LEGO Marvel Super Heroes peels back the layers of the Marvel universe (or maybe I should say stacks them up in neat and tidy rows), taking cues from comic books and the popular Iron Man, Captain America and Avengers movies. Its story leads us through some recognizable locations, from the X-Men mansion to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier to the Fantastic 4 tower to Doctor Doom's Latvian castle to … well, you name it and it's probably at least referenced or slam-bammed through by some team of superblocky heroes.
Doctor Doom's Doomy Doom
The adventure begins with the Silver Surfer looking for planetoids that might satiate the hunger of his world-eating boss Galactus. The Surfer is skimming along Earth's outer atmosphere when, WHAM!, Doctor Doom blasts him out of the sky with some superweapon. But the metal-faced genius isn't just trying to protect his home planet. Oh, no. He's got some other wicked plans tucked tight in his gauntlets.
With the help of Norse demigod Loki, the bad doc pulls together an army of supervillains (the likes of Red Skull, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Venom and Mandarin). They're all determined to scour the globe in search of the Surfer's broken-up surfboard—now just a bunch of glowing LEGO blocks they call cosmic bricks. Oh, and remember the Tesseract? Uh-huh, that alien superbattery is snatched up and pulled into the mix too. The metal-bending Magneto even uses the Statue of Liberty to pluck out the core of a nuclear reactor. It's all in an attempt to gather enough materials and power for Dr. Doom's Doom Ray of Doom.
Of course, that kind of evil roll call (not to mention lengthy list of dooms) demands an equally impressive roster of good guys to push back against it. Nick Fury calls in the Avengers and a massive group of other highly recognizable superfaces including the X-Men, Fantastic 4 and Spider-Man.
Spider-Man's Spidey Sense … and Some Other Super Stuff
Gameplay wise, players control and switch between two or three superheroes at a time to figure out whatever open-world puzzle they might be facing. The challenge is to identify the type of bad-guy-defeating task that needs doing and then toggle among the supers in the right order to get it done.
Is the Sandman blocking your path with a wall of living beach-front property? Then Iron Man needs to piece together a water cannon and harden things up so Hulk can smash his way through. Each superpower—from Spidey senses to Thor's lightning charges to Human Torch's fire blasts—can be used at just the right time to solve whatever dastardly conundrum is at hand.
Each main story mission is broken up into a dozen or more lightly perplexing levels that will keep kids thinking without pushing them to frustration. And the whole thing is made all the more fun through some snappy banter between the goodies and the baddies. It's the kind of quip-filled dialogue you'd expect from Spider-Man or Tony Stark, but now everybody gets in on the punch line filled act.
Smash and Bash, But You Can't Kill
Speaking of punch, right about now you'll be wanting to know how much of that sort of slam-bam stuff is going on here. And the answer is: quite a bit. Hulk smash and Doom blast and all that. But of course it's the kind of playfully plastic destruction that's typical of a LEGO title.
And nobody dies. Once you best a Loki or a Green Goblin, they generally just sit down on the ground, heads shaking in defeat. And when the Hulk picks up a minion or a nearby hot dog cart and flails one or the other from side-to-side, they break up into their LEGO block components to either disappear, be collected or be rebuilt into something useful.
While playing I noted two uses of "heck." And that's about as bad as things ever get. This game is all about solving puzzles, outfoxing foes, collecting LEGO studs (and heroes that you can use to go back and unlock secret areas in previously played levels) and, of course, saving a comic book version of humanity. It's smash-apart LEGO blocks. It's cute visuals and tongue-in-cheek one-liners. It's kid-friendly environmental puzzles designed to be solved … or sometimes shaken vigorously.