Tuesday, October 13, 2015

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes - 20/20 hours

The thing I love most about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is that it feels like a generous game. There doesn't feel like anything's missing from the game, if that makes any sense. I've played better open world superhero games, but none that give you such a huge cast of characters. It's 20 hours in, and I haven't even discovered half of them yet (and I still have some unlockable alternate costumes for some of the ones I do have unlocked). I don't know much about comic books, but I get the impression that if there's a Marvel hero you love, they've probably been included in the game (NOTE - as I wrote that last sentence, I went ahead and looked up a character list - several prominent X-men, most notably Rogue, were not in the game, so I guess I was wrong).

At 20 hours, I have about 33% completion, which means, in theory, I could be playing this game for another 40 hours.  I expect it would probably go faster than that, considering that as I gain more experience and unlock more of Deadpool's red brick bonus powers, the pace of unlocking appears to increase. However, that's still a damned lot of game.

But it's not limitless. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is not an open-ended game like Minecraft or an endlessly replayable game like Civilization. It doesn't even have the engrossing complexity of something like Skyrim. It's big, but not unimaginably so. Which is an interesting niche for a video game. It's not a "one and done" game, like some of the artier indie games (or you typical movie tie-in game, for that matter), but it's also not a "lifestyle" game. It gives you stuff to do, if you still want more, but it is easy and casual enough that completionism doesn't feel like an unattainable goal. I don't feel rushed, but I do feel like I could finish.

I like this approach. My favorite games are "lifestyle" games, games that could be hobbies in their own right, but there is something satisfying in the finitude of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. It's relaxing to know that there is an end. Which, I guess, raises the question of why, if I like endings so much, don't I have more love for shorter, more economical games.

And look, Portal is pretty much a perfect game. I get that. My feeling (and I realize this is ridiculous) is that it's greatest flaw is actually its very perfection. When Portal was over, I was left wanting more Portal.

I've heard the argument that games should "respect the player's time," and not wear out their welcome by needlessly extending their playtime, and that's an argument I respect, but there's a primal part of me that comes into play here. When I like a thing, I want more of that thing. I like the sensation of surfeit, of having more than you could possibly want. It makes me feel . . . safe.

On the other hand, if there's anything this last year and a half has taught me, it's that surfeit comes with its own perils. You start to take things for granted, and get into unhealthy patterns of consumption. Realistically, I should still be playing Anno 2070 - I'm sure that I'd have only now started to master it.

LEGO Marvel Superheroes reaches a happy medium, I think. It definitely gives me the feeling of having enough, so I don't have the nagging feeling that the game should have been twice as long, but its ability to consume my life has a built-in expiration date. If it weren't a kid's game, it would be perfect, and while I doubt it would last long enough to become a chore, I don't think I'll pursue 100% completion. I started playing this game because my reserves of mental energy were running low. Now that they've recovered, I think something a bit more challenging would be a better use of my time.

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