The Hulk is growing on me. Never my favorite Marvel character, he always represented a twist on the classic Jekyll and Hyde story, and little else. But as a playable character, The Hulk is one of the most fun characters in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes from Warner Bros and he represents everything that is both good and bad about the game.
Playing as the green mammoth makes you feel like you're controlling the real deal. He's one of a couple of LEGO's “big figure” characters and checks-in at nearly twice the size. His incredible strength comes in handy at just the right times. And that's the layout of the game. Every character, hero or villain, enters the story at just the point when their powers are needed.
The simple story line is straight out of the comic books. Galactus is hungry, his shiny server-in-waiting, Silver Surfer has to find a nice world for him to munch. The surfer leads the galactic appetite to Earth and S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, the X-Men, Spider-Man, and nearly every other Marvel character, regardless of anonymity, must try to stop this evil from devouring the planet. This is chiefly accomplished by collecting the shattered remnants of Silver Surfer's board, called cosmic blocks, and keeping them out of the hands of Dr. Doom, who is trying to build his “Doomsday Doom Ray of Doom.”
You must play the first part as Iron-Man and the Hulk, but you soon have access to many more characters from the Marvel Universe. There are only a half-dozen or so powers that are needed and many characters have similar powers. Obviously the Hulk has to smash things. This overlap seems restrictive at first but allows players to choose to play the characters they like best. This is further enforced with the good character acting and voice-over work that help bring the characters to life.
Aside from the 100-plus playable characters, the game offers a lot for Stan Lee's fanboys to sink their proverbial claws into. Players can roam buildings and environments from every corner of the Marvel Realm. Asgard is surprisingly beautiful as a LEGO kingdom. You can also explore X-Mansion, the Daily Bugle, and a host of others. The open-world environment is not wholly inclusive but you get to see other familiar landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.
The difficulty level is lower than most superhero games but it feels purposeful as the game seems to focus on the immersible Marvel environment. It's challenging enough, but you won't spend days trying to complete a single level. While casual gamers could likely upend this game in 12 to 14 hours, the avid gamer will do it in 9 to 10. But the real longevity of Marvel Superheroes lies in the fact that you can come back and play the whole thing again with a different combination of characters.
The game does have a few flaws. The button you use to change characters is the same one used to change from Hulk back to Dr. Banner. It's merely a matter of holding the button down too long, which can happen in the middle of a fight or if you have fat thumbs. To top it off it takes way too long to Hulk-out again. In the meantime you get pummeled because the wimpy Banner has a glass jaw.
Also there is no way to save particular characters to an on-screen dial or the d-pad. You have to scroll to the character you need. There are more commands than there are buttons, and yet there are unused buttons. Go figure.
LEGO's mark is all over this game, as it should be. But a great amount of creativity went into the construction of a solid Marvel release as well. If you're fans of either, this game is a Hulk-smashing good time.
Contact Tom Fisher at email@example.com.