Hello, my name is John, and I am a Lego game addict. Yes, I understand that they are 'family games', but they give me the chance to cause utter havoc with my favourite characters from movies and comics. What other licensed adventures give you that chance? More importantly, what other games let you make a custom battle droid Jedi with an Afro? Thats right, NONE OF THEM!
The upcoming Lego The Hobbit made me curious about how developer Traveller's Tales keeps these games entertaining and fresh. Yes, the same basic formula of 'break everything and build new items' has largely stayed the same, but TT has made significant changes between some of the major games to avoid staleness. What are these changes? Keep reading, and I will show you.
Lego Star Wars (2005)
Lego Star Wars, the first release by TT, combines humour, slick-yet-simple gameplay, and fan-pleasing, hidden references. It manages the unique feat of making the prequel trilogy bearable. In fact, Lego Star Wars actually makes Jar Jar a helpful character because of his jumping skills. Well, he's helpful once I stop making him jump off of every cliff I can find. Yeah, the wounds are still raw, George.
The raw concept of how Lego works--building new kits, smashing stuff up, and collecting studs--is devilishly simple, but the reason this game kick started such a successful franchise is that it started with the Star Wars license. Everyone loves Star Wars. Unlike most licensed games, though, this removes voiced cutscenes and replaces them with goofier versions that use only grunts, squeals, and beeps. Smart. This makes the serious moments way more entertaining than they have any right to be, and the light-hearted moments... well, they're even funnier. Still, we will NEVER forgive you for Jar Jar, George. Never.
Lego Batman (2008)
Following the success of Lego Star Wars and LS2, TT adds a fresh hero to the mix with Lego Batman. Not only is the license new, but TT also adds multiple tweaks to keep the series evolving, including an original story and special character costumes. Batman and Robin--and other heroes--have special suits that help them fight crime while still remaining fashionable.
The biggest change to the Lego formula itself is the original story, which features two campaigns--one for heroes and one for villains. This means playable villains actually have a purpose (unlike in Star Wars) besides replaying Batmans story for hidden items. These bad guys also get to spend their leisure time in Arkham Asylum instead of the boring, a-bit-sex-dungeony, Batcave.
Lego Indiana Jones 2 (2009)
Lego Indiana Jones 2 isnt the best game; it freezes too often and focuses more on Shia LaBeouf than John Rhys-Davies. However, it has interesting little features that changed the Lego games significantly (my favourite addition is the ability to tie up characters with your whip and drag them around). The hub world is the largest to date, and it includes multiple controllable planes, cars, and boats that lead to different levels.
The biggest addition to the Lego formula is the introduction of a dedicated split-screen. Unlike many other games, however, the split screen is dynamic in that it appears when cooperative partners separate, and disappears when they're near each other. This rotating split screen can be confusing at first, but leaving your partner to hunt down hidden treasure is liberating. Just avoid the snakes. Indy hates snakes.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (2010)
Lego Harry Potter could rest on its laurels (or some other clich) simply by having twice as many characters as any other Lego game, but it just adds so much more. Lego Harry Potter is the first in the TT series that includes playable animals--like Hermiones overweight cat and Hagrid's dog, Fang--and navigational help.
In fact, the biggest change to the Lego games is the introduction of navigational studs. A friendly ghost shows the way to each area of Hogwarts by dropping spectral studs (which you can collect, obviously). This smart GPS system is extremely handy when roaming the amazing recreation of Hogwarts, mostly because it's so faithful to the labyrinthine castle from the books and films (making it an easy place to get lost in).
Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars (2011)
Split-screen in earlier Lego games is great, but they normally require that both players stay in the same general area during missions. Lego Star Wars 3 changes this by introducing a co-op that lets characters play in two vastly different areas. For example, one character will be fighting droids underground while the other character is blowing up generators off in the forest.
One other change to the Lego formula is combat. You can now choose where to throw objects by using the Force, and TT has added a targeting system for easier ranged-fighting and puzzling. More importantly, you can still kill Jar Jar, or you can solve puzzles by cutting holes in doors with your lightsaber--something that makes you feel like the greatest Jedi in the galaxy. Yeah, even when you're playing as whiny, plastic Anakin. Also, George--in case you were wondering--yeah, you can still stick Jar Jar up your chocolate sarlacc pit.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012)
In my opinion, Lego Batman 2 is the most revolutionary Lego game for 3 reasons: the open world, the bonus characters, and the voice acting. Lego Batman 2 introduces a brand new hub world that is actually Gotham City, complete with the Batcave. Exploring these famous locales as Batman and his Justice League friends is like a geek-dream made manifest.
Lego Batman 2 is also the first game in the series that features actual voice acting. TT hired some of the top voice talent like Clancy Brown, Nolan North, and Troy Baker, and these actors turn in fantastic performances. Troy Baker even makes you hate Superman using only his voice. Oh, and dont forget that Batman fights a massive robot Joker. That. Is. Awesome.
Lego Lord of the Rings (2012)
Lego Lord of the Rings takes the voice acting of Lego Batman 2 and makes it even more integral by using actual audio from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has the unusual effect of making a Lego game feel properly epic. Maybe too epic, in fact. Honestly, I giggled a little when I heard Elronds voice coming from a Lego character.
Another great change in Lego Lord of the Rings is the addition of a rucksack that includes every quest item you need (and plenty that are just for fun). This rucksack removes the need to constantly switch between characters depending on the puzzle. Now, you can just pull whatever special item you need out of your bag, instead of switching heroes. Handy, although you do still need certain characters for specific puzzles, so you can't just be Legolas forever...
Lego City Undercover (2013)
Lego City Undercover is strange, yet utterly fantastic. It's the first game with a completely original story that focuses on undercover cop Chase McCain and his longtime rival, Rex Fury (was he in the movie Roadhouse?). Lego City Undercover also trades in the normal 50-plus characters for only one with special outfits, and-- importantly--it also swaps the standard hub world with smaller levels for a massive, GTA-style city full of collectibles, missions, and awesome vehicles.
Lego City Undercover cleverly incorporates the Wii U gamepad as an essential tool by using it for eavesdropping and map control. Now, I can simply select a waypoint on the gamepad, and the navigational studs will appear on-screen. This way, Im not constantly pausing the game to navigate to another map screen. Clever. This is a bit of a series anomaly, but hopefully it'll inspire future games, especially when it comes to unique uses of hardware.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes (2013)
Lego Marvel Super Heroes takes the ambitious open world of Lego Batman 2 and fixes the framerate issues while upping the character list to over 150. Additionally, Lego Marvel introduces a happier version of New York City that is jam-packed with iconic locations, hidden characters, and Stan Lee.
Lego Marvel features an ambitious story that plays out in famous Marvel locations like the X-Mansion and the SHIELD helicarrier. Crucially, there are dozens of side missions in the open world and many Deadpool-narrated quests that unlock special characters. To be honest, the most important aspect of Lego Marvel is finding references to Samuel L. Jacksons movies and his love of certain words likesnakeand plane. This is perhaps the smallest evolutionary step for the whole series--here's hoping The Hobbit pushes things forward again.
Why is the rum gone?
There's no doubt the Lego series has come a long way in 8 years. Although the core gameplay is intact, the more recent games are just so packed with smart ideas and clever tech that they feel genuinely exciting and innovative. So, what are your favourite Lego games in the series? I prefer Lego Marvel, but I would love to hear about your favourites. Also, does the rotating split screen make anyone dizzy? Take all the time you need writing your answers because I will just be over here building minikits.