Remember the imaginary LEGO conflicts that once raged on your bedroom floor? LEGO Battles transplants that warfare from your inner child's mind to the screens of the DS in a real-time strategy game that's worth a try despite a couple of distressingly deep chinks in its plastic armor.
LEGO Battles features themes drawn from the popular Castle, Pirates, and Space sets, giving each a distinct look and feel, from the bright green grasses of a medieval field and the rolling blue oceans of the tropics to the pitted orange-red surface of Mars. Though the names and graphics for the buildings and units change depending on which of the six campaigns you're tackling, basic functions remain the same, whether you're calling a powerful Hero unit like the King from his stone home or summoning skeletons from a mausoleum.
While the top screen changes constantly between information screens and the map, the bottom screen always displays the battlefield, and it's here that you select units with a tap or a dragged bounding box, tell builders where to start on new structures, and order attacks. A handful of color-coded command bricks line the left side of the screen, and touching each reveals a context-sensitive list of actions, buildings, upgrades, and magical spells.
This arrangement is natural and intuitive. You can build a barracks, drop a lumber mill, and set workers about deforestation in seconds, and then focus on exploring large maps filled with obstacles, enemies, and hidden collectibles. It's occasionally hard to fathom why you can't build on a particular stretch of ground, and some buildings aren't different enough from their neighbors to be immediately identifiable, but most basic outpost management tasks are easily accomplished.