If we ever totted up the total time we'd spent on games over the years, not only would we find that we've probably spent way too much time adding up the hours when we could have been doing something much more productive, but we'd also find that LEGO games would probably top the charts. With their cutesy, plastick-y art style, winning sense of humour and oodles of collectibles to track down, all of which can be done in two player co-operative, we've clocked up way too many hours as we smash, bash and puzzle our way to 100% completion. And when we heard one of our favourite entries in the series so far, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, was getting a sequel, we were more than a little excited - after all, nothing beats ploughing through the Manhattan traffic as Hulk and watching the bricks fly, while your co-op partner heads off and does all the actual super hero business on your behalf.
Talking of serious super hero business, the Everybody Plays team recently received an urgent distress signal from the team behind the LEGO games - they had an event coming up and needed our help (and not just because they'd over catered and cakes were going to waste!). Giving us the chance to get some serious hands on time with the new game, we also got chance to sit down and have a quick chat with Stephen Sharples, the Assistant Game Director at TT Games, about their latest Lego project, Lego Marvel's Avengers:
So, you opened your demo with the words, 'have you played the last LEGO Marvel game?' and it's like… played is an understatement! We're… quite familiar. To the point of 100%ing it and everything… Definitely one of our favourite LEGO games so far!
Yeah, I mean, we probably had the most fun making that game. It was ridiculous! I mean, we've made so many LEGO games now, but there was something special about that one in particular. I don't think any of us ever thought we'd get to make a Marvel game, especially with our whole connection with Warner Bros. I don't think any of us thought that would ever happen. So yeah… it was crazy! The entire team were really psyched for it, so to be back and doing it again is great - it's amazing.
And this time it's focussing on the Avengers!
One of our biggest questions is that, now LEGO Dimensions is out, does that mean the more traditional LEGO games like this are going to dry up? We were a bit worried that from now on everything was going to become a LEGO Dimensions add on, but with LEGO Marvel's Avengers, it seems that's not the case?
Absolutely. The standard message from us is that LEGO games were born out of being stand alone titles, and its those that have ultimately lead us to LEGO Dimensions. We have no intention of stopping that because there are still so many stories to be told; there's always a new great film coming out that's just begging to be a LEGO game. And you can't get all of that into something like Dimensions. Something like LEGO Marvel's Avengers is something that, in itself, deserves to be a stand alone experience. There's so much content there that to truncate it into something smaller, like an expansion, just feels wrong. It feels a little bit… insulting to the brand, almost; insulting to what those films are, and all the content that's in the game. And I think we've proved our point really, in that stand alone games are well and truly alive in Lego games, because there's more here than there was in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. I don't think they're going anywhere any time soon!
That's great! So, our next question is, how do you go about choosing the characters to go in these games? I mean, it may be called Avengers, but you're choosing from the whole Marvel universe - and that's a lot of characters to choose from!
Well, the first bit is really, really easy - it's called Lego Marvel's Avengers so we know that we're putting all the main cast from the movies in, and the supporting cast and things like that. The problem with that though is that they were all in the first game, with the exception of Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver - oh and Ultron and the Chitauri aliens, they weren't in Marvel Super Heroes either. But pretty much all the other main characters in the Avengers were in that game. The thing is, and I keep saying to people - who look at LEGO Marvel Avengers and say it's a step back, that we're just doing films and not doing the rest of it - we are doing it, but we're just doing it in a different way. The characters that are in the game, all 200 of them, they all have a connection to the Avengers family - [there are] all those characters that haven't been in the movies that we've plucked from the comic books. Characters like Kamala Khan, Miss Marvel, who's a more recent character and a newer creation.
You've got female Thor as well - whatever her name is. I mean, I guess she's got a proper name in the Marvel universe!
Well, there's Thor girl and there's female Thor, isn't there - I forget which one's Jane Foster… I think female Thor is Jane Foster, and Thor girl is separate - she's an Asgardian.
Are you going to have frog Thor as well?
Throg, I think he's called. He's not in Lego Marvel Avengers, sadly. One day we will get those pet Avengers in there, but sadly not with this one.
Also, we have to mentioned, we didn't see the Guardians of the Galaxy in the character list there - and they're technically part of the Avengers now. Well, sometime soon-ish anyway.
[laughs] erm… well, ahhh… Are they?
Apparently? I think that's where it's going now?
