Recently, Lego games have strayed into dangerous territory which has seen them come uncomfortably close to becoming victims of their own success. While the world at large is still fully in the grip of a Lego moment, TT Games' relentless Lego-ising of publisher Warner Bros' films led to far from unfounded allegations that Lego games were becoming samey and had lost their freshness.
However, Lego Marvel's Avengers marks something of a return to form. For a start, it's clearly a labour of love, rather than a marketing-led contractual obligation. One common brickbat aimed at recent Lego games was they failed to even approach the quality of 2013's Lego Marvel Superheroes, to which Lego Marvel's Avengers is very much the spiritual successor. Is it the return to form and Marvel geek-out success we'd been hoping for?
Lego Marvel's Avengers review: Marvel medley
In many respects, yes. Marvel Avengers has an even more voluminous game-world than before – and when you finish the storyline, there's a vast amount of open-world mayhem to be had. It contains an insane number of classic Marvel characters, from the ranks of superheroes, antiheroes and the downright obscure.
In a way, Lego Marvel's Avengers' weakest element is its storyline (as ever, it accommodates two-player co-operation from start to finish). It concentrates mainly on the two films The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but also incorporates marquee moments from the likes of Captain America, Iron Man 3 and Thor.
The first half of the game's storyline, as a result, is both disjointed and, at times, over-familiar, with (admittedly different in gameplay terms) set-pieces that we've seen in Lego games of yore. However, the second half of the storyline concentrates a bit more closely on Avengers: Age of Ultron, which does add coherence.
Lego Marvel's Avengers review: Gameplay variation
TT Games has made plenty of efforts to add welcome variation to the gameplay. So, for example, we get the odd sequence that pays homage to side-scrolling shooters (usually involving Iron Man), and several characters get a new scanner that seeks out hidden objects in the environment as a puzzle-solving aid. Minimally taxing puzzles abound, some new characters bring really fun abilities, such as Quicksilver, who moves at warp-speed.
One particular new source of gameplay satisfaction is the ability for two characters to combine to deliver devastating (and often hilariously animated) attacks that take out droves of enemies. Which are often needed, since Lego Marvel's Avengers' action reaches more frenetic heights than that of its predecessors.
Also notable – as ever, indeed more so here – is the presence of TT Games' trademark British humour, which relentlessly pokes fun at the films. Poor old Stan Lee is subjected to a litany of virtual humiliations, and there are countless running gags, such as Hulk's new-found enthusiasm for selfies.
Lego Marvel's Avengers review: Character collection
When you finish the main story, there are several territories to visit beyond the huge and impressively populated Manhattan, including Sakovia, South Africa and Tony Stark's Malibu beach-house. All, as ever, are rammed with hidden objects and side-missions for which you need to swap to characters that weren't available in the story missions.
And the sheer number of characters (up to 250 when the game's DLC drops, which Warner Bros assures us will be uncharacteristically cheap) is incredible. In many ways, the game really begins when you finish the storyline.
There are a couple of downsides, however. We did encounter a couple of bugs on the PS4 – including a crash one which, mercifully, didn't repeat. And while the combat has been tarted up, at its core it's still pretty basic, and the boss-battles are little more than lightly disguised quicktime events strung together.
Lego Marvel's Avengers restores much of the goodwill that had recently been ebbing from the Lego franchise. It will delight Marvel geeks in particular, but also hardcore fans of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
And as with all the Lego games, it still qualifies as an ideal means of parent-sibling bonding - but will equally delight fans of all ages. Let's hope TT Games and Warner Bros continue in a similar vein because, at last, this sees the Lego gaming franchise back on top form.