Video games featuring everyone’s favorite brick-based toys have a long and storied history. They began their life on the PC in the mid 90’s with the classic Lego Island; a video game played from a first person perspective that allowed you to customize your own island with Lego bricks. Sound familiar? It’s an idea that Microsoft payed 2 billion dollars for with Minecraft almost 20 years later. From there, the list of games exploded with releases such as Lego Racers and titles based on their once popular Bioncle line. Modern Lego games, however, are now defined by the franchises they have partnered with, starting with Lego Star Wars: The Video Game in 2005. The games have evolved around the same core mechanics, featuring large rosters of characters and seemingly limitless bricks to break in order to collect studs; the currency of Lego video games. It has featured properties such as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park. And it’s made some awesome innovations such as an open world in Lego Batman 2. And of course, Lego can be proud to say they have both a DC and Marvel game in their roster. It’s with their latest release, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, that Lego has made some of their biggest changes.
Whilst I’ve always adored these titles, over the years I’ve found them to become somewhat stale despite the adaptations they’ve made. As a massive Star Wars fan, I should have fallen in love with the The Force Awakens in Lego form, with new mechanics such as a cover based combat system and multiple options on how to build with bricks as the icing on the cake. But jumping in last summer, I found myself unable to muster the energy to break every brick and search for hidden collectibles. And when I tried to just follow the story without distractions, I found the game to be lacking. I was prepared to swear off future Lego installments, since I’m always looking to slim down my gaming library. But as it turns out, it wasn’t necessarily new mechanics that Lego needed: just a new console.
I first jumped into Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 on the PlayStation 4, the same console I played the first game on. In 2014, a few months after the original title released, I would play on the weekends for hours with my friend who would visit from out of town. We became so addicted that for a short period he would visit every weekend. It’s a great gaming memory, and one I was hoping to replicate with the second release. However, I learned that he had picked up the game for himself on the Nintendo Switch. I was skeptical, as previous mobile entries of the Lego games have been stripped of a lot of features. Fortunately, since the Switch is considered a home console and is considerably more powerful than a 3DS/PS Vita, the only space it is lacking is visual fidelity. After getting my hands on it I am glad to say that a lower resolution is worth the trade off for the Switch experience, as it has revitalized my love for Lego games.
It begins with the portable nature of the Nintendo Switch. Lego titles are the types of games that allow you to quickly dip your toes and collect as many studs as possible, or play for hours on end completing missions and messing around with new characters you’ve unlocked. This duality is mirrored in the duality of the Nintendo Switch. If I’m on the subway commuting into the city, I’ve been enjoying passing the time by collectible hunting. When I’m home, the game holds up rather well with the console docked and I can sink my teeth deeper. One thing I’ve always loved about these games is that you can pull off cool gameplay, whether that be combat or puzzle solving, with very little input. Since the Joy-Cons are not as robust as a PlayStation or Xbox controller, these simpler mechanics feel more at home on the Switch. In addition, the game can be played with a single Joy-Con, which for a feature rich game seems a little dubious at first glance. However, I’m happy to say that thanks to those uninvolved controls the single Joy-Con experience is solid, and allows for more versatile co-op play.
The story of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 runs parallel to to the nature of the Switch. Whilst this is a game aimed at a young audience with a lighthearted story, it is riddled with emotional moments and actually deep character interactions. The Switch is a console that is designed for gamers that don’t care about graphical fidelity and just want to play fun games, but is also a serious piece of technology that looks to change the industry. For all these reasons, a new life has been injected into Lego titles, and I look forward to future releases on the platform.