The thing with Guardians of the Galaxy is that Marvel have kept them pretty separate, despite a subtle post-credits scene involving The Collector. And Marvel's stance on that seems to be that to have the Guardians of the Galaxy turn up and be almost like an afterthought cameo appearance, isn't really doing those guys justice. I mean in their own right, that film was so good that it would almost be a little bit insulting to just go 'oh and these guys are here'. So it's one of those - you can never say never with those guys, but for the time being it really is just all focussing on the Avengers. And in terms of the comic book characters that are in the game, the vast amount of those - and there's over a hundred new ones that weren't in Lego Marvel Super Heroes - it's all about that connection to the Avengers family.
So, as you mentioned in the presentation, the story for Lego Marvel's Avengers is going to follow the stories of the main Avengers films, but with stuff from all the other Marvel films as well? How's that going to work in the game?
It will... work in the correct chronological order! [You have the] option that you can play those phase two movies when you want to, but they will only unlock once you've completed the first Avengers movie. So, we do jump around a bit - I'll give you that one. We start the game with the opening scenes of Age of Ultron, because it's an epic scene and we wanted this game to start with a bang and have the same impact that LEGO Marvel Super Heroes did. That started with quite an opening, with Hulk and Iron Man on Grand Central bridge, with all the sand and the fight with Abomination - it was absolutely epic, and we'd never done anything like that as an opening for a Lego game before. And it's like how do we top that? Well, we all went to see the final cut of Age of Ultron, it was like - that's how we top it! The opening scene is just so epic, it shows the Avengers all at their best, working as a team - a dysfunctional team, but still as a team - all at the top of their game. And it just felt like a really natural fit to open the game there, and so we get to show the Avengers retrieving Loki's sceptre from Strucker's castle, and its then we get this rather HBO-style 'previously' moment, where we flash back to the origins of Loki's sceptre and how Loki comes to get it. And that's what kicks things off, and we basically play through Avengers Assemble from that point on - we see them giving Loki the sceptre, and the next mission after that is Loki's arrival inside that SHIELD base, where he mind controls Hawkeye and Erik Selvig and gets off with the Tesseract.
So we then play through Avengers Assemble, and at the end of Avengers Assemble you'll unlock the three phase two movies - Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and you can play them at any time once they're unlocked. They are optional. You can carry on playing the main story and play them later, or you can play them chronologically if you want. The other movie that does play a part, and it does play a part in the main story, is Captain America: The First Avenger - the mission is basically a flash back mission. You remember the scene in the first Avengers movie where Cap's in the gym and he's punching the punching bags and it ends up hitting the wall? In the movie he's having flash backs and a kind of montage of moments in his head - in the game we actually transition from those flash back moments into gameplay, so you're actually playing a flash back segment of events from World War II, where Captain America and Bucky Barnes, with the help of the Howling Commandos, are fighting Red Skull and Arnim Zola. So that's part of the main story, because it's an important bit about the origins of the Tesseract, and also the origins of Captain America.
So there are bits in the main story, but most of it's going to be optional?
Yeah. So the phase two movie levels, once you unlock them, you can play them when you want to. It's one of those things where we wanted to give the player a choice, whether they want to continue and stay focussed on the Avengers story, or maybe you want a break after you've played through the first movie, and see a few different things; see what the Avengers got up to in between the events of the two movies.
And as a final question, have you ever thought about trying to add in more extra players for these sort of games? Taking it from two to maybe three or four, so more people in the family can all play together?
Yeah, I mean… it's a tricky one. Our stance at the moment is very much that two player offline co-op is the way forward for us. As soon as you put more than two characters in there, and we do have levels where the two of you you can play as more than two characters, but I could say that one of the criticisms of that that we sometimes get is that it can often be quite tricky to get the right character in the group. And I imagine it would also be quite tricky if it was four players with four split screens…
It would have to keep everyone on the same screen really.
Yeah, that's the thing. There's a lot of technical issues there I think, that we would face. Two player offline co-op is just the best though - that's where LEGO games really come into their own. Because you've got a brother and a sister, or a mum and son or a dad and daughter, or whoever, can in a kind of corny way, it's a nostalgia trip for the older player, if it's mum or dad, and it's like an introduction to a whole new load of super heroes for the son or daughter. And it's like… sharing a moment - that corniness of sharing a moment.
While we're a little sad that we won't be opening the next LEGO Marvel instalment on Christmas morning - a stealthy delay meant what was originally intended to be a 2015 release slipped to just the wrong side of the festive season, hitting stores in January instead, there's still not too long to wait. The 29th of January to be precise, and as always, LEGO Marvel Avengers will be soaring onto the Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS and PS Vita, covering all the major console bases in the process. Stay tuned for more LEGO news, including how we got on with LEGO Avengers when we went hands on earlier this week!