Game reviews: Lego Marvel’s Avengers and The Deadly Tower of Monsters
Lego’s bland, mashed up mess and The Deadly Tower’s shallow shoot-em-up pay tribute to the Marvel universe and B-movie sci-fi classics
Lego Marvel Avengers
Is it just me or has the Marvel cinematic universe become a tad oversaturated? Ignoring the 26 movies either released or in development, its video games have gone from bad to nonexistent. The first big-screen wave was accompanied by terribly inept third-person console adventures, the second phase a series of crappy smartphone games, and the upcoming third, seemingly nothing – unless you count Lego Marvel Avengers.
Like its increasingly regulated and ultimately bland slate of films, the game isn’t bad in any sense. It just isn’t particularly great. Available for nearly every system – PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U – it’s a set of Lego tropes executed with little innovation and encumbered by the universe’s already-bloated history.
Unless you’re fairly well versed in Marvel’s entire cinematic output (and we doubt that its young audience members are) you’ll immediately be at a loss. The game jumps backwards and forwards between last summer’s Age of Ultron the first Captain America movie, to Iron Man 3, through to Captain America 2, across Thor 2, and back to where we completely lost track. The strange thing about all that cut-scene world building though, is that this is a Lego game and the plot is far from essential compared to the gameplay’s formulaic dynamics.
All the standards are here – button mashing beat-’em-up combat, simplistic switch flipping puzzles – and couple of new minor fighting inclusions. Avengers particularly stands out in Marvel’s breadth of history. More than 200 characters are playable, ranging from geek favourites such as Quicksilver and Hawkeye, to the more obscure Squirrelbuster. More impressive, is the range of realistic environments, featuring a series of minor open worlds that creatively span reality (Manhattan, Washington) and comic-book (Asgard).
They’re key components without a doubt, but really, only in the context of a thoroughly bland blend of two coasting series. When it comes down to it, Avengers is a case of way, way too much – a mashed-up mess that crams together a dozen movies, at least 30 Lego video games and hundreds of comic-book characters into a paradoxical place of near-zero creativity. But hey, at least the kids will dig it – maybe.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters
Cinematic influences and video game interactivity go hand-in-hand – nearly every major modern game is forced to tap into our narrative need for movie-style thrills – but inspiration is often only found in cult classics. Grimy horror (Resident Evil), adventuring heroes (Tomb Raider), bombastic action (nearly every first-person shooter) – rare is the game that strays from geek-favourite territory.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters follows the formula in a sense, but takes it slice of inspiration from a smaller source of cult: campy, low-budget B-movies, the kind parodied with aplomb in TV show Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Available for the PS4 and PC, the game initially follows a well-worn Flash Gordon-esque plotline, chock-full of its era’s cheesy clichés – square-jawed hero, sidekick robot and bad guy’s beautiful daughter must topple evil emperor to save alien planet – but it’s the framing device that’s decidedly brilliant.
Gamers don’t play through just the movie itself, but the modern DVD re-release, complete with a directory’s commentary track that pays glorious tribute and simultaneously harangues all the terrible tropes on screen. Men in crappy monster suits, flying plastic dinosaurs where strings can be seen, robots that are just repurposed hoovers – the dreadfully glorious visual design here is without parallel, jumping from grainy VHS to black-and-white, and alongside the pompous orchestral score and overdone acting, all perfectly recreate that long-gone era of cinema.
It’s just too damn bad the gameplay here, the sole crux behind its real relevance, isn’t very inspired. “Kill everything” seems to be the ethos of this hammy, ham-fisted adventure, with nothing more than melee combat and twin-stick shooting to keep you entertained. It’s fun in small doses and takes thankfully no more than six hours to complete, but all that clever inspiration sadly dies out as you realise it’s all just shallow fodder for just another shoot-em-up.
Deadly Tower of Monsters wears its obvious influences well, it’s a magnificent love-letter to a so-bad-it’s-good movie age, with every little horrid detail fondly recreated. It might fall slightly short in the gameplay front, but with its HK$100 price tag, it’s worth the download just to smell all that wonderful cheese.