When I first clapped eyes on the trailer for the Lego film I was blown away by how good it looked. Warner Bros had decided in their fantastical wisdom not to try and emulate the reasonable CGI efforts of the Traveller’s Tales film Lego Batman The Movie. They decided instead to go for a much more extreme yet beautiful approach. The film was to be stop motion animation.
As a result it looks fantastic and as obvious as it sounds, using real bricks makes it look more, well, real. So when you watch the trailer for Lego Movie the videogame and there’s film footage right next door to the CGI game footage, the game footage looks, well a bit pants. It’s like placing a natural beautiful woman next to a giant Barbie Doll.
I know that Traveller’s Tales are very excited to inform us that this is the first title where all the scenery is made up of individual Lego bricks but it still isn’t enough for it to compare to the stop animated majesty of the film.
TT are also keen to note changes to the traditional Lego gameplay. Rather than having the main character (in this case Emmet, the overly enthusiastic builder), take control of constructing items at the press of a button, players must now collect instruction sheets. Once these have been found, Emmet can figure out what it is he has to build, and players then have to place the required blocks into the correct order themselves. This is, on the face of it, a nice idea that strongly references real Lego. But to be honest, I don’t want to play a Lego simulator! Personally I play videogames as an escape, I don’t want things to be as realistic as possible, I don’t want the next Super Mario to be called Microsoft Plumbing Simulator 2014. If I wanted to play with a Lego set, I would play with a Lego set. It’s true that Lego is expensive and for the cost of the Lego Movie Videogame and console to play it on you probably would only just get a decent sized set. But Lego Videogames shouldn’t be an alternative to real Lego.
This new method of play just takes the old mechanic and stretches it out, giving the player an extra set of collectibles and even more complicated execution. In doing this, Lego haven’t re-invented the wheel like they had hoped, but given us some spokes, a tyre, an inner tube and a vague idea as to where the instructions are for us to put the whole thing together.
Players are probably going to get bored very quickly. I really was hoping that Lego City Undercover was going to be the best game ever recently. The trailer promised a family friendly Lego equivalent to GTA V. In a way it delivered upon that promise, providing an open world with an amusing script and great voice acting that made me feel like I was living in a funny cartoon. Unfortunately, there were entire levels where I was forced to grit my teeth and carry out the same tasks that I had been forced to undertake in countless Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman titles that sucked my initial enthusiasm and enjoyment out of the game.
This same criticism could also be levelled at GTA. Rockstar have developed their franchises a lot further than Traveller’s Tales have been able to, bringing the GTA open world style to the West with Red Dead Redemption and creating arguably the most exciting GTA game yet with a rich and exciting environment to explore. GTA V’s new three interchangeable character system also adds a new dimension to the old run and gun missions and this new dynamic has also drastically improved the story telling. The controls in GTA V have been tightened up too, indoor gun battles are no longer the arduous slog they used to be where doors would prove as much a hindrance as enemies.
However, just as my line of thought and argument begins too, let me ask one final time, is the Lego franchise slowly running out of steam? Surely Traveller’s Tales can only keep slapping new faces and models onto old gameplay styles for so long, at some point they have to reach saturation and most gamers will have played enough Lego games to know how they are going to play.
Having said that though, on cue every year a new Fifa title arrives and every year a new Fifa finds itself at the top of the best-seller list. Unlike Fifa and GTA though TT seem to be creating more titles than they are innovations. Even EA completely change their control scheme and graphics engine from time to time. Having said that though, people are fond of familiarity, like the cosy old sofa that all of your friends tell you smells like rotting curry, but you can’t bring yourself to throw it away because it fits your body so perfectly in its cosseting groove and getting rid of a sofa is a nightmare anyway. Especially in London when no one you know has a car.
People go to the cinema and turn on their Televisions every night and watch the same plots rehashed over and over again with different character names from the meat grinder that is Hollywood. Maybe this kind of stagnating mentality will keep the Lego games going for as long as Traveller’s Tales are willing to keep applying new lacquer to the franchise. Who knows? Not me, if I did I would be able to see into the future and if I could do that, well, I’d have a lottery ticket and I wouldn’t need to be churning out this nonsense. I just hope that Traveller’s Tales are able to inject something new into the Lego franchise before gamers wake up and realise they have been playing the same game for the past ten years and this once quirky, unique, fun franchise becomes ridiculed and sidelined.