delivering infectious amounts of charm, and Marvel Superheroes 2 is no exception. Longtime Marvel comics writer Kurt Busiek is credited with the writing here, and it shows throughout the game. Each character oozes personality thanks to witty dialogue, lively animation and often hilarious special abilities.
As in previous games, a lot of these heroes and villains are unlockable through replaying levels to enter previously inaccessible areas, completing sidequests in the open world or purchasing them with Studs or Bricks in Gwenpool’s shop. With over 100 characters in the game, there’s a nice incentive to keep on playing. Time travel abilities can also be used to alter certain characters at will, such as letting Groot shift between his baby and adult forms or Spider-Man swap between his ‘2099’ and ‘Noir’ versions.
In addition to skewing heavily towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange), the roster also features newer Marvel Comics characters, with Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) and Gwenpool being the two standouts. Kamala uses her “embiggening” powers to create oversized fists, glide like a kit and contort herself into a ball, among other delightfully comic book-esque moves. In cutscenes, meanwhile, she often fangirls over meeting older, more established heroes, as she is wont to do in the comics. Gwenpool on the other hand serves as this game’s Deadpool — a boisterous fourth-wall breaking narrator who also serves as a vendor for additional content.
TT Games has also included some truly quirky obscure characters, like Iron Duck (Howard the Duck wearing Iron Man armour), Hit-Monkey (an assassin that’s actually a simian) and Spider-Ham (an alternate dimension wall-crawler, also known as Peter Porker).
The highlight character of the game, though, is most certainly Star-Lord. The scrappy hero’s special move has him putting on his headphones and jamming out to music on his signature Walkman in a brilliant homage to the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy. What’s more, TT Games even got the license to two of the songs featured in the films, meaning any time Star-Lord uses this ability, short clips will play from either “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone or ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Non-player characters will also become distracted by the rhythm, letting Star-Lord shoot them while dancing about.
However, as was the case with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, there are few glaring major character omissions here — namely, the Fantastic Four and X-Men. The first Lego Marvel Superheroes game featured these teams prominently in both the story and side missions, so to have them completely absent here feels like a step back in a mega-crossover sequel such as this. This is undoubtedly the unfortunate result of a long-running pettiness between Marvel and Fox over the latter’s film rights to these characters. Hopefully, this will be one of the last games to feature this ridiculous limitation, given Marvel parent company Disney’s recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.
Beyond gripes over missing characters, I did also experience some technical issues during my time with the game. Frame rate can dip at times, while audio levels also suddenly drop at times. Moreover, a few glitches reared their head at times, with the most glaring being a boss frozen mid-fight, forcing me to restart the level. For the most part, though, the game is quite polished and plays smoothly.
In many ways, Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 is the perfect game to play in the quieter, post-holiday period of gaming. With few major AAA releases slated for a little while, lighter, easy pick-up-and-play fare like this really is ideal. While it’s missing some key characters and could have used more gameplay variety, Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 is a highly entertaining game that lovingly brings the Marvel universe to life.
Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 is now available on PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Image credit: Lego/Warner Bros.