LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – Universe in Peril (3DS) Review
When a game is spread over a large number of platforms, it’s generally the case that the handheld versions of said game will suffer. They won’t have all the same features of their big console siblings, and often feel like different games entirely. Unfortunately this is true of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes on the 3DS- while the console version is a great application of the LEGO formula to the Marvel Universe, the 3DS version is much less successful.
The 3DS version of LEGO Marvel strays from the co-operative puzzles and platforming of the console game and instead presents a beat-em-up game following the same plot. You play through the same settings of the console version, including iconic Marvel locations such as Asgard, Stark Tower and Castle Doom, but instead of using characters’ abilities to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles, the majority of the gameplay revolves around fighting through large numbers of enemies to the end of the level, where most of the time you’ll be pit against a harder boss enemy. The bosses require a bit of pattern recognition to defeat, for example some bosses may only be vulnerable after you’ve dodged a certain attack of theirs which leaves them wide open. This can be frustrating, however, if they don’t actually use this attack often, which doesn’t happen often but does happen- I was waiting around for a couple of minutes for a boss to expose their weak point once so I couldn’t progress- not due to a fault of my own but because the game just wasn’t letting me.
In terms of 3DS-centric features, the game is in 3D outside of cutscenes and menus, which looks really nice. Some characters have abilities triggered through touch input (e.g. Iron Man can fly by swiping up on the touch screen) which is really gimmicky and offers no advantage over tying the ability to a button. There’s also a StreetPass card battle game which battles cards you’ve collected in levels against those of people you pass, but I have no idea how (or if) it works due to there being no instructions.
The game’s combat isn’t that much more advanced than a typical LEGO game, which makes it an odd decision to make it the focus of the game as it was never a strong point of the series. You’ve got a basic melee attack to damage enemies with, and a dodge ability to move out of the way of enemies faster than your basic movement. Some characters also have a ranged attack, and depending on your character’s strength you will be able to pick up and throw enemies and objects. Most characters also have a super move which deals a lot of damage, or takes out a lot of enemies at once, but requires time to cool down. You’ll also be able to tag in a partner character to assist with a special ability of their own. You never really need to use super moves or tags though as enemies can be taken out without too much trouble. Often you’ll get an optional objective to not use them, which might as well be a free reward. The ones that ask you to tag in a partner a certain amount of times that are more of a pain, oddly, as you have to go out of your way to do it.
There’s a good selection of characters to choose from, with a lot of fan service. There’s the fan favourites like Spider-Man and Iron Man, cool unexpected choices like Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armour, and even non-superhero characters like Gwen Stacey. There’s also a lot of variants of different characters, like Spidey’s Future Foundation costume and Captain America’s WW2 outfit. Unfortunately though, characters mostly play the same with little to separate them. If a character you choose in Free Play Mode doesn’t have an ability required to pass through the level, then your Tag Partner will be set to someone who does, meaning you’ll end up playing the level the same way as you did in Story Mode half the time anyway. Occasionally an optional objective may require you to use a certain character or ability in some way, but not often.
The levels aren’t all that interesting despite the interesting locales you play through. Each one is split into three missions, and are book-ended with cutscenes. The cutscenes are humorous, with interplay between all the different characters, but are incredibly grainy in this version, and also suffer from sound that’s soft and muffled and a lack of 3D. The levels consist of fighting through the same few enemy types while progressing to the end of the level, sometimes requiring you to do a small task to remove an obstacle, like hitting a switch or building something from nearby LEGO pieces. It gets painfully obvious that the game is reusing enemies, like when almost every faction you face start having a Hulk-like heavy character. The levels feel really lacking and I never felt like I was overly enjoying myself while playing.
There will be points where you get to some of the levels that aren’t so bad, and almost enjoy yourself, but then the game will lock you out of the next one until you collect more Gold Bricks from completing optional objectives in other levels, and you just have enough of it. It means you have to play through the levels you’ve already completed and perform trivial tasks like beating a level in a certain amount of time or destroying certain items within a level. It’s just padding out of game time that doesn’t add enjoyment and instead actively detracts from it.
So off you head to a level you’ve already played through, where you sit through the loading screen, and go off to do whatever annoying task that is required to get a Gold Brick. On your way you die, which fails the level and requires you to sit through the loading screen AGAIN, and start the level all over again. If I could just play through each level once then I definitely would have enjoyed the game more than I did. The arbitrary conditions required to just progress through the game were a nuisance.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes isn’t an awful game, but it’s not one I could recommend to someone. A younger gamer who loves superheroes and doesn’t own a home console might get a bit of fun out of it, but otherwise I’d say to just stick to the console version if the idea of a LEGO Marvel game piques your interest.
Don’t forget to jump over and read our review of the Wii U version too.