OK the last review was a long on. I had to explain what I was doing, then give context to the game and then talk about the writing and both sides of gameplay. I imagine it was so long some of you didn’t bother to read all of it. So today, I’m picking something both more ‘casual friendly’ and easier to get a shorter review on.
Everybody hear loves LEGO right? That wonderful Danish invention, it was certainly the best toy I had growing up. Well it seems Telltale Games loves LEGO too. They’ve spent years making LEGO games based on various famous film licenses Warner Bros. owns.
Because I’m writing about four different game, you can zoom to one using Ctrl + F then typing in the key LSW, LIJ, LB or LHP to find the one you want.
Now the reason I can review LEGO Star Wars I & II, Indiana Jones, Batman and Harry Potter Years 1 -4 is because they’re all very similar in play style and, conveniently, I own them all. Also, these are all available on 360, PS3, PC, Wii and most are available on the handhelds. These are great for more casual gamers as you can’t actually lose, just die and respawn a few seconds later a little poorer.
As a note, the handheld version may lack some features or characters and have new ones to compensate. I’ve also heard about some of them having dire performance bugs, and they lack local co-op play. I’d advise getting these on consoles.
OK, so here’s how a LEGO game work. They’re based around three or four films and let you replay scenes from those films as fully interactive levels that are full of puzzles, combat and things to blow up. The cutscenes lack any dialogue, meaning that what little story they give is done through mime, and all the scenes work in a few good jokes too. Once you beat the levels in Story Mode (which you can easily do with a friend, the game has full co-op compatibility) you unlock them in Free Play where you can go back through them as any character you want to unlock all their hidden goodies.
See, each character has special abilities. For example, in LEGO Star Wars only Stormtroopers can use special Stormtrooper doors, only characters with blasters can grapple, only Force users can interact with certain objects and in some cases you need Dark Force powers. This, combined with the ability to unlock a whole range of characters from the games’ source material and even a character creator system gives the games great re-playability.
They do have their cons as well as pros, and before I talk about each game in turn briefly I want to talk about the flaws the series as a whole has. The camera moves along a set path throughout the game, which can be dodgy but is generally OK. In co-op though, some games won’t let the two of you move too far apart because you share the same screen. In other, you can because if you get too far apart the game becomes splitscreen which can be really confusing when it happens.
If you’re playing solo, then you’re stuck with a crappy AI partner. They’re incapable of killing enemies (not for lack of trying) and about the only thing they can do is help you with puzzles. You do one part, they do their part. The stupid AI can also get stuck on a jumping section because it keeps respawning to and jumping from a point that it can’t reach the other side from. You’ll occasionally have to take a break from doing your LEGO thang to unstick the AI, and that’s never fun.
OK, let’s get started with LEGO Star Wars. Now if you’re going to buy these avoid the latest release and instead plonk for The Complete Saga. This is both LSW I & II combined, and covers the six films. The first game has you play mostly as Jedi, and here the puzzles are quite simplistic, use Character A on Object B type stuff. And if there’s no solution around, just hit stuff til so it explodes, you’ll find something to use. The second has a few levels as Jedi Luke, but most of the characters use blasters so shooty combat got upgraded. Now shooter heroes (excpet Chewie, for some reason) automatically dodge attacks if you press the attack button. The levels here are longer and focus more on puzzles. Overall, these two are a great buy buy still a bit on the pricey side. Steam will give it to you for £15 if you want it on PC, but I maintain these are best on console where you’ll be charged roughly £20 to get it preowned. Steep. Then again, it’ll be a bit cheaper if you get the PS2 version, but not much.
Now, Indiana Jones, I haven’t played the second one, only the first. The first covers the original trilogy of Raiders, Temple and Crusade while the second has these ones with redesigned levels and the fourth film. The levels are as well designed and cutscenes as enjoyable as ever, but this game does have its problems. The heroes don’t really have that much in the way of unique abilities, so you’ll spend a lot of the game picking up weapons and tools to help you through the levels. This works fine most of the time, but some tools really limit your character’s combat ability and if you’ve had to put on a ‘hat’ as a disguise, one hit will knock it right off.
