‘Lego Marvel’s Avengers’ is good clean fun
In my experience – and I have an embarrassingly good deal of it – the Lego series is the single best franchise for intergenerational gaming. Many are the hours the kids and I have passed on the family room couch over the years playing Lego versions of “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings” or “Batman.”
Like good family movies, the Lego games hit that sweet spot of providing entertainment that children dig and grown-ups can appreciate as well. And because the games require cooperative problem solving, Lego games are a nice opportunity for kids and parents to truly play together.
The latest entry in the long-running franchise, “Lego Marvel’s Avengers” tackles Hollywood’s reigning comic book movie franchise with the usual treatment. It’s good clean superhero fun for kids aged 8 to 88.
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For those unfamiliar with the Lego titles from developer TT Games, here’s the gist: Each game adapts material from pop culture – typically movie franchises or comic books – and scales everything down to Lego size. The vibe is goofy, loose and gently satirical, while gameplay toggles between cartoony combat and often rather involved puzzle-solving.
It’s the puzzle-solving element that makes Lego games fun as a parent-child activity. In local multiplayer mode – by far the best way to play these games – players must work together to solve the various spatial and building challenges.
“Marvel’s Avengers” is particularly effective in this mode. The designers have incorporated the thematic idea of teamwork that’s central to the comic book and movie incarnation of the Avengers saga. As many an arch-villain can tell you, the Avengers are at their best when they work as a team.
The new adventure leverages this concept with specific game mechanics. The designers have introduced “finishing moves” that reward teamwork and add spectacular effects inspired by the films. For instance, Thor can use his hammer to bash Captain America’s vibranium shield, which sends a shock wave that flattens all adjacent enemies.
Hawkeye and Black Widow make a great team, too, as do Iron Man and Hulk. When playing through the main story campaign, each sequence pairs two Avengers with level challenges custom-made for heroics. Players can switch between characters on the fly, too, so if you get tired of smashing blocky bad guys as Hulk, you can flip to Iron Man and jet around for a while.
Visually, the new game has been polished to a high-gloss gleam. The opening sequence recreates the Avengers assault on the wintry Hydra outpost from last year’s blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” It’s a nearly shot-by-shot homage, and many of the game’s cutscenes and transitional animations are drawn directly from Marvel films – with bonus sight gags thrown in for laughs.
The game’s voiceover dialogue is all recycled from the films as well – that’s really Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey trading quips as they dispatch goons. “Marvel’s Avengers” isn’t as flat-out funny as previous games in the series, but it’s neat to hear the actual performers voicing their miniaturized caricatures.
Story a jumble
Because it’s stitched together from several movies, the story line of the game is just this side of inscrutable. It’s best not to think about it too much. Several levels have a problem with visual clutter, as well – there’s so much happening onscreen that things sometimes dissolve into a kinetic color swirl.
Or at least that’s how it appeared to these old eyes. Actually, a very interesting thing happened when playtesting “Avengers” with my seventh grader. During puzzle-solving sequences, he could often spot visual clues that I couldn’t in the onscreen jumble. But I could often figure out more abstract challenges that he couldn’t resolve. We genuinely needed teamwork to get past certain levels.
Next up for the Lego franchise: “Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Stay tuned.
“Lego Marvel’s Avengers” is available now for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Macintosh and Microsoft Windows.