LEGO Universe – hands-on

Awkwardly falling off the mountain, we spot a buried treasure chest. “Even when the player messes up, we want there to be something to find,” Seabury says. “But you’ll need a pet to dig that up.” Pets are found throughout LEGO Universe, and we came across elephants, buffalos, dogs and turtles. Each has its own abilities, and each can be trained if you have the right item. Elephants, for example, love peanuts. Brilliantly, once an animal is tamed, you can pull it apart and combine it with other animal parts to create your own totally individual pet. We liked the buff-lion-odile.

Skipping forward a few islands, we reach the Gnarled Forest. A pirate ship has crashed into a tree (too much grog probably), and the pirates have become zombies thanks some cursed treasure. Grabbing some other online chums, we rush into the fray to claim some zombie pirate scalps. And then hastily back out again, Jack Sparrow-style, when we realise these zombie pirates have grappling anchors and hand cannons as weapons. In the trees above, a monkey is fending off some rapscallions with a pistol – one banana later and we have our first ranged weapon.

Once we’ve battled our way through, fighting a fearsome giant gorilla and picking up quests along the way, we finally reach a cove where we can relax, buy some pirate merchandise (a pirate hat adds a brilliantly pointless ‘jig’ icon to your action bar, which causes all nearby characters to dance in a suitably piratey fashion) or play a minigame involving the nearby ship’s cannons. There’s even some guarded pirate booty. “You’d have to be pretty stealthy to steal that,” muses Seabury. “If only there were some ninjas somewhere who could teach you their skills...”

Everywhere you look there’s something fun to do. If NetDevil can keep up the pace, this promises to be an excitingly fresh experience. The company is aware that their last MMO was not the success it could have been, but if anything, it seems to have fired them up to make LEGO Universe spectacular. “After Auto Assault,” laughs Seabury, painfully, “we’d rather go out of business than make a bad game.” Judging by what we’ve seen so far of LEGO Universe, neither scenario seems likely.

Jan 29, 2010