Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril – 3DS
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date (NA): February 18th, 2014
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
First of all, there are some confusing naming issues surrounding this title. Subtitled Universe in Peril for the 3DS, DS, PS Vita, and iOS versions, it’s simply called Lego Marvel Super Heroes on the Wii U, PS3, 360, Xbox One, PS4, and PC. All releases also contain the exact same box art, sans “Universe in Peril” subtitle. So are they the same game? Variations? Completely different? Strangely enough, several sources on the internet are referring to both the console releases of Lego Marvel Super Heroes and the portable releases of Universe in Peril as the same game. Recently I purchased the Wii U version, and after just a few moments of play, I can say for sure that they are not the same game. The gameplay and layout is different, and the levels are completely different. Why this nasty “fact” persists is a little confusing, but to set the record straight, they are different games.
After religiously completing Lego Batman for the DS some years ago and a pretty intensive streak with Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, I was beginning to think that one Lego game was pretty much the same as the next. However, Universe in Peril is way beyond any previous Lego experience I’ve had. The usual elements persist: building things, breaking things, collecting studs, and solving little puzzles while utilizing a variety of skills embodied by different characters. The controls, graphics, and many of the finer mechanics have been greatly improved upon, and Lego has managed to find a clever way to keep the sometimes repetitive gameplay from actually feeling all that repetitive, which in turn translates into decent replayability.
In typical Lego style, the story is lighthearted and conforms to the popular images of Marvel characters as seen through movies such as Iron Man and The Avengers. There’s a massive roster of characters, both good and evil, in Universe in Peril, but not all play into the story and more than a few are different versions of the same character. (For instance, Iron Man has at least 6 suits of armor, Hawkeye is given 2 versions, one like his appearance in The Avengers and the other dubbed “classic,” more in line with his comic book look, Spider-man possesses several suits, etc.) Ultimately everyone from Spider-man to the Avengers to the Fantastic Four to the X-Men are wrapped up in a devious scheme set in motion by the collaborative efforts of Dr. Octopus, Magneto, Loki, Doctor Doom, and Galactus himself. It’s all a bit silly, but it is amusing nonetheless.
Gameplay will be recognizable to those who’ve played previous Lego games. Players are put into a semi-open world with an objective, usually to simply get to the end of the level and/or defeat a boss. Until “freeplay” is unlocked, the player is forced to use a single character (pre-determined by the computer) to go through the level, though he/she can summon the assistance of a partner and also possesses his or her own set of “super moves.” Most, but not all characters have two or three means of attack: punching/kicking, a projectile, and a special move. Characters are also defined by their ability to interact with their environment; for example, only Mister Fantastic can slip through grates, only those with “strong” projectiles can break certain objects, and only those that can produce lightning can charge certain objects. The list of abilities goes on and on, though the game paces itself well as to not overwhelm the player with so many possibilities.
The game is divided into 15 levels, each with 3 stages. Within each stage, the player can complete up to 10 challenges, which is part of what keeps Universe in Peril so much fun to play. Depending on the challenge at hand, one’s experience with any given stage can be completely different from the next. Unlike similar games where the level is tailored depending on which challenge is chosen, Universe in Peril allows any of them to be completed at any time. The only challenge truly necessary to progress is “Finish Line,” available in every stage and awarded for simply completing the level, by whatever means.
Many challenges appear again and again, such as achieving combos, sustaining only small amounts of damage, not using super moves/tag moves (as well as using tag moves and super moves), killing all enemies, and collecting the mini kit. Other challenges are more specialized and include putting out all fires or smashing all of a certain type of object. Several challenges require a specific player to complete, so freeplay must be unlocked first so that the player is free to choose the correct character. Such a variety of challenges really kept me coming back for more; some items are cleverly hidden and require a keen eye to spot, while others truly test one’s gaming prowess such as moving through a level without taking a single hit of damage. As frustrating as these tasks could become, I found myself obsessed with completing as many challenges as possible (considering the characters I had access to) before moving on to the next level. Universe in Peril walks a very admirable line between “barely possible” and “impossible” and by the time I’d beaten several challenges I found myself just on the fringe of the requirements.
Ease of control is one of the hidden luxuries in the game. After going back and playing a little of Lego Batman 2, it was amazing to see how much more fluid and responsive the controls of Universe in Peril are. The computer does a great job with its automated aiming and combat is much smoother than before. These chunky little Lego guys are surprisingly quick and nimble!
I also mentioned finer mechanics had undergone improvement – one example is the tedious task of stud collecting. What I really enjoy is that the studs from smashed objects are automatically picked up rather than scattered on the ground, needing to be manually walked over. Running around endlessly gathering studs is one of my least favorite memories of other Lego games.
In-game graphics are great. Everything is made up of even smaller things, and the level of detail is rendered as well as can be expected with sharpness and clarity. Universe in Peril continues the tradition of excellent-looking graphics on the 3DS. However, I did find it strange that the cut-scenes were done so poorly. They look bad, really, really bad, like low-quality internet video. There’s the occasional pixelation, low resolution, and a general murkiness about these clips that is impossible to ignore. It’s surprising and a bit disappointing, but I’d rather have crummy looking clips and awesome in-game graphics than vice versa.
If this is the direction in which future Lego games are headed, I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open. The 150 characters are overkill for the most part, but it’s not character selection that keeps the action going; it’s the aforementioned wide selection of challenges that maintain the excitement. Players ought to be able to knock out 3 to 6 challenges through the course of normal play, another 2 or 3 with minor adjustments, and the final 2 or 3 with appreciable effort. It’s doubtful that you’ll play as all 150 before thoroughly completing everything, but the collectability accounts for part of the charm. Although unlocked characters (and other enhancements) must be purchased using studs, I never once had to purposefully collect studs. I was able to buy everything as it became available and was still left with a (rather useless) surplus of over 6 million studs.
Now that I’ve completed all 10 challenges in all 45 stages (for a grand total of 50 gold bricks), I’m not sure that there’s much left for me to do except put the game away for a while, forget the finer details, and start a new playthrough. However, it was an exceedingly fun ride and makes for a great handheld title to pick up and put down at will with its short, episodic nature. I’ve played a little of the Wii U’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and having done so, I’d encourage anyone who’s already played the console version to give Universe in Peril a shot as well; it’s a completely different game. I’m excited to see the Lego series evolve, and anyone with even a passing interest in previous Lego games should find Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril to be worth their time.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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