That’s another thing, the combat in this game doesn’t feel properly balanced. The game will throw hordes of bad guys at you, often armed with guns. This means you’ll die a lot and lose a lot of in game currency (studs) in some locations. In one level, there’s an area that almost makes me turn the game off rather than play it every time. Then, on other levels there’ll be nothing but a few barely noticeable spiders, and you’ll have to puzzle your way through the entire thing. This does make thematic sense, there’s no reason for Nazis to be in the tomb they just trapper you in after all. And I actually had more fun with these levels, because the puzzles are more complex and feel rewarding to solve. Ultimately, this game’s more of a mixed bag of tricks than a straight up recommendation. I’d say buy another one first. The Steam price is £13 and CEX asks about £10. This is also available on PS2.
Ah, Batman. It was inevitable I’d buy this someday. So inevitable, I’ve bought it three times. Not because this is the best LEGO game necessarily, but because I’m such a sucker for Batman. The game has two halves, the Hero Missions and their villainous counterparts. This is the only LEGO game to use original plots, such as they are, rather than follow a film chronology. In this, a whole bunch of Batman’s villains break out of Arkham Asylum and split into three groups to do evil stuff. You’re Batman and Robin. You stop them.
Each level has the Dynamic Duo go after one of these baddies in a themed level and then fight them at the end as a boss. To compensate for the limited characters you get to play as in these missions, both the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder get four additional costumes that give them special powers that are scattered throughout the level. They do mean the game gets to be more complex than ‘punch things’, but some of them near useless while others are just annoying. Sure, they’re serviceable, but you’ll probably get fatigued of them before the game’s over. Also, a couple are near useless in the story missions, and almost as much so during free play.
The villain missions let you see the events that led to the levels you played in the other missions. You don’t get to play as every villain, but they’re all unlockable. Also, none of your boss fights here wear a cape. Most just don’t end with one. Most villains have at least two powers that the heroes don’t have access to, so the puzzles in these missions require different things of you, meaning the villain levels are a breath of fresh air.
Despite this being the darkest LEGO game, both thematically and visually (what with it all taking place in Gotham ‘the sun never shines’ City), the cutscenes retain their humour. Special mention goes out to Batman STILL being serious and competent in a LEGO game, while Robin goofs in the background. That said, Batman’ll still get a few laughs out of you. Another thing I love is that while Batman uses big beefy strikes and throws to fight, Robin uses more agile kicks and tumbles. This is a really nice characterful touch.
Damage wise, this is the best deal. roughly £10 both preowned and on Steam.
Finally, we reach the most different game of them all. Remember all that visceral combat in the Harry Potter films? How many times did that Herbology class seem so kick ass you couldn’t wait to play a game about it? Yeah, no and never right? This has been a problem with making Harry Potter games, but Telltale have cracked it with their mix of puzzling and platforming.
As you move through the films your characters learn more spells and gain a few abilities, and you have to use these in the most puzzle based LEGO game yet. The levels aren’t based on the easiest material to use and while there’s nothing really wrong with them, they do suffer from some quite extreme brevity when put alongside the other games. Still, the levels aren’t the real focus of the game. Instead, you get to use these magical powers to explore Hogwarts. As you go to more classes and gets more spells, you can interact with different parts of the castle to find collectibles and secret areas.
This can get frustrating at times because some parts require you having a character you haven’t found the token that lets you buy them, and you’ll have to scour some likely levels to find it, but for the most part the exploration is really fun in a ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ kinda way. In terms of price, Steam’ll give it to you for £20, and preowned it’s between about £15-£20 depending on the platform.
OK so this was another long post, but I reviewed four whole games! C’mon people, work with me here! Anyways, I’d recommend any one of them as a fun distraction or to play with a younger sibling or a friend or partner who’s not particularly interested in games. They’re fun, simple and funny. If you don’t enjoy the LEGO games, you have no soul. Not judging, just saying.