*A review copy was provided by TT Games*
The concept of a LEGO game is an incredibly appealing one. Take these iconic movies and stories, and give them a LEGO coat of paint: it works as a representation of a fantasy many have playing with LEGOs in real life, as well as simply being a very appealing and charming idea in general. Unfortunately, in the case LEGO Avengers for 3DS, the execution is rather poor, and that makes the game hard to suggest for all but those who really love the LEGO titles.
Visually, most of it is very well done. The characters in their LEGO forms are excellent, the animation is gorgeous, and the environments are solid as well (except during the open world segments.) Despite being on the 3DS, the faithful way in which these characters and stories have been recreated in the LEGO world is an altogether joyous experience.
Unfortunately, that is where the positives begin to end. A big part of LEGO Avengers is the recreation of the The Avengers’ and Age of Ultron’s events, and on the one hand, these are awesome. Controlling the big action scenes and seeing LEGO versions of the dialogue scenes is pretty darn cool. But there are a lot of cutscenes, and the abundance of these suffers from the classic video game tie-in problem: rewatching lengthy scenes that are ripped straight from the movies can be pretty boring.
This means that, once the novelty of everything being The-Avengers-but-LEGO wears off, you’re left with a pretty lackluster story in its own right. You’ve got the same dialogue, the same voices, the same shots down to the very camera angle. And that’s the point – it’s a LEGO recreation. But that does not mean it doesn’t get a bit dull, watching the same events I have seen a dozen times already, only without the pacing and the emotional investment.
To make up for this, LEGO Avengers 3DS includes quite a bit of humor. Some of the events are changed slightly to add jokes; Nick Fury drinking a milkshake during a chase scene, or Loki wearing ridiculous costumes, for example. These can be hit or miss, but I did laugh out loud a few times and usually found them legitimately funny to some degree.
The audio is quite impressive, with most of the music and dialogue being taken from the original movies. Some of the original ambient music can get a bit repetitive, but that’s a small complaint: the original music and voice actors being a part of the game is a really cool element.
The gameplay is the main place where it all becomes less than thrilling. As you progress through the campaign and explore the open world, you’ll take control of several Marvel characters with various abilities: Captain America can throw his shield, Black Window shoots guns, Iron Man can fly and shoot missiles, etc. But these different abilities don’t change how you actually play the game.
The problem is that the gameplay always winds up doing the same dull things over and over. You’ll run through a level collecting studs, mindlessly beating up enemies during which there is no finesse or skills required, and then performing platforming and puzzle challenges that consist of a total lack of compelling design for the former and a “try every ability you know until one works” strategy for the latter. The only thing you lose when your health runs out (in combat or platforming) is a few studs, so there is no real challenge either.
To make up for this, there are bonus challenges. Each level has a set of bonus objectives that tasks you with collecting a set amount of studs, taking out enemies in a certain way, finding hidden collectibles, etc. Campaign levels have five challenges each, while the open world has far more. I found it hard to care about the extra challenges because I didn’t care about the regular challenges and gameplay (or lack thereof), but these are a welcome addition nonetheless.
The best parts of the game are, by far, the set pieces. Occasionally there’s an on-rails shooter with Iron Man, or a smash fest with Hulk. Here the frustration of the lacking gameplay can be set aside for a moment, and you can just enjoy controlling the LEGO recreation of this awesome movie. These set pieces can be thrilling, although they are still totally devoid of challenge, and they always return to the grind of traditional gameplay quickly.
There is also an open world that lets you explore, discover secrets, collect studs, and find collectibles. There are bonus characters and missions available. These are all quality additions, but as someone who didn’t find the base gameplay all that enticing, it didn’t do anything for me. Still, it is a noteworthy addition that many will surely enjoy.
All in all, I just did not enjoy the gameplay much – but I also suspect I am not the target audience. Note that this was my first LEGO game experience, so I’m not sure how it stacks up compared to others in the series. Either way, people who love running around collecting studs, mindlessly beating up goons, and scouring the world for collectibles will probably find LEGO Avengers 3DS a lot more enjoyable than I did. You might be one of those people. There are some technical issues holding it back though – the open world has horrible draw distance, and the frame-rate can be inconsistent.
For all my grumbling and complaining, I hesitate to be too hard on LEGO Avengers 3DS. Even with its problems, it is an awesome idea that does quite a bit right, and a TON of people will enjoy it. Kids especially will be able to look past the issues and simply embrace the sheer awesomeness of a competent LEGO Avengers game. But that is all it is: competent. Nothing more. The gameplay isn’t bad, it’s just boring. The story isn’t bad, it just doesn’t offer much on its own. The visuals and occasional humor aren’t enough to make up for the general mediocrity of everything else.
But again: many people will enjoy this type of gameplay, and if the simple joy of running around as a LEGO Avenger sounds appealing to you (and you can’t play the console version for whatever reason), pick up the 3DS version of Lego Marvel’s Avengers. Just don’t expect it to blow you away.