Stolen Pixels #250: A Friendship Built with Lego

By Shamus
on Apr 12, 2011
Filed under:
Column

Today’s comic is an exploration of friendship through the lens of cooperative gameplay. Or whatever.

I’m not sure what happened to the Lego series. I adored the first Lego Star Wars game. I liked a couple of the subsequent games. I was uninterested in those that followed. I am hostile towards the latest iteration.

The games are divided into chapters. Each chapter represents a part of the move, and begins with a little animated short of the scene in question. The dialog is replaced with facial expressions and The Cheat-esque mumbling. It’s all very silly and lighthearted. A little bit of puzzling. A little bit of combat. A little bit of (generally horrible) platforming.

In the original game, I think a chapter might last five or ten minutes. In the latest Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, I think a chapter lasts about a half an hour. I think this is the biggest part of the problem. Instead of doing a puzzle, fighting some dudes, and moving on, you end up fighting some dudes, doing a puzzle, fighting some dudes, doing the same puzzle again, fighting more dudes, then doing the puzzle while fighting dudes, followed by another round of dudes and the fighting thereof.

In the original, I’d chew through chapters quickly. Ten or fifteen minutes of fun? Sure, I can have another. And another.

But in the new one, I end a half-hour / forty minute session tired and irritated. The game only saves at the end of a chapter, so when I get sick of a particular section I still have to push through. (If you quit mid-chapter, you keep all the knickknacks, secret items, and other stuff you gathered, but you’ll still have to start the chapter over from the beginning when you return.) There isn’t more gameplay here, just more repetition. When I beat a chapter, the last thing I want to do is commit to another one. In the original game, chapters were potato chips. Now they’re mixing bowls full of plain oatmeal.

I know I’m always complaining that games are too short, but this is one case where short was just fine.

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202040 comments. (Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order.)

From the Archives:

  1. HeroOfHyla says:

    I could never get into these games. It felt to me like they were attempting, and failing, to be cute and funny with the lego figures. Forced humor turns me off of a game. I had the same problem with some parts of Wind Waker (though the gameplay was good enough to get past it).

    On an unrelated note, the firefox url bar, when using the “google name browsing” thing, is smart enough to find this site when I accidentally botch the spelling and type “sgmus young”.

    EDIT: First? Oh my.

  2. Meredith says:

    I haven’t commented for a while, but I just wanted to say that it’s really nice to see your blog coming back to form. I’m assuming this means you got your plate cleared a bit and are feeling recharged, so that’s great news.

    On topic: I love the Lego SW Complete Saga version so much, but I can’t see buying the Clone Wars at all. I can also give high marks to the first Indiana Jones and Batman Lego games on the DS; the style fits that platform particularly well.

    More on topic: The comic was very funny. I love Breen and MetroCop. :)

  3. Irridium says:

    Hehe, they’re using 2 Game Boy Advanced’s(wow thats an awkward plural form) for controllers.

  4. Christopher M says:

    I think perhaps the source material is at fault. It’s based on a cartoon TV show which is probably better than 75% fighting in certain episodes, and the individual chapters (based on episodes) have to hit all the high points of the episode itself – then you have the videogame abstractions which tend to lengthen the videogame version significantly…

    Think of it this way: Lego Star Wars 1 would have six episodes per movie, each episode being about fifteen minutes long – yes? About the same length as the movie. With collecting/compulsion, this could be as much as 30 minutes per episode.
    This time around, you have episode-long chapters (as far as I know) where each one has about twice the plot content (and therefore twice the filler-battles, collection stuff, etc.) of a Lego Star Wars 1 chapter. Hence, they’re twice the length.

    I think it’s pretty much unavoidable without doing some serious cuts to the core design; on that note, though, perhaps the key is to do something new and compelling to keep the episodes interesting throughout their extended length? A Diablo-style lootathon seems like it would make a nice piece of the Lego game puzzle, while keeping within the idea of “build your character”…

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Nah, most of the dialog and large amounts of exposition can be abbreviated, compressing the story runtime to probably about 45-60 minutes of familiar run. Probably only the first attempt through would get close to the 15-minute per chapter time.

  5. rrgg says:

    I’m still waiting for them to make another Lego racers game.

  6. Slothful says:

    I actually ended up spending waaaaaaaaay more time than I should have on the site that they put up to promote Lego Star Wars 3.

    They set it up as some kind of pseudo-MMO sort of deal, where all the visitors to the site came in as little lego clonetroopers walking around on the bottom of the screen, and as you move from screen to screen there would be little informing videos about the game, as well as little switches that if you got someone to help you flip them, then you would get another character to be.

    And then towards the end, there was this competitive thing where two teams had to compete to grab lego blocks and b and build a “III,” but since the platforming was terrible, and all you could do to hurt the other team was knock them back and knock the lego pieces out of other people’s hands, there wasn’t much fun to be had.

    But I ended up wasting a couple hours of my life destroying the other team anyways.

  7. JPH says:

    I’ve always felt that a game should only be as long as its variation allows for. If your game doesn’t have much variety then it’s best if it’s short, otherwise it’ll get repetitive as hell.

  8. Blake says:

    I’m going to assume me and my mate are the only people alive who actually rated this as their second favourite LEGO game (after complete saga).

    Indy Jones, Harry Potter and Batman I tired of before long, this one I loved even though I didn’t know any of the source material.

    I thought the RTS sequences worked well and the transitions between flying around in a ship and running around on foot were amazing.

