When Traveller’s Tales’ Lego Marvel Super Heroes was first released back in 2013, it was lauded as a polished Lego title and exceptional use of the Marvel license. Now on Nintendo Switch in 2021, I’m pleased to report that, for the most part, that still holds true today. Its story seamlessly combines influences from both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the wider Marvel comics to create a comedic narrative that spans an impressive gamut of characters and lore from the franchise. An open-world rendition of New York City serves as a fun sandbox to toy around in with almost any Marvel character you can think of, and there’s a clear reverence for the source material in nearly every facet of the game. In review, only a few technical hiccups hold back Lego Marvel Super Heroes from aging like fine wine on its Nintendo Switch debut.
A narrative for true believers
A simple but effective story makes excellent use of the Marvel brand. It begins when the Silver Surfer is sent to find edible planets by Galactus, only to be promptly captured by Doctor Doom and a gaggle of Marvel villains. Doctor Doom then plans to make use of the cosmic bricks that formed the Silver Surfer’s board to create the “Doom Ray of Doom,” defeat Galactus, and take over the world unless our heroes can stop him.
What the story lacks in twists and turns, it makes up for in execution. Diverse scenarios mean that in one moment Jean Grey and Iron Man might be escaping from MODOK, while in another, Captain America and the Thing could be hunting down Magneto. Characters are authentic to their comic book counterparts but also inherit the quippy nature of the MCU and the Lego series. Iron Man might joke about his numerous suits, Spider-Man frequently complains about his double life, and the banter between unusual pairings like the Hulk and Wolverine is a joy to watch play out. Almost everyone gets a moment to shine, and the tongue-in-cheek comedy pays great reverence to established Marvel lore.
A stellar voice cast rounds things out. Clark Gregg reprises his role as Agent Phil Coulson to act as a player guide, while veteran Wolverine voice actor Steve Blum brings his signature gruff style to the character. Taken as a whole, it’s a straightforward superhero plot, but its dedication to making the best out of Marvel’s stable of characters turns it into something greater.
Grand Theft Marvel
If you’ve ever played a Lego game, you’ll know what to expect from Lego Marvel Super Heroes on Nintendo Switch. A short but focused campaign takes players through linear levels that introduce new locations and characters at a steady clip. Players can use their given characters to fight basic enemies and solve puzzles that ensure you’re constantly taking advantage of the unique powers provided by each hero. Boss battles against the likes of Green Goblin or Juggernaut add fun spectacle to the proceedings, and the novelty of using each hero’s attacks seldom gets old. That might include throwing Mjolnir at foes, using Spider-Sense to spot a solution, or smashing everything in sight as the Hulk. In Metroidvania fashion, returning to levels with new characters offers chances to discover secrets and collectibles that were previously inaccessible, such as Minikits, Lego studs, and cute Stan Lee cameos.
Lego studs act as a currency to unlock new characters and use them in the open world, where the game shines most. The entirety of Manhattan Island can be explored solo or with a friend. Challenge races, side quests, and puzzles that unlock more characters are strewn across the city. Want to use the Human Torch and do chores for Deadpool? Go for it. If you’d rather take on an aerial race as the Falcon, that’s your prerogative. Or if you simply want to rampage Chinatown as Thanos, have at it.
Unfortunately, minor issues show their age in the open world too. Characters can be swapped anytime, but if you happen to have a transforming hero like the Hulk, your character select screen is inaccessible because transforming makes use of that same swapping button. Controls for flying characters are also clunky at best, and overall, the city doesn’t feel as vibrant as it once did.
As shiny as a Lego brick
Lego Marvel Super Heroes was originally released in 2013, so it may not be surprising that it performs admirably on Nintendo Switch. A stable frame rate keeps the game flowing in every situation, load times are generally quick, and animation flourishes like Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk or Wolverine turning into a skeleton when damaged are wonderful. The glossy plastic sheen of the Lego characters still looks great, especially in handheld mode, and both the lighting and reflections do their part to add some welcome character to beautiful environments such as Asgard or Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
That said, some areas could have been improved. A lack of anti-aliasing creates some jagged edges. New York itself comes across as a little dull compared to the characters and mission environments due to flat textures and noticeable pop-in when traveling at speed. Elsewhere, default sound levels across the board are far too quiet, but once you’ve raised the volume, there’s plenty to enjoy. Music for levels and the game’s own version of the Avengers theme make for a great backing soundtrack alongside the wonderful vocal performances.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes is fan service done right
Lego Marvel Super Heroes has plenty to offer to Lego and Marvel fans alike. A brisk but well-paced story takes you on an enjoyable ride while constantly introducing new characters and locations. Fantastic vocal performances and comedic writing make great use of the Marvel characters from both the movies and the comic books, and it’s topped off by an entertaining open world to let players mess around with characters to their heart’s content. Some small graphical and control issues remind you that this isn’t a modern title, but that said, once you’re flying around Manhattan as Iron Man, these flaws are soon forgotten.
A Nintendo Switch review code for Lego Marvel Super Heroes was provided by the publisher.