Friday, August 5, 2011

The Lego Games: If it ain’t broke, break it

I’m sorry for the gap in posting for the past 2 weeks.  A festival and a birthday will do that to your blogging schedule.   Still, I’m back, and I’ll try to get back on schedule.

Probably the best in the series
Why?  What did this possibly add?
Most people will at least of heard by now of the Lego games that have been so popular over the last few years.  The brilliant people behind the series found a strong, entertaining formula and have stuck with it.  It seems to have been a very good move.  Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Harry Potter and even Lego Rock Band, which is perhaps going a little too far and will not be mentioned again here – all of these games have been fantastic.  Lego Pirates of the Caribbean is the most recent addition to the series and looks to be a match for the rest of them. ‘Whimsical’ is the word IGN uses to describe Traveller’s Tales’ Pirates game, and that definitely applies to all of the games.

Rule 1: When in doubt, break things.

If you haven’t heard (where have you been?), the Lego games take a set of films and transform the entire thing into a long series of complex levels constructed partly out of Lego.  All the characters are Lego figures, and almost every part of the scenery which is made of Lego is breakable.  This is important, as breaking everything you possibly can is the way to go with these games.  Breaking things reveals coins, secrets, new paths, and triggers all sorts of events.  Normally you can switch between two characters in a particular level (or have a friend control the other), each of which has unique abilities which allow you to progress through the level.  You play through an approximation of the plot of each film, smashing objects and battling the villains.  It’s all done in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion; none of the games take themselves seriously and there are a lot of jokes in them.  This is definitely a good thing, as a serious Lego game would be very odd indeed.

So many characters...
Each game twists the basic structure in different ways.  Lego Batman, for instance, has two entire halves to the game, and you can play as both the heroes and the villains of the series, trying either to save Gotham or to destroy it.  This makes it certainly one of the best games of the series, as it adds an immense amount of gameplay and allows you to play as some of the most fascinating characters in the comic world.  The first two Star Wars games have bonus Bounty Hunter missions, which opens up a host of additional characters, and can be quite challenging since they’re timed.  This means that from game to game in the series, there is usually something to keep your interest in addition it being a different film.  Other than a few tweaks though, each game is largely identical in format and gameplay.  They certainly build upon each other, and each takes additional features from the last (like Star Wars III: the Clone Wars taking the Batarang feature from Batman), but they don’t really push many boundaries.  This is really one of its major flaws.

Each game is excellent, and they can keep you entertained for hours.  However, there hasn’t been that much development of either the few gameplay issues the games have or of genuinely new content.  There a distinct lack of online playing as well as any design features beyond custom characters.  Traveller’s Tales have produced close to a dozen Lego games to date, and I genuinely hope they will make more.  The concept is excellent and a great way to spend the weekend.  If they want to make their games to continue to excel though, they’ll need to start pulling out some more interesting features.

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