The story takes place over fifteen main missions that range in locale from Supervillian super-prison The Raft, to the X-Men's Mansion, to a secret Hydra rocket facility. All based around the familiar side-scrolling, puzzle-solving, LEGO fisticuffs structure seen in previous games. The characters are divided into various classes, each with abilities that solve particular puzzles. Large characters like the Hulk and The Thing can pull chunks out of walls and smash through blockades to clear paths, characters with explosives like Iron Man, can blow up silver objects, and fiery characters such as Cyclops or the Human Torch can use their abilities to cut through golden objects. Progression involves using the right character to do the right job.
It's simplistic, but keeps you entertained through variety, and filling up any gaps in puzzling with a dollop of combat. This has a surprising amount of weight behind it and a sense of humour of its own. Hulk can perform his famous "Loki smash" from the Avengers, while Thor likes to fling Mjolnir over the shoulders of opponents to come around from behind. Oh, and if Wolverine runs out of health, instead of bursting into blocks like the other LEGO characters, because of his regenerative abilities he runs around as a skeleton for a while. It's that kind of attention to detail, that pinpoint humour, which makes the game so endearing.
Although the story missions are generally Strong like Hulk, they're also where most of the game's problems lie. The constant hints flashing at the bottom of the screen are an irritating distraction, as are the sudden camera shifts to point you in the right direction, which take too long and break the game's flow. Lastly, each mission ends in a boss fight which always asks you to follow a particular process three times in order to win, which makes them tedious.
On top of the generous storyline is a sprawling open world which you can explore in between missions. Although it only becomes available once you've completed the third mission, which is another little niggle that should have been addressed. Anyway, the mark of a good open world is if it either uses the world's free and dynamic nature as part of its story, or provides sufficient distraction to make you stop caring about the story. LMSH's New York doesn't do the former at all, which is disappointing. But it definitely succeeds in the latter.
There's an awful lot to do in LEGO New York, from helping out the citizens in side-missions, to solving puzzles that unlock extra characters, to participating in cooperative races and finding the hundreds of collectibles scattered around. Admittedly, the side-missions are not involved enough, and collecting things for collection's sake isn't really our bag, but the puzzle-solving/character collecting combination is darned compulsive, as you can then experiment with the new characters afterward.
To be honest though, even if the open world was nothing more than a pretty space to explore, it would still be entertaining simply because travelling around is enormous fun, be it whether you're swinging between the skyscrapers as Spider Man, or jetting about at breathtaking speeds as Iron Man. A personal highlight was to fly up to the hulking S.H.I.E.L.D carrier floating above the city, and then switch to Captain America before parachuting back down.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is a triumph. With more charm, wit, thrills and variety than many of its open-world peers. It's a shame it doesn't incorporate the open world into its story, and there are some general LEGO issues which still haven't been ironed out, these don't change the fact that Marvel's New York remains a fantastic place to spend time in.