Stop us if you've heard this one before: sprawling puzzle platformer featuring pop culture icons reimagined in the medium of construction bricks. Progression is determined by smashing as much of the environment as possible, solving puzzles that are either incredibly simple or knuckle-whiteningly frustrating due to a rigid camera, and peril-free combat that is a shade above button bashing. Repeat for roughly 40 hours. Optional obsessive compulsion to find every single collectible or unlockable also available.
Yes, it's another Lego game, the third based on Marvel Comics characters. Yet despite the similarities to, well, every previous Lego game, developer TT Games has thankfully included enough new material to make this worth a look.
Here, time-travelling warlord Kang the Conqueror has plucked entire cities out of the timestream and from alternate dimensions, and built the vast Chronopolis – a patchwork world where the 'main' Marvel Universe sits alongside Medieval England, Nueva York of 2099, and slices of parallel worlds. Cue The Avengers travelling between realms, tracking down Kang and his henchmen in a quest to put matters right.
While most of the main characters and their personalities are drawn from movie interpretations, particularly the Guardians of the Galaxy, the structure here provides plenty of opportunities to give nods to fans of the comics. The multiversal framework allows for some deep cuts from the source material, with characters such as Captain Avalon (Captain America by way of Camelot, who's appeared in three issues, ever) or Gwenpool (a teenager named Gwen Poole from 'our' world who knows she's in a fictional world and dresses like Deadpool) playing roles in the game.
While level structure is the same as every previous Lego game – including the need to replay each one with new characters if you want to find every item – there's a bit more variety in reaching them, with branching points in the narrative. A massive hubworld gives you plenty to do between story missions too, with dozens of side missions to complete. Combat is also spruced up, and although it's still no challenge for the over-eights, enemies now have health bar and marginally improved attack patterns, for a slightly better experience.
The biggest and best new addition is the Battle Arenas, overseen by a comics-accurate Grandmaster (sorry, Jeff Goldblum). Designed for 1-4 players, they offer an assortment of genuinely fun, local competitive games such as Colour Clash – a Splatoon-like brawler where you leave a coloured paint trail behind you, and fight to cover the greatest area – or Capture the Infinity Stone, where players battle for the cosmic macguffins.
Is it enough to overcome persistent Lego game frustrations such as the fixed camera, irritating vehicle controls, and puzzle design that has you hunting down maddeningly hidden objects to smash? No, those parts are as irritating as ever, and even more so given they haven't been corrected in over 15 games. Against the context of what the LEGO games fundamentally are though, this is undeniably one of the better entries.