All Lego games are the same, except for when they’re not. Lego Batman 2, with its open world Gotham City and brilliant videogame interpretation of Superman was far more interesting to play than its 2014 sequel, for example, which mainly focused on some boring Green Lantern space adventures—and I love me some Green Lantern, even after the much-derided 2011 movie. The light puzzles and collectable-heavy platforming remains the same in each Lego game, but for each worthwhile entry, there’s a bunch of duff ones that are worth skipping. Lego Avengers is somehow both at the same time.Avengers offers a similar deal of stud collecting and switch-hitting, this time based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, with some other bits and pieces stuck on. The basic Lego formula by itself is not too bad, but when a lot of attention has been paid to the accompanying fan service or the environments look like they’ve had a ton of work put into them, the Lego games can end up being fantastic fun, both for irritating children and hungover adults. This is TT Games on autopilot, though, and there’s not a lot of passion in the results.The plot is perhaps the most obvious problem, due to the way it frantically jumps between scenes from The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Rather than being an interesting take on the MCU chronology, it’s so mixed up and out of order it’s likely to confuse anyone who hasn’t watched all of those films fairly recently. It feels a lot more like a series of uncoordinated vignettes than the high-quality, cohesive package we’ve come to expect from LEGO games.Ignoring that mess, the occasional crashes, and a tedious puzzle minigame that pops up far too often, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is still a fairly decent third-person action-adventure that mostly focuses on fairly light, simple combat and some environmental puzzle solving, usually using abilities from specific characters to flick switches, pull levers, and open locked doors. If you’ve ever played a LEGO game before, you know the drill.The environments in that first level, and a strange assortment of others – but not all of them – are also the most realistic looking, dense places we’ve seen so far in any LEGO game. The various open-world ‘hubs’ – Manhattan, Asgard, Sokovia, Washington D.C., Barton’s Farm, S.H.I.E.L.D. Base and Malibu – are all remarkably well-fleshed out, familiar locations that are a delight to simply wander around, but they’re also littered with collectibles and side-quests. In any of these hubs, you can pull up a list of one of the 200+ playable characters and pick any that you’ve unlocked to traverse the environments with – Quicksilver is particularly good to use in Manhattan, for example, considering it’s so big and he’s so fast.There’s not one visually interesting or inventive puzzle in the entire Avengers section of the game, and it falls short of 2013’s colourful, location-filled Lego Marvel Super Heroes. TT Games barely conjures an illusion of this feeling like the films. This is a game for young, noisy children, sure, but even they deserve a little better than this. I yawned my way to the closing credits, which is such a shame when the source material the devs are working with is a bunch of the most fun blockbusters of the last decade.Still, there’s more to the game than that, if you know where to find it. Exit a couple of menus, and you’ll find the Manhattan open world from Lego Marvel returns with new sidequests to do, as well as a near full-size replica of Asgard, and several other locations linked to the movies. These hubs are pretty much buried by the story mode, but wandering around them (some are better than others) with your changeable roster of characters is way more enjoyable than the main game. It’s sandbox-y and less rigidly connected to the movies.I nerdily flew Captain Universe through Times Square. I had Bruce Banner changing into Hulk and running down Asgard’s rainbow bridge (which, to be fair, may happen in a movie next year). Luke Cage sent me on a sidequest around Manhattan then berated me when I got beat up by Hydra agents (“If I’d wanted to spend the day babysitting I’d have stayed at home. With my actual baby.”) It’s entertaining fan service, as usual, and the characters are wonderfully animated, but the presence of the movie stuff sadly brings nothing to it.If you like the LEGO game formula, you have a preference for playing solo and you’re a huge fan of MCU, there’s still a lot of value for you in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, even despite a disjointed plot and annoying audio mixes. If you haven’t played any of the others and you’re thinking about picking up this one, I’d advise starting with just about any other game instead. This the weakest LEGO game I’ve played thus far, and had me missing games like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and LEGO Dimensions.Missing, presumably due to movie studio politics (or because I couldn’t find them on the map), are Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and X-Men, which were all present in the last game. There’s some neat, nerdy choices to compensate for that like Squirrel Girl or Jessica Jones, but they might only appeal to comic book dweebs like me rather than the children that are supposed to play this stuff. I’m reliably informed that children, when they’re not being annoying, love Spider-Man.
Collectively, then, there’s not enough for me to recommend this over Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which is usually $5/£4 in Steam sales and has the edge with level design and fan service. Being a fan of the Marvel movies isn’t enough to justify buying this as well—there’s no passion in the translation from screen to game.