Any semblance of the best LEGO Vita title or is there still some assembly still required?
It’s no secret that LEGO games have generally struggled to meet expectations when it comes to the Vita. It’s also no secret that despite a few enjoyable moments, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes struggled to set the world alight with what it offered.
TT Fusion have not been ignorant of the clamour for a LEGO title closer to the console counterpart and recent LEGO titles have certainly improved in quality, so could this be the definitive LEGO game on the Vita?
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, as you might suspect, is themed around Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and more specifically the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films directed by Joss Whedon. Characters from those films as well as some of the supporting films in the series will be at your disposal as you bid to save the world. Multiple times.
Your adventure begins with a prologue and is the assault on Baron von Strucker’s Hydra base – actually from the second film – and sets the tone for the game very well. Complete with the same cinematic opening as Age of Ultron and featuring the assembled montage scene, you are instantly thrown into the action. In a lot of ways this makes sense, as it allows you to get into the game immediately and get used to the action required, dispensing of the remaining forces from Hydra and re-acquiring Loki’s sceptre. These opening missions will explain more about the new teamwork mechanic, which allows two Avengers to combine to produce a special move, allowing progress to the next part of the mission. It’s rather clever and is easily one of the most impressive entrances to a LEGO title that I’ve ever played.
It also makes a lot of sense to start this way, as once you have completed the prologue, you’ll begin the adventure from the beginning of the first film, and as the team are yet to assemble you’ll find yourself playing as Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Phil Coulson (no, his first name is not Agent) as they try to recruit the mighty heroes to save the world from Loki’s treacherous scheme. As a result the Avengers storyline takes a while to get going – including a flashback to the 1940s – so it would have taken a while to get used to the mechanics before throwing them in mid-game. There is quite a lot of variety in the missions and it does a great job of condensing the film into smaller bite sized levels, and most of the key points from the film are present and correct.
Successfully defending New York and defeating Loki then progresses to the new look Avengers Tower and picks up where the prologue left off. You’ll be in the midst of creating the Ultron interface and throwing your party – complete with Mjolnir’s party game – before Stark’s plan for peace in our time goes awfully wrong. Once again it’ll fly through the majority of the key scenes from Age of Ultron before you save the day again, albeit with a mass extinction event sized hole in eastern Europe. Across the campaign you’ll play as the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. characters as well as every Avenger from the films, and you’ll even get the chance to play as Bucky Barnes and War Machine.
In each mission you’ll have five challenges to complete, with finishing the mission one, collecting a required amount of studs (which is obviously easier with Red Brick help), locating the hidden brick and character tokens as well as two specific to that mission, usually enemy/health or time related. You’ll probably fail to do this on your first try as you’ll need Free Play to aid in that – so you’ll be playing these missions at least twice.
There is no denying that the game certainly feels like a replication of the big screen adventures (albeit in a more condensed format) but I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the fact that there were only 15 missions in the campaign. Your jaunt across the two big screen adventures sure won’t last you long, but there is something more to keep you playing beyond, and that’s Manhattan.
Game Director Steve Thornton spoke to us recently about listening to fans, and in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers you’ll find a fully three dimensional open world representation of Manhattan and is described as being about 1:1 with the console equivalent. Within this hub you’ll be able to mix it up with fifteen challenges unique to the handheld version and with the largest roster of characters in a LEGO handheld so far you’ll have plenty to occupy you long after the end credits have rolled.
The hub is certainly packed, and feels very busy with lots of pedestrians and traffic making it feel like a living, breathing city and is a very welcome addition to the game, but it isn’t without its own compromises. At ground level the game looks and runs very well and you’ll be impressed with your surrounding environment, but taking to the skies with a flying character will reveal the limitations in place to get this running. The draw distance and depth is pretty much limited to your surrounding area with distant buildings silhouetted in a shroud of fog. Locating all of the hidden collectables is certainly going to be challenging. Especially when you consider that there is no collectable Red Brick in the game.
LEGO titles have their own look and style and long time fans of the series will know what to expect here. The levels themselves are enjoyable representations of the events and some of the blurry visuals that have plagued previous LEGO titles are not present here. I’d go as far to say that the opening assault in the prologue is one of the best looking levels that the series has yet mustered, but this standard isn’t maintained throughout. Some levels, including those in the air (Helicarrier and Sokovia) look particularly bland and uninspired but for the most part the standard holds.
What doesn’t hold are the cut scenes, and there is a notable disparity between the excellent scenes intended for the bigger release (video/audio quality, animated fully) and those for the handheld (poorly animated, no vocal syncing and poor textures) and it mars the experience somewhat.
This disparity carries over with the audio too, with some dialogue – which features all of the main Avengers voice cast – crystal clear in some places, and muffled or distorted in others. The main Avengers are all present here, but some of the other voices are very clearly not from the MCU, most noticeably Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaw.
Acoustically the game very much feels like an Avengers game, with the main music from the films present and correct and chiming in where appropriate. There are also a few other tunes from other MCU films in there too which kick in at times and certainly enhance the overall feel of the package. It certainly executes what it intended to do.
The controls are also executed well for the most part, but the extra dimension in play caused a few issues on the Vita, especially when using a flying character. Using the analogue stick will throw you all over the place when airborne so you’ll want to get used to the D-pad for that, and you’ll probably want to avoid the touch based controls altogether.
So, it’s got the open would that everyone has wanted for so long, a huge roster and is based on one of the hottest movie properties there is. This has got to be a shoe-in for best LEGO Vita game, right? Not exactly. It certainly has many of the ingredients, and it’s not because it’s a bad game as such – you know what you are getting with a LEGO title in that it will be themed around the property, filled with puzzles, character specific challenges and even a dose of humour and this certainly feels like a LEGO take on the Avengers Universe. My biggest problem with it is the length; and I know that there are only two Avengers films, but those films were the pay-off from Phase One and Two, which were many more films than that. They could – and arguably should – have tapped into these other films to build up the story – they already delved into one to give you a level here. It feels light on content, and possibly short on ideas, ideas which could have materialised from other titles in the franchise.
Marvel fans, especially those that love the Cinematic Universe will certainly enjoy what is here, but I have a feeling that they will long for more, whilst looking enviously at the console version. Ultimately by trying to give us more of what we said we wanted, they ended up giving us even less.