By pickassoreborn 2 Comments
I have a confession to make which is a practice you, dear reader, might indulge in also. I still sometimes buy the occasional Lego set. Me and Lego go back a long way. There's a spirit of childhood which never seems to leave those expertly-replicated blocks; the invitingly playful clinks as Lego pieces tap each other in those clear polythene bags... poring over those diagrams in those instruction manuls, hunting down plastic convicts and reaping the inner peace of finding that last piece and realising it was not actually lost... the final brick locking into place before admiring what you - yes, you - created. Put it up on that shelf. Watch it gather dust, unloved and never to be played with. Part of the scenery - but part of the scenery only made possible by you and you alone.
I went through the Stages of Lego from Duplo right up to the pneumatic wonderment of Technic. Mindstorms sadly passed me by as I grew more fond of videogaming, but nothing beats the whole process of purchase, unboxing, creation and display. I did have a spate of Lego Star Wars purchasing during my early game development years - I was so obsessed, I would purchase sets as they would come available up until Lego took the piss with their £200 X Wing "Collector's Edition". I was obsessed, but not that obsessed.
So when Traveller's Tales announced they would be bringing Lego and Star Wars together in a videogaming sandwich, how could it fail? I love Lego! I love Star Wars! I love videogaming! So with the gay abandon of a bearded super-fan of many, many pop cultures, I skipped to the store and made an instant purchase. This was my first mistake - and it's a mistake I keep making again, and again. And again.
I can't help it. It's that clink of Lego pieces. There was nothing more satisfying than hearing that unmistakable noise as my chosen Lego minifig moved his arms about creating fully-plausible Lego creations which more often than not solve videogame-type puzzles. What are these things? Studs? I can... buy Lego-related things with these? Sign me up! I can break Lego things to get more studs, you say? This is getting better and better! The pinnacle of all this was unlocking a bonus level where I could destroy and interact with an old skool Lego town as Darth Vader. I was in geek nirvana.
These Lego-branded games have gone through so many collaborations, but one trait stays the same throughout - that they've been designed by an absolute maniac and programmed with no compassion or respect for their players.
Take the stud system, for instance. You collect studs to buy things as I've mentioned - but you can also buy game-mocking "extras". Multiplier extras, I'm looking straight at you. Sure, I can switch on the x2 extra and get twice as many studs when I play through levels... but I can buy and swtich on the x4, x6, x8 and x10 extras at the same time and suddenly I can collect not twice as many studs, but 3840 times as many studs. Lunacy or just a simple mistake? I don't even want to begin to examine the developer minds of those within those hallowed walls of TT.
Once that knowledge is learned, it can never be unlearned. Suddenly future Lego games become open to this wanton stud abuse. I can't help it. The clink of Lego pieces, they spur me on. I am a child once more, smashing Lego representations of trees and watching hypnotised as my stud count increases out of control.
There are other extras too. Ones which help you to find hidden things which are squirreled throughout each intricately-realised level. I only resort to these cunning extras when I'm stuck - which happens sometimes, such is the way these games are designed. Lego Harry Potter featured a full Lego recreation of Hogwarts. I love Harry Potter! I love Lego! I love Hogwarts! In theory, this is an amazing idea - a hub which is basically a whole level to explore. I managed to get most of the hidden things, but only near the end of the game did I resort to using those sneakiest of extras.
One hidden thing was apparantly hidden in a bookcase in Hogwart's library - a flashing arrow pinpointed its exact position. Right, hokay. No resorting to Gamefaqs. I can do this. I hunted around the library looking for ways to uncover this most hidden of hidden things. No dice. How the fuck do I uncover it? Grr. Stumped and frustrated, I went searching about on the internet for this hidden thing. How do I uncover it? How?
"It's a glitch. There is no hidden thing there." commented a kindly soul on Yahoo! Answers. Sure enough, I found more evidence that I had wasted my time. Someone else commented "It wouldn't be a Lego game without some glitches, right?". Right. No one gives a shit about the games they release these days, do they? Is it my imagination, or are more games coming out with more glitches? Fuck it, we can fix it with a patch later.
A more recent case in point - Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. My lovely wife recently bought me this as a birthday present. She knows I love Lego. I love Pirates of the Caribbean. She totally surprised me with this purchase and knowing it was a co-operative game, we would enjoy the sensation of the clink of Lego together. Deep down in my mind though, I was thinking it wouldn't be a smooth ride. It never is with a Lego game; I wasn't to be disappointed.
The second level of the game and me and the missus are already stuck. We just recruited the pirate who loves pigs. He loves them! He sleeps with them and everything. Nono, not that type of sleep. Well, may- I digress. We're stuck and don't know how to advance - we know that the pirate we just added to our character roster has a fucking huge hammer. I also eventually worked out that said fucking huge hammer could be used to bang the crap out of red-hot metal pieces to fashion them into cooled-down Lego solutions to Lego problems. I hovered over some red-hot metal pieces next to a gate and proceeded to hammer (pardon the pun) the X button. Pig-loving dude swung said fucking huge hammer around with no actual interaction with those glowing pieces. Fuck.
It was only when I realised that I had to hold the B button over said glowing pieces to achieve the goal of level progression that I realised something incredibly stupid. The usual "B" button prompt icon which appears over the head of characters didn't appear in the case - and doesn't always appear. A Twitter follower mentioned that there was an option to turn on these button prompts "all the time" instead of the default "sometimes". At that point, I wanted to drive to the house of the Travelling Taler responsible and punch him square in the balls. We spent a good 20 minutes wondering what the heck to do; I can only begin to imagine how candy-addicted children would react to such pisstakery.
The last straw? Trying to solve the puzzle of reuniting a parrot to its pirate owner - in the very same level, the very same playthrough. We spent another portion of our precious lives working out what the hell to do. There was a parrot flying around, we tried to interact with it. Nothing. Not a bean of interaction. I had my suspicions, and sure enough the internet came up with the goods again; "It's a glitch. The parrot is attacking an invisible pirate. You have to start the level again".
This is the ultimate betrayal of trust. I want my Lego games to reward me with bricks and shiny things, not frustrate me with poor level design and glitch-ridden levels. I don't want to associate that most lovely of noises - the clink of Lego pieces. TT have a licence to print money with these Lego franchises, but they also appear to have a licence to be slightly complacent. Someone isn't pulling their weight. Someone who loves Mega Bloks more, I suspect.
These games will continue to get made and I will foolishly continue to buy them. I get older, but the clink of Lego represented in reality of digital format - that always seems to bypass the common sense part of my brain. Frustratingly, Traveller's Tales know this all too well. The bastards.