We Are Builders of (Lego) Worlds

(Editor’s Note: This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but it was VSL night and I crashed after that. Sorry.)

We recorded Episode 5 of the podcast this past weekend. I’m in the process of editing it and it should be live by next weekend. Hopefully, because it is a busy one with a Cub Scouts camping trip followed by a drive to Providence for the Star City Games event. Look for my article about that next week.

We discussed Heroclix and Lego Games in this episode. I already covered several of my favorite super hero themed games last week, so what better way to follow that and the podcast than with more Marvel Madness. Both the Lego games and Heroclix have DC counterparts, but I am an unapologetic Marvel zombie. Also, that alliteration at the end of the last sentence was so worth it, amirite?

I never used to be interested in the Lego video games. I shared the sentiment of a friend who said, “why play Lego games when you can just play Legos? ” (sic. I have since learned that there is no plural to Lego.) I owned Lego Indiana Jones as one of the XBox promotional combos and didn’t play it for the longest time. It wasn’t until they released the Lego Star Wars game that I gave them a chance. Almost immediately, I realized my earlier mistake of equating the games to actual Lego. I would say that Minecraft is more comparable, but even that isn’t the exact same thing. All three fit a niche nicely and can peacefully coexist.

The initial games were fun enough to keep me playing. Eventually, the boys caught wind of the game. It started with them joining me to play. I found this very frustrating because you were limited in how much you could move by the other person playing the game. When playing with young children, this often meant not being able to advance in the level because they didn’t understand this limitation. Unfortunately, no matter how many times I tried to explain to them, nothing changed. I’m not proud of this, but these gaming sessions often ended with me dropping out in frustration and coming back after they went to bed. How funny is that visual? Instead of playing Dead Rising or GTA as I had been, I got relegated to playing Lego Star Wars while they slept so that they didn’t mess up my progress. Alas, karmic retribution will find a way.

The boys figured out how to work the XBox 360 by themselves. As a consequence, they loaded up their new favorite game, Lego Star Wars, and promptly deleted my saved game. There was only one save game slot in the game. Luckily, the designers tackled that and now games have multiple files for saves. I was almost 70% completed, too. All things considered, I think that I handled the situation well. I did what any well-adjusted adult would have done, I complained about it on Facebook and disowned them. I wish them well, as always, with their new families.

Jokes aside, I got over the transgression and have visual proof that I beat the game 100%. It is one of only two games that I do so without help, so I’m proud of the achievement. (For the record, Jak and Daxter, not Ratchet and Clank, is the other.) Adding more slots for saved games is a component of one of the major selling points of the Lego series. Take Two could easily simply churn out decent game after decent game, slap the Lego brand on them, and people would buy them. They don’t.

Not only did they add the save games, but they make other quality of live improvements, too. Remember when I mentioned that playing with young children was frustrating because of movement limitations? No more. It started with a smart split screen that offered more range of motion, became a gameplay mechanic by adding a new puzzle type, and now offers both players complete freedom to move via complete split screen. On the topic of puzzles, the puzzles have been improved and made more challenging. Granted, the games are still mostly geared to kids, but there was at least one part in Marvel Super Heroes that had us all stumped for several days and maybe even as long as a week. The puzzles are varied, too, and often able to be solved in more than one way depending on the characters available. This is important because each successive generation of the game offers more and more characters. In addition (and this is one of the favorite things forLiam and Aiden to do) you can create your own characters. They made their own super hero team and created an entire story while playing through the open world map in Marvel Super Heroes.

I can admit when I’m wrong. It happens often enough that I’m used to it. I never thought that I’d willingly play a Lego video game. It seemed like a silly idea given that Legos (I know, not a word) are a thing and we have so many of them in the house. While we still enjoy playing Legos (there’s that non word again!) and other family toys (Lincoln Logs, Thomas the Tank Engine, board games, etc), the Lego games have become an integral part of at least our father-son game playing time. Christine even noticed the recent announcement of Lego Dimensions, so it is spreading to the whole family.

The Lego games are not only fun to play. They are also constantly improved in nearly every way imaginable. Like actual Lego, they can inspire creativity in players beyond the main game. They are kid friendly, sometimes challenging to adults, and encourage families to play together as a result. Even if you don’t have kids, there is plenty to enjoy about the games. I compared them to Grand Theft Auto in the podcast and there are many similarities, right down to the senseless violence of little Lego men exploding. There is no blood, drinking, drugs, or other elicit activity. If that’s your thing, then stick to GTA. Otherwise, pick up your favorite Lego franchise, convince someone to join you, and have an absolute blast. You won’t regret it.

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