LEGO Universe will let you build anything. Except genitalia

We come away impressed by our time with the innovative LEGO-builder mode

The fact is, you'll probably never play this game as long as you live. Even though LEGO Star Wars was great, LEGO Batman was even better, and we are now hooked on LEGO Harry friggin’ Potter. It’s still LEGO, so most hardcore gamers will still write it off. But allow us to ask you to give LEGO Universe a moment of your attention, because we think you'll actually be fairly impressed. It could be because we had very low expectations – it is, after all, an MMO aimed at a very young audience – but it could also be the very advanced new building technology built into the very core of the game.

This isn't your average MMO crafting system. By any standard, this goes above and beyond anything we expected. The game includes hundreds of different types of LEGO blocks (we're told it's actually every type of block ever made) and you build with them. It's that simple, but it's the simplicity and freedom of that system that makes it so amazing. It's such a wide-open system that you could recreate LEGO figures from the real world if you wanted. And yes, you could build an X-Wing or Millennium Falcon replica if you were so inclined.

The story is about some nonsense about little LEGO-men trying to find the source of all imagination and messing things up along the way. But seriously, the Millennium Falcon. THE ... Millenium … Falcon.

Given the robustness of the LEGO builder, it’s no wonder much of the game seems to be based upon it. Many of the missions revolve around you needing to build items in the game world to proceed. In these sections, the building is restricted, but the system opens up when you start building things for your personal spaces.

Another interesting aspect of this is the ability to give your creations "characteristics". For instance, if you build a donkey, you can define it as a creature and it will move around relatively similarly to what you intended. It's not going to be perfect, obviously, but it's at least nice that the game defines a difference between donkeys and race cars.

At its heart though, this does seem like an MMO intended for the younger gamers. Or at least those with an interest in young hobbies. To that end, the developers have designed a host of new features in order to protect kids and make sure their online play experience is as devoid of LEGO manly-bits and lady parts as can be. There are several “friend” levels that you can assign people. A casual player can be a low-level friend while your real-world buddies can be designated "best friends."

Beyond that there is still everything you would hope for from a LEGO MMO (if you're hoping for a LEGO MMO, that is). There are tons of really good looking environments based on all of the different LEGO licenses that they've created. In effect, going from the pirate zone to the forest zone isn't all that much different than going from World of Warcraft's Booty Bay to Stranglethorn Vale, but the variety is still nice. Kids will still really get into seeing all of their favorite LEGO brands come to life at the same time. Oh, and there are LEGO ninjas too. Something for everyone.

Put it all together and you've got a surprisingly complete MMO that's probably not going to be trimming World of Warcraft's subscriber base, but will probably at least send a shot across the bow of Club Penguin. The beta for this is currently on-going, and the full title is slated for release October 26, 2010. Watch for us – you know what we’ll be driving.

Jul 15, 2010

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