LEGO Marvel Super Heroes:
Universe In Peril (3DS)

By Seán O'Sullivan - November 14th, 2013


In recent years, the LEGO brand has earned enough goodwill from gamers that it’s almost a guarantee of quality; providing gamers with its unique blend of cartoon-platform action and slapstick humour, generally offering the same core experience on portable and console hardware. LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins from earlier this year managed to emulate its big brother’s open world by introducing loads between different areas of the city; and while it fell short, it wasn’t for lack of ambition. The same cant be said of TT Games’ LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril is an exercise in padding. The game bucks the trend of previous games by presenting 15 levels, each with 10 objectives that can be tackled in any order and across multiple play-throughs. The perspective has switched to an almost isometric perspective, but the game-play still consists of brawling against multitudes of enemies (leveraging the abilities of your selected character to explore the environment) and hoarding collectibles. Also, the jump button is out, and the dodge-button is in, to cement the combat-centric focus of these heroes.

Any feeling of freshness that may come from these changes are dashed a few minutes after the game starts up (which does take quite some time, thanks to the despicable load times). It’s clear that most of these haven’t been thought through. One of the staples of the LEGO games has been excised: players who lose all their hearts must start a level all over again, regardless of how many objectives they had to grind through up to that point.

Removing the safety net would be a brave and laudable decision if the design did anything to support it, but the game constantly throws novelty enemies with devastating and unpredictable attack patterns into the mix, and doesn’t offer the player a consistent visual language. Some ledges are sandwiched between invisible walls, and others allow the player to plunge to their deaths, which is a bold move for a game with such clunky controls. The act of dodging results in a period of unresponsiveness, and the camera is indifferent to your character’s location, so it’s easy to wander behind scenery and completely lose track of your hero.

Fastest way to roast a marhmallow!

The objectives seem like a great addition at first (I was a sucker for the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and expected similar progression); but after each objective is completed the player must navigate to the end, which can be difficult due to the many unfair ways the game will kill you and send you back to the start with nothing to show for your efforts. The objectives are unimaginative and only underscore the tedium of the game. Need to kill 20 enemies on a stage? It’s a matter of finding them, then mashing the attack button. There are no wrinkles to the combat, such as a counter system to make it interesting. Every stage has a timed objective, indicating that each can be cleared in 60-120 seconds, which further undermines the presence of the enemies who basically shrug and give up when you run past them. Most of the interesting objectives call for other characters’ abilities – meaning repeat visits to the stage, which also feels like cheating, due to the way that progress is gated. Since new stages are unlocked by completing a set amount of objectives, you’re going to replaying stages ad nauseam.

The presentation shows the same lack of finesse as the game-play systems. During the long load screens, the names of mission objectives are displayed on the top screen, inviting players to puzzle over what they mean exactly, but not offering specific instruction. Once the load has concluded, a small “Continue” button appears in the bottom right of the touch screen, meekly, as if not to disturb your reading – and indeed I missed it more often than not. The frame rate nosedives during moderate amounts of activity, and scrapes along the ground with the 3D effect active. The potentially charming CG cut-scenes that bookend each chapter are compressed into oblivion, looking particularly egregious on the 3DS XL’s larger screen.

It seems as though this game was designed to keep kids quiet for hours while they amuse themselves with tedious busywork, and it may well serve that purpose if the kid in question has superhuman levels of patience. Everybody else would better be served with something else.

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