The opening level of Lego Avengers is easily one of the worst in all of the Lego franchise. Depicting the opening action sequence of Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s meant to serve both as tutorial and hype builder, giving you control of each of the titular superheroes in turn as you endeavor to learn how the game works. Hooray, now you’re Thor! And there’s Captain America! Black Widow here to save the day! It’s a sound idea that’s utterly undermined by poor execution, and as a result, it’s a pretty good first indication of how the rest of the game plays out.
Quick primer if you’re not up to date on how Lego games go: you’ll smash bricks, build things, collect studs (the in-game currency) and use tools (both canonical and goofy) to Lego your way through various scenes from the Avenger universe. Each level highlights different characters, each of whom boast different abilities; Tony Stark can fix things, Captain America can put out fires, Hawkeye has a bunch of different arrows, and so on. Hop-in/hop-out co-op lets you team up with a buddy whenever you like, but if you’re on your own you can simply swap between controlled characters to access whatever speciality needs tapping at any given moment. It’s a formula that’s worked exceedingly well in any number of Lego games so far, and while that basic framework is in place in Lego Marvel’s Avengers, the result feels phoned in.
On the positive side of the Avengers equation is how the game weaves the many different threads of Avenger hero movies together, such as flashing back to Captain America’s first solo outing when Nick Fury comes to recruit him to defeat Loki. If you’re not a fan of the Marvel Universe — well, honestly, then I don’t know why you’re playing this game because the only pleasure to be gleaned is from appreciation of how Lego Avengers handles its source material — you’ll still be able to follow along and figure out who should be doing what to whom.
On the negative side is…pretty much everything else. Lego Avengers tries to cram too much into too small a space, and as a result, none of it works terribly well. You’ll use the same button to use your character’s special move, execute “finishers” on enemies, and interact with the environment, and in many cases you’ll wind up doing one when you’re trying to do another. The game would’ve been far better off skipping the bonus-raising finishers altogether; they make it a lot easier to rack up the studs you need to achieve Total Avenger rank, but the non-stop respawning enemies you get in exchange simply aren’t worth it. The steady barrage of bad guys is less of a problem if you’re playing with a pal who can keep them off your back,but if you’re on your own, you’re going to die a lot. Trying to find the exact spot you need to be standing in to flip a switch while henchmen are smacking you over and over is aggressively unfun.
Spoken like a true hero
For the most part, Lego Marvel’s Avengers uses lines of dialog lifted from the movies to further its plot along, but when that’s not enough, it enlists the aid of Agent Phil Coulson and Peggy Carter to help out. Their sparkling delivery highlights how drab and awkward the rest of the dialog feels. The tone of the Avengers movies is far different from the playfulness of a Lego game, and that disparity shows every time a hero opens their mouth.