    I’ve got over 100 of the gold bricks now, all of the red bricks and am on my way to 100%-ing one of these games (something I never bothered with the others).

    As always they should be enjoyed with a friend over a nice alcoholic beverage.

  9. Irridium says:

    I remember playing the first lego game. It was pretty fun actually. I enjoyed myself, and playing with friends was fun.

    Then they turn into Lucas, and are now just churning out tired old games that should have stopped a long time ago. Or at least work on other games.

    Also, something completely unrelated. It appears the DRM servers for Dragon Age 1’s DLC have gone down.

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2011/04/drm-run-amok-how-bioware-and-ea-are-screwing-users-right-now.ars

    You know, on the off chance anyone else tried to play Dragon Age in the past few days and couldn’t. Unless you/they have the pirated version, in which case your/they’re laughing at those of us who bought the game.

    Best part? Neither EA or Bioware said anything for 3 days. 3 days the servers were down, and they apparently didn’t notice.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      Why should they care? They already got their loyal customer’s money. They don’t need to pander to them anymore.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Yes, ‘loyal customers’ – the guys who throw a metric shit-ton of crap on Bioware’s head on their official forum every time something is not ideal. The ones who will vote hundreds of ‘1’ ratings on metacritic just because the game isn’t exactly as they wanted.

        No, I get it that it’s a bad thing that’s going on now, but frankly the Bioware’s loyal customers are among the most arrogant, whiny b****** out there.

  10. DGM says:

    >> “Each chapter represents a part of the move”

    Should be “part of the MOVIE,” should it not?

  11. Nidokoenig says:

    The thing that’s always annoyed me about these games is how they deliberately stop you from doing everything the first time through and have to come back in Free Play. It’s not like it’s an open world RPG where you might be running a build that can still handle it or might have a reason to come back to this hub, it’s just making you play the level twice. Takes all the fun out of 100% completion.

    I haven’t played the new one much. I dredged up enough interest to fiddle with the custom character creator and find that the combo of lightsabre wielding and thermal-detonator lobbing has been taken out. That was hours of fun.

  12. Ramsus says:

    I never enjoyed any of the Lego games. On the other hand I enjoyed all of the Star Wars movies. I’m pretty sure I can’t say anything more on that issue without sparking a giant flame war though so I won’t.

  13. Patrick the Short order Cook says:

    This is one of our classic examples of managment getting to involved in something they know nothing about. I am sure when this title was born they paid little attention, and mangaement viewed this as a niche’ game with no upside. When it made a high profit based on investment, they noticed. And did what accountants do best when somone has a great idea… they ruin it.

    Insipid manager #4:”Hey you! Over there! You made me some money.Do THAT more!”.

    Smart person:”What, come up with great ideas that people like?”

    Insipid manager:”No No no. Make another game like that. Only MORE so. Make the same game with just more of ‘IT’……”

    SP:” IT? What do you mean ‘it’? I have other ideas for games..”

    IM:”‘IT’ is whatever it is that makes you nerds like that game. Just do more of that. And you don’t have great ideas…I have great ideas. Like my idea to make you remake the game you made with more of whatever it was that made the game good. THAT’S a great idea…..”

    These are the same people in hollywood who want to remake every moderatley sucessful 1970’s show into a 2 hour movie. From the people who brought you that first crap, IT’S MORE FO THE SAME!!!

  14. MisteR says:

    That’s funny, just before seeing this I had the irrational longing for some lego island music. I actually read this while listening to “Brick by brick”!

    So, we all know about the cool new lego series, but what about the first of ’em all, Lego Island? The Brickster, Water skiing, delivering pizzas? Surely I’m not the only fan here :D

    (There was even a sequel, though it was a completely different game)

  15. theLameBrain says:

    I think they should expand the Lego game series. Lego Inception. Lego Saw, Lego When Harry Met Sally…

    Nevermind, that would be stupid. (probably sell like gangbusters tho.)

    EDIT P.S.
    OMG! Lego Twilight! The abomination has been spoken!

    • Max!!! says:

      “…Lego Saw…” They could get away with it too. Lego games are the only E rated games I know of with decapitation, and dismemberment. What was once gruesome and horrifying, Saw, becomes a friendly and comical experience simply because it is acted out by Lego characters.

      Other ideas: Lego LotR, since Lego games usually involve a lot of cooperation between characters with different skills, the diverse cast of characters in LotR would be cool.

      Lego A-Team would be awesome.

    • GiantRaven says:

      I’m hoping a Lego Jurassic Park will be announced at some point.

  16. GiantRaven says:

    To be fair, if this is the first real dud of the Lego series, then there have been 6 games beforehand that were either great (Star Wars, Indiana Jones 1&2) or amazing (Star Wars II, Batman, Harry Potter). That’s a pretty good track record so far by most peoples standards.

    And the next game in the series is Pirates of the Caribbean, which is awesome. Who doesn’t want to run around as a tiny little lego Jack Sparrow?

  17. Chuk says:

    I “played through” the first LEGO Harry Potter with my five year old — we still have most of the secrets to find though. Then we went back to LEGO Batman, and the chapters take us about half an hour, but to me, that seems just right. Sure, if we didn’t run over each other we’d probably finish them faster, but as it is, it’s pretty fun now. (My seventeen year old and I do get through them faster and with way higher scores.)

    Are you just playing them by yourself? I think the LEGO games work way better as (mostly) co-op multiplayer.

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