At the end of 2013, my husband and I got ourselves a little Christmas present: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Though we don’t usually play co-op games (Yes, I will beat the Cookie & Cream dead horse into pulpy dust.), this particular LEGO game really seemed to offer the best of both worlds. For one, we both like LEGOs. Two, he’s been a Marvel fan his whole life, and he’s all about jumping into anything that involves that universe. And three, I am always willing to take on just about any LEGO-ized subject in game form. We played through the game over a weekend and managed to beat the thing (main story only, about 10 hours), and we did that without killing each other. (Aw, looky that, we’re all grown up…)
Frankly, it helped that the game was really enjoyable and easy to play. It tells a straight-forward if somewhat bloated story of good versus evil. (I say “bloated” because the game really crammed in as much Marvel as it could. I mean, I knew enough Marvel stuff to have flailed my way around, but after awhile, the constant introduction of new characters was a bit much.) In the game, you, playing as any number of Marvel good guys (Iron Man, Spider-Man, Mr. Fantastic, Captain America, Black Widow, etc. etc.) face off with an assortment of bad guys, from Venom to Mastermind. But your primary objective is to stop Loki, Doctor Doom, and eventually, and most importantly, Galactus from destroying all the things.
As with all LEGO games, during play you collect bricks for points and special items for, well…more special items, and fight off hordes of random enemies as you make your way to and through several boss battles. The world of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is a three-dimensional one with an open world feel. You can tool around in New York City (the game’s primary hub) as well as in each new level or space to find secrets and sidequests, or you can ignore everything and simply get on with the story. With two people playing, you’re often in a team of three or four and have the ability to switch between any of the characters on your team. And each of the hundreds of character in the game has his or her own special abilities, as such things usually go when dealing with superheroes. The Thing is super powerful; Spider-Man can shoot webs; Captain American can throw his shield, and so on. Generally, the teams are made up of characters with the proper abilities that you’ll need to get through each stage. And, without a doubt, the game is also very funny, as it’s rife with the all the cheekiness, absurdness, and in-jokes that we have come to expect from a LEGO game.
As much fun as it was to play the game co-op, the experience was not without its problems, which I detailed in a post I wrote for United We Game:
[T]he gameplay wasn’t perfect, as we hit a few rough spots primarily due to how the game acts in co-op mode. In both games, in two-player mode, the characters appear on the same screen; and when they get too far apart, the screen divides, sometimes irregularly, in two. This screen division, while better than having to play split screen the entire time, didn’t always work very well and led to numerous camera issues because of the wonky views on screen. On several occasions, one of us would get stuck or would have to perform an action that could only be made viewable by placing the characters in close proximity. Also, in most levels, there were usually three or four playable characters, each with different skills, and you switched between them depending on what needed to happen. This led to plenty of chaotic boss battles where we’d accidentally switch to different characters and not realize it – not good especially when certain characters had to do certain things in certain orders to defeat the bosses. Also, the multitude of on-screen characters often got rather muddled as it was easy to lose track of where one was while performing a series of tasks. But our moments of fun and coordinated play overwhelmingly outweighed these annoyances.
But…the story doesn’t end there. Because a few months after we completed LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, I played the game solo. I took on the game in much the same manner – roughly two days, playing only through the main story. The experience was…not horrible…
…but…honestly, it wasn’t the best. I mean, it wasn’t Epic Mickey 2 bad (i.e. a multiplayer game with a useless single player experience), but more than once I wished another human being was controlling characters in my party.
It’s possible that we just had a glitchy copy of the game, as a few minor glitches marred the co-op play, but there are points in the game where two characters must work together to perform certain actions. Playing on my own meant completely relying on the AI, which performed decently most of the time, and really terribly some of the time. This was especially apparent during a couple boss battles that required teamwork. Sometimes, my teammates just didn’t want to play right. (I had a very similar experience playing LEGO Harry Potter alone, as well.) Interestingly, my frustrations with the game’s AI never really got the better of me, and at no point during solo play did I go into a curse-ridden rage. Perhaps I came into some really delicious coffee or found $20 in the seat cushions or had gotten a great night’s sleep. Whatever it was that had me in a good mood over those couple days was very helpful with the game. Then again, there is something inherently enjoyable about taking on the personas of famous super heroes in LEGO form.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t think the game’s developers had in mind to create a co-op game with a tacked on and poorly rendered single player mode (*ahem* Epic Mickey 2 *ahem*). Instead, with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, you’ve got a strong solo mode, and a slightly stronger co-op mode. Either way however, it’s not perfect. But there’s a good time to be had with it if you like Marvel or LEGO or both. If you want a fun and mostly easy-going couch co-op game to play with your friend or loved one, you can’t go wrong with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.