TT Fusion learn from the issues with their previous handheld LEGO titles with a smart, fun, fully-featured experience that sadly lacks in content but otherwise delivers an enjoyable adventure.
World-building & Story
As with many previous LEGO titles, Marvel’s Avengers relies on a separate pre-existing franchise in order to establish its world – in this instance, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means that locations; characters and story beats are taken straight from the films – here it’s the first two Avengers movies.
For any LEGO megafans out there you may notice some things missing from that list – the home console versions include content from the Captain America; Iron Man and Thor films. While a disappointing omission, the narrative flows well enough for it not to be a glaring issue.
Rather, the story problems stem from the break-neck speed it flies through the content from the films it does cover. It’s a whistle-stop tour through all of the major plot points from Avengers and its sequel that, while enjoyable, did leave me scratching my head at points as someone who hasn’t watched the films in a few years.
Still, LEGO games have always aimed to be light-hearted takes on popular franchises and in this area the title undoubtedly succeeds. Humor is particularly on point here as it always is, with little quirks in cutscenes such as Loki grabbing a bag of popcorn during the Thor/Iron Man fight or Hawkeye carting around a wheelbarrow full of arrows during the New York scene. I chuckled to myself multiple times throughout the story and that’s not something I can say about many games.
World-building is done through recreations of locations from the movies, most of which are well done. Particularly impressive in this entry is a fully explorable version of Marvel’s Manhattan, complete with all the landmarks you’d expect such as Stark Tower. If you’ve seen the films, it’ll add an extra layer of enjoyment revisiting famous locales but even without, it’s a memorable experience.
Presentation & Sound
Graphically, the game is exactly what you’d expect from a LEGO title on vita at this point. The game isn’t the most impressive you’ll come across on handheld – mouths don’t animate; edges can get jaggy in bigger scenes and environments can be somewhat sparse in places. Despite this, there’s an undeniable charm to the game’s looks.
There’s clearly a lot of effort that has gone into recreating iconic environments from the films – the SHIELD carrier is impressive; Stark Tower has a great sense of scale to it etc. Undoubtedly the crowning achievement in this is the recreation of Manhattan which provides a big, sprawling metropolis to explore. Unfortunately, this also hosts the game’s major flaw in presentation.
In order to allow an open world environment running at a stable frame-rate, TT Fusion elected to reduce draw distance by introducing a PS1-era fog when exploring the city. It’s jarring and while far from making the game unplayable, comes as somewhat of a disappointment given the Vita’s capabilities (especially compared to the open worlds present in other games on the console). Amusingly, the issue is less prominent when exploring the city at night which seems to boast a much greater draw distance.
Sound is also a bit of a sticking point – it’s not bad, just that it could be better. Voice acting is taken nearly exclusively from the films and presumably due to compression often sounds tinny and distant in the actual game. There are quite a few original voices and sound effects which get used by side characters which sound much better thankfully, but these are few and far between.
Music is also nothing special – its there and gets the job done, but I can’t recall anything particularly catchy or noteworthy aside from maybe the title screen tune, which is only fleeting.
Overall, the presentation is functional – it never does anything to wow you, but it fits with the game made here and it does nothing to drag the whole package down.
Gameplay & Content
By-and-large the LEGO titles have stuck to the same basic formula since the original LEGO Star Wars, adding tweaks and new mechanics with each entry. At its core LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is a mish-mash of many things – part collectathon-platformer; part action-brawler; part puzzle game. All of these elements are fairly lightly developed due to the franchise’s history of appealing to younger gamers but that doesn’t mean there isn’t tonnes of fun to be had.
In general, you’ll be given missions based on various scenes from the two Avengers movies. This will involve you progressing through environments and solving simple puzzles to get past objects which block your path. LEGO games have always relied on a mechanic of smashing objects to rebuild them as something else which is present and correct here, alongside some fairly simple brawling against waves of enemies.
Occasionally you’ll take part in a different scene – a boss fight against Thor in the forest; an on-rails shooter section as Iron Man etc. These do a great job of injecting variety into the basic gameplay and make you feel like you’re always doing something fresh, which is a welcome development as basic gameplay can begin to get a little samey.
By far the biggest change, especially in terms of the handheld titles, is the inclusion of an open-world in Manhattan. While the series has always has hub-worlds that acted as a free-roaming level selector with hidden secrets, the bustling city presented here is something else entirely. It’s big with a sense of scale – particularly impressive when compared to the SHIELD carrier which acts as a more traditional secondary hub-world. It’s also notable for the Vita considering no prior titles on the handheld attempted anything like this (it was a disappointing omission from 2012’s LEGO Batman 2).
With an open-world comes plenty of optional content you’d expect – side missions ranging from driving challenges to finding hidden items, all of which allow you to explore the area and get a feeling for your surroundings. Sadly the vast majority of the side missions are shockingly brief – most last less than a minute meaning you’ll have quickly blasted through what Manhattan has to offer.
In fact, content in general is where ths game struggles. Although 15 missions are present here based on all the major scenes from the films, all tend to be on the shorter side and you can probably blast through the main story content in 4-5 hours. As previously mentioned, all of the other MCU content is missing from the game – meaning no Iron Man 3 or Thor Dark World missions. As always, the game’s length is bolstered by its replayability – aside from the side missions, you’re encouraged to replay content with the new characters you unlock to find hidden collectibles.
And it’s worth noting that one area that wasn’t skimped on is playable characters. Although there’s a spidey-shaped hole in the lineup, there’s otherwise a great selection of heroes and villains here from the instantly recognisable to the obscure. Part of the fun, then, comes from trying out a new character once they’re unlocked – seeing how they control; what weapons they have etc. It’s addictive stuff and Travellers Tales have the formula down to an absolute t at this point.
Despite all the little niggles I’ve mentioned with the game, I can say that as a whole the experience is fantastic and I really enjoyed my time playing through LEGO Marvel’s Avengers. A few frustrations with missing content and technical flaws don’t detract from the package on offer here and it’s great to see the improvements TT Fusion have made to the LEGO games on Vita since their first effort with LEGO Harry Potter all those years ago.