For those of us who don’t have kids, LEGO games are kind of like junk food. They’re insubstantial and not even that good, and yet there’s something addicting about them. If you’ve played one LEGO game, you’ve played them all, but despite knowing that, you just keep coming back for more. I’d say one of the usual contributing factors to that is when a LEGO game is based off a franchise you like, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or, as with today’s game, The Avengers. LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros., to be precise.
The story follows the two Avengers movies more or less to the letter, with some of the more graphic moments from the film glossed over or downplayed to make them a bit more family friendly. I was a little sad when they took out the “not for men like you” moment, but they kept Hulk punching Thor, so I’d say it balances out. The dialogue is fully voiced using a mix of stand-in voice actors and actual sound bites from the movies. While I always love the snarky tone of Robert Downey Jr., it’s a little weird to hear the voices of serious actors coming out of LEGO minifigs, compounded by the fact that if you listen carefully, you can hear background noises and static in the imported dialogue, which strikes me as a bit lazy. The stand-in voice actors are the silly to balance out the serious, delivering one-liners, eye-rollers, and references with just enough variety to keep you amused. Remember that one blooper from Avengers where Agent Hill is all “I WILL GET THE AVENGERS AND YOU WILL BE AVENGED”? Yep, they brought that back for this game.
As I said, if you’ve played one LEGO game, you’ve played them all. The main game is a linear progression through set pieces from the films, alternating between simple puzzles and fistfights. The puzzle mechanics are essentially the same as LEGO Marvel Superheroes, with each character providing some kind of problem-solving mechanic based on their powers and abilities. In order to solve all of the puzzles and find the bonus junk, you’ll need to play the level again on Free Play, where you can use any character that you’ve unlocked. For the combat, finishing moves have been made a separate command rather than just a thing that always happens, which is nice if you don’t feeling like watching the animation again. Team-up attacks have also been added, though they’re only unique if the two characters you’re using actually have anything to do with each other, otherwise it’s just a flying punch thing (though, incidentally, Hulk and Thor’s team-up attack made me burst out laughing). These additions are neat, but since there’s no real penalty for dying beyond losing some studs, it’s really more of a distraction than anything.
As was the case of LEGO Marvel Superheroes, the fun was to be had not in the game proper, but rather in the open-world Manhattan area, where you could just bum around doing five minute sidequests and unlocking more characters. Someone at TT Games must’ve realized this, because some extra love has been given to the open-world gameplay this time around. Starting off, in addition to Manhattan, you also have free range of Washington D.C., the Barton Farm, and Sokovia to name a few locales. Scattered around these areas are sidequests and challenges that reward you with character tokens and gold bricks. When I first got to play in open-world Manhattan, the number of blips that appeared on my little radar excited me, because I knew there were shenanigans to be had. Bigfig character like the Hulk have been given more traveling capability in the form of climbing up buildings and charge jumping, reminiscent of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction back on the PS2 (now if only we could turn cars into boxing gloves). Speaking of cars, you can commandeer any vehicle you find, as well as unlock special ones, though to be honest, the cars handle like a drunk guy on a skateboard, so you’ll probably forgo driving for flying or jumping.
In the end, the thing that keeps LEGO Marvel’s Avengers from getting stale too fast is the amount of Marvel fanservice. References, inside jokes, representation of powers; it all feels like a big love letter to Marvel, and if you like Marvel, it’ll make you happy. And, of course, no Marvel product would be complete without numerous Stan Lee cameos, to the point that saving him from strange situations is actually a game mechanic. Apparently, there’s even a Stan Lee Hulkbuster character you can play as (I haven’t unlocked him yet myself, but damn if I ain’t gonna try). All of this culminates in a great lazy day game. Got nothing better to do? Put on the TV and go flying around Manhattan. Though you might want to wait for a sale; $39.99’s a bit steep for a lazy day game.