While I can’t speak for everyone, there will always be video game franchises I’ve wanted to check out but never have gotten around to. One series that immediately comes to mind is LEGO. I remember watching video reviews for a few of the games over the past few years, and each one would talk about how fun and enjoyable they were. For whatever my reasons where, I just never got around to picking one up. Fortunately, Stevivor was given the opportunity to check out a preview of not one, but two upcoming LEGO titles: The LEGO Movie Videogame and LEGO The Hobbit.
If it wasn’t obvious, The LEGO Movie Videogame is based on the LEGO movie of the same name, due for release in Australia next month. When I asked why the release of the game and movie were so late compared to the rest of the world, I was told it was simply to coincide with the school holiday period here in Australia, which sounds fair enough. Now, not having played any of the previous titles in the franchise, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I liked most about the game was just how simple, yet fun it was to play. In the game you have the option to play as one of three characters, each of which their own unique abilities and gameplay; Emmett, the engineer of the group, is able to build elaborate structures once you collect enough ‘playbooks’ (instruction booklets). Another another character is able to stick to walls and jump between them (think of Mario’s wall jump ability), while the other is able to combine various parts scattered throughout the levels and create special structures or items. If you’re playing alone you’re able to switch between the three characters at will (while the AI controls the other two), but you’re also able to have friends drop in and out of the game too, without affecting gameplay or your progression either.
Now you’d be excused for thinking that a LEGO game would be simplified so that it could be played by kids — and you’d be right — but that doesn’t stop it from being just as enjoyable (if not more, I dare argue) for adults too. The gameplay of The LEGO Movie Videogame is comprised of three main elements: combat (which is nothing more than button mashing), platforming and puzzle-solving, and each of the three is included in a way that prevents the game from being boring and actually remaining engaging and most importantly, fun. Puzzles can range from deciding which characters need to be used to access certain areas of the level to knowing which characters are needed to build which structures/devices so that you can take out your enemies and progress further. Admittedly, there were times when I was leftwondering what to do next, but the game was fairly lenient with tips so you never really felt stuck.
Another thing to note about the game was that it is absolutely and utterly chaotic! I honestly couldn’t recall the last time I played a game where there was so much going-on at once. Playing through in co-op, I’d be focusing on taking down enemies, scoping the area for how to proceed further and also smashing absolutely everything in sight to collect all the LEGO pieces (of which there are lots, no really, I mean lots). It didn’t seem too overwhelming but I had to try and ignore the completionist in me that wanted to try and collect everything before moving on. Needless to say, you’ll never be in a situation where you feel there’s nothing to do. The only gripe I have with this is that when you’re playing with a friend and you start to separate from each other, the screen will split into two and the camera focuses a little closer on your two characters. It isn’t too bad for the most part, but there were moments where I felt like I couldn’t quite see everything that was going on around me that I needed to.
The end of the level saw us take control of a tank, one character using a gatling gun and the other throwing explosives to take down our pursuing enemies. It was fast-paced and fun, just like the sections before it. I mentioned earlier that adults would potentially find the game more enjoyable than kids, and this boils down the humour in the dialogue and cutscenes. Consider it like The Simpsons; yes it’s a cartoon and aimed at children, but there’s something in it for the older audience too.
Having completed the level for the Movie Videogame, it was time to check out LEGO The Hobbit. Much as the name suggested for the previous game, LEGO The Hobbit is based on the two recent Hobbit films. Gameplay-wise, both titles play quite similarly; you’re still able to switch between characters at will (albeit the later has up to 90 characters which you’ll be able to interact with during your playthrough) and the game is made up of a combination of combat scenes, platforming and puzzle-solving. Admittedly, I found myself enjoying The Hobbit game somewhat less than the Movie Videogame one. The platforming didn’t seem as well designed; I found myself falling into the abyss below on numerous occasions because it was difficult to line up the right jump, and I didn’t enjoy the puzzle-solving sections as much either (granted, the level we were playing on was taken from a later stage in the game and I was assured that all the mechanics and hints I was missing would have been explained during the tutorial at the start of the game). Fortunately though, dying either from combat or missing a platform result in little more than you losing some of your collected LEGO pieces, with no lives or game over screens to worry about.
Both games also introduce a new gameplay mechanic called ‘Master build’, which is used to create some of the more important pieces throughout the game. For The LEGO Movie Videogame you’ll encounter these whenever you collect the required playbooks, whereas for LEGO The Hobbit you’ll need to collect various objects and parts by smashing crates and the scenery as you progress through each of the levels. Each Master build requires you to watch the structure being built, where at various stages a particular piece will be highlighted and you’ll need to select the right one from a circle of six or so pieces. The quicker you guess the more LEGO pieces you’ll collect. These sections are never difficult and the only errors you’ll make are by simply being too quick to press the button as you go through the circle selecting the right part.
All-in-all, while both games are extremely similar, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed The LEGO Movie Videogame more than LEGO The Hobbit. I found the combat more enjoyable, the story was more interesting, and the gameplay in general just felt better, but I should note that I’ve never watched the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit films, so I’d expect that fans of the franchise (or even that genre) would enjoy LEGO The Hobbit much more. Both games feel promising and as said, with them being targeted at children but still being just as enjoyable for adults, I’m certainly keen on making sure that I add at least one to my gaming collection when they release in the coming months.
The LEGO Movie Videogame and LEGO The Hobbit launch on 3 April and 16 April, respectively, for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC, 3DS and Wii U.