Just Another Brick In the Fall

There is little doubt that games polarise, but to what extent tends to vary, sliding up and down that gamut of grey between love and hate, some veering more to one end than the other. There are few series that do it with such ferocious aplomb, however, than LEGO. Whenever I speak to a gamer friend about the series – which is often, given the rate those games seem to be appearing these days – the resulting opinions are either firmly in the hate them or love them camps.

While I veer more towards the ‘love them’ end of the spectrum, I can fully understand the hater viewpoint. They are tedious, grindy, and, essentially, the same game with a new skin. They work you hard for achievements, the humour would give an average Carry On film a run for its money, and the same flaws and irritations pop up time and time again. So why bother? Aside from the casual, reliably simplistic, comfortable fare they tend to offer, they are some of the most successful and imaginative movie-tie ins that exist. Very few films translate well to videogames – they tend to be sloppy, dull, or lacklustre affairs, beloved by achievement whores and scorned by so many others (Superman Returns, for example, should have shipped with an elastic band in the box, from what I’ve heard about its most shitty achievement). But what do you think that LEGO games actually are? They are movie tie-ins with a twist. In their own, cheery, slapstick way they reproduce a film or series and give it their own spin, spitting out an inoffensive but surprisingly ‘busy’ family game that will have even the most experienced gamer sinking days, weeks, or possibly even months into it.

Gaming is a darker, more mature beast now (at least in some respects… women in fighting games need to dress far more practically – seriously, ditch those heels, love, because you don’t want to get one of those caught in Scorpion’s rib-cage). Games are digging in and peeling back all manner of emotions and experiences, forcing us to tread ever-darker paths, mentally and in terms of the brown-trouser locations you get forced into. It’s easy, among all the Amnesia wannabes, the emotional wringers, the tension, and the fear, to want to unwind; to crave colour, goofiness, and incomprehensible mumbling worthy of a BBC drama. Sometimes you want to kick back with a bright, easy to play, smash shit up, predictable game, and if it is one that is skinned in a particularly pleasing way, that you can recognise and chortle at, then that’s a bonus.

So why is it that I’m having issues with LEGO games now? I’m not prissy about the portrayal of source material, they don’t offend or present an overly excruciating experience, so what then? My troubles began when I played LEGO The Hobbit, some time ago. It had the dubious honour of becoming the only LEGO game that I’ve played and not finished. I’m not talking about maxing it, I’m talking about actually finishing the story. Some issues about the suitability of the choice of The Hobbit aside, it was mostly the changes which sent me along this path of negativity. For years, some folks have clamoured for alterations to the franchise. LEGO The Hobbit had many. And I didn’t like them that much.

I don’t like having too much to faff about with, generally – it can often be the case (although not always – I’m probably forgetting dozens of games where the opposite was true and was enjoyed) that I tend to feel that such things can pull a game down, as it becomes more an exercise in memory and selection than enjoyment. It’s one of the reasons I got so annoyed with the Assassin’s Creed games (the Renaissance trilogy). All that farting around with fuck knows how many weapons, bombs, moves, brooms, Dick Van Dyke impressions (okay, not those);  it seemed…  cluttered. Every time I would take a break and come back to it, I had to relearn everything and spent far too much time trying to remember where things were on the selection wheel, actually deciding what to use in a split-second, and then remembering how. I hate getting bogged down, and LEGO The Hobbit felt like a quagmire, at times. The vast party of characters, many of whom were milling around onscreen at the same time, and most of whom looked fucking identical, had several weapons or skills each, and it became near-impossible sometimes to find ‘the guy with the thing’ or remember to pull off move number millionty one.

I stopped and wondered to myself if this was what the games had become now. Perhaps it was just the nature of LEGO The Hobbit, or perhaps this was the new direction for the LEGO games, to pack in more for the gamer. Really, I should have been pleased. But I just felt a bit deflated. Still, since many of my issues were related to the choice of material, and the missing final piece of the story (thanks, Warner), I had hoped that the next game would raise my spirits. So I began to let my mind wander. What would it be? There is so much out there that would work well with the LEGO treatment, so much that -

Nope. It’s Batman. Again. In case you didn’t have a gutful the first two times. As far as deflated expectation goes, it’s like waiting all year for a Terry Pratchett book and finding out it’s one of the kids’ ones. Nice and all, and there’s every chance you’ll get stuck in anyway, but not quite what you were hoping for.

After the annoyance caused by LEGO The Hobbit, I was honestly hoping for something genuinely appealing. But Batman again? Really? I like the miserable mumbler as much as the next geek but, like most of the LEGO franchise’s more tenacious gamers, I can think of more than a handful of decent LEGO ideas off the top of my head which aren’t sequels or threequels to existing games. The first being LEGO Hell’s Kitchen, in which a miniature Gordon Ramsay smashes up kitchens and contestants, before shattering the trembling LEGO man maître d’, Jean-Philippe, into a thousand well-groomed pieces. Or LEGO CKY in which Bam Margera is repeatedly smashed to pieces with a LEGO skateboard. Or LEGO Hook because, y’know, it’s never too soon to cash in.

How about LEGO Jurassic Park, LEGO James Bond, LEGO Nightmare Before Christmas, LEGO Doctor Who, LEGO Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, LEGO The Secret of Monkey Island, LEGO News at Ten, anything. But move on, because in all the gritty realism, the gut-wrenching emotional see-saws, the dark journeys, the morbid, the maudlin, and the harrowing of the game world, there needs to be a beacon of inane, colourful clickiness for folk to take refuge in once in a while – a shining beacon in space, all alone in the night. Hey, LEGO Babylon 5! I’ll get my coat.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Jo Jo says:

    LEGO LoTR did it in for me. I mean I ground that fiend for all it was worth, but it really was just… less. It didn’t have the same *zing* that I got from LEGO games in the past. Now rather than eagerly awaiting a new release, I tend to roll my eyes and wait until it’s drops low enough to warrant a play or I’m gifted a copy.

    Either way they’re no longer a go to when I want to just braindead-game for a while.

  2. Ian says:

    I’ve made it my mission to try and max all the Lego games but I think I bit off more than I could chew with Lego Marvel Superheroes.
    I’ve almost maxed it on Xbox One but managed to delete my fucking save on the 360 meaning I have to replay that shit again. I’d completed the story too, but now don’t want to do it again.

  3. Rook says:

    Now that I’ve read the article I like the title, very clever. After playing LEGO Marvel Superheroes I am looking forward to more Batman. The other two were ok but Marvel was enjoyable. I haven’t played The Hobbit yet as I still haven’t seen the movies and I have to watch them before I play the game, i must.

    LEGO James Bond has been mentioned before but I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. There are plenty of movies to recreate but the thing about LEGO games is that they have to have a number of characters for both good and bad sides. Aside from Bond, or the multiple Bonds, you’d have M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix and numerous bond girls but plenty of bad guys.

    They’ve done LEGO Star Wars so why not try LEGO Star Trek and as I was reading the article I, too, thought of LEGO Babylon 5. When I reached the end of the article it made me think of a response I had before – Lorna get out of my brain.

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