Targeted for kids, but made for all…
Many of us are quick to jump to the connection of video games being a staple of the LEGO branding. I grew up with these games and had my youth moulded by the first LEGO Star Wars and Batman games. However, some of the older builders out there might not have had the chance to play-through these classic experiences, they are targeted at kids after all! I got to work and asked a few friends of their opinions on some of the best LEGO titles, and followed this up by breaking down what makes these games enjoyable. It can be hard to judge something using something subjective like “fun”, so I’ve done my best to come up with the most important factors that make up an enjoyable experience. So let’s investigate and see just how fun LEGO video games are for adults…
What makes a game “fun”?
After pondering around, I chose the following factors to make up the “fun factor”: level design/enjoyable gameplay, and humour. Now, this is far from what some might think makes up an enjoyable game, so let me know in the comments how awfully out of touch I am!
“So what makes amazing level design and enjoyable gameplay?” you might ask, so I once again had a nosey into popular opinion. MAD-GFX.com has a great article on the topic, so it would be criminal not to use similar guidelines. The take-away point is making each level ENGAGING and NOT TOO DIFFICULT (unless the player wants to deviate to unlock a challenging secret/reward.) To GUIDE players with essential mechanics, and throw in a SURPRISE every once in a while to spice things up. Most importantly, a perfect level should be fun to navigate, so I think this outlines the defining factor to award a 5/5.
“How does humour fit on a scale?” Well, this is difficult, so I put myself in the shoes of an adult playing through each game for the first time. The main inconsistency here is that Star Wars only features the trademark “LEGO grunts” while Marvel additionally has full voice-acting, this is a slight handicap so I will do my best to ignore this. Everything is aimed at kids, but surely there’s some overlap right?
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Here’s where things get interesting. On one hand, the levels set during the prequels (originally released in 2005) are often very short and lack the variety to surprise the player. Some signs show that the game was rushed to make the release date, 2 levels “Anakin’s Flight” and “Bounty Hunter Pursuit” did not make it into the final game but are found on the Complete Saga bonus levels, as well as a very early working edit version of General Grievous’ wheel-bike chase with Obi-Wan that would have been placed at the beginning of Chapter 3: “General Grievous” and extended the mission by ~5 minutes or so. While these levels are quite short and lack some polish, they’re worth playing through. Some highlights from Episodes 1-3 include Negotiations, Battle over Coruscant and Darth Vader.
On the other hand, we’ve got the original trilogy levels which can be a blast to play through if you’ve got the time! The mechanics are further built upon from the first game and the missions are stretched to accommodate longer playtimes, clearly indicating that Traveller’s Tales had greater resources and flexibility to work with when developing the hit sequel. My only complaint being some parts drag on way too long, most notably Speeder Showdown and Mos Eisley Spaceport, but this handful of levels doesn’t take away too much from the experience as a whole. A couple of notable levels from Episodes 4-6 would be Rescue the Princess, Betrayal over Bespin and Jedi Destiny. Overall, if you’re a huge Star Wars shill like me, you can’t go wrong with playing through the classic memorable moments we all know and love.
You shouldn’t have any issues laughing at this game either, the humour of LEGO games is legendary for its light-heartedness and accessibility and The Complete Saga is no exception. Everything you didn’t know you needed appears in brick form, from secret discos on Kamino to Luke trampolining on Jabba’s desert skiff. I know this article is about ADULTS having fun in LEGO video games, but this is the perfect family-friendly experience for both old and young to play through together!
The Complete saga gets 4/5 for enjoyable level design and a 5/5 for humour.
LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
The next in the line of LEGO games was funnily another Lucasfilms property, the legendary Indiana Jones series. While not including the last film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the title features setpieces from the original 80’s lineup of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. Characters have been reworked to interact with the environment, in ways such as: Indy can use his whip to pull objects towards him, characters such as Satipo can use spades to dig up buried treasure, and everyone’s favourite, Marcus Brody can use his academic skills to decipher ancient languages. Scenes from the movies appear pretty faithfully too, the submarine port from Raiders, Shanghai in Temple of Doom and the Grail temple from Last Crusade, obviously expanded upon to stretch the 15-20 minutes playtime per level.
The humour is pretty similar to Star Wars so there isn’t much here that hasn’t already been said above, I’m pretty sure most people know how LEGO grunts work anyway. TT had a lot to work with for this game, the source material is classically and memorably hilarious so it was more about finding how to throw in Indy’s often unfortunate phobia of snakes than introducing new comedy. But don’t let this fool you, this is one of the funniest LEGO games out there!
LEGO Indiana Jones gets 4/5 for satisfying level design and 5/5 for humour.
LEGO Marvel Superheroes
Not the newest entry to the series, not the oldest, but a classic nonetheless. The choice to include most of the lineup from the beloved Marvel comics and film universe cleverly gives almost every hero and villain an exclusive power, which is felt most heavily in level design where all characters are needed to progress. Iron Man, for example, can use his wrist rockets to destroy certain metallic bricks, while Mr. Fantastic can squeeze himself through impassable grates. Not only is the creativity here on display fascinating, but it shows how the development team at TT have grown since their first outing in LEGO Star Wars.
Marvel Superheroes also features an expansive open-world hub version of New York to explore in-between missions or once the main story is complete, and this is where you’re gonna cash in all your spare time. Races to beat, NPCs in peril and over 150 characters to collect, will you make it to 100% completion? There aren’t any drawbacks to be seen, it took me a few weeks to finally finish everything in the hub so if you’re not interested in long games then this may not be for you, but apart from that, there isn’t any reason not to give this game a perfect score for its level design.
Let’s throw some controversy into the mix: I don’t like voice-acting in LEGO games. It doesn’t hold the same charm compared to the interactions in older games such as The Complete Saga, where jokes were only communicated by simple body language. This isn’t to say that Marvel Superheroes has BAD voice acting, it’s essential for the storytelling, after all, but lacks the quirky lighthearted fun that would make this game an instant recommendation. I hope for all purposes that others can enjoy this game’s humour more than I did, but it’s still worth checking out if you’ve got the time and love for classic comic book heroes.
LEGO Marvel Superheroes earns a solid 5/5 for fun level design, but only 4/5 for its humour.
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
The third entry to the caped crusader and pals’ adventures, this time in space! The hub world consists of several planets from the Green Lantern comics, not to mention Gotham and the classic Hall of Justice. This is the game for any diehard DC fan. Similar to Marvel, each superhero has their own unique power, unless you happen to be Batman and instead own a suit for everything! With over 200 characters to unlock, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have their favourite DC hero or villain in this game…
The plot is also pretty interesting, setting both the goodies and the baddies of the entire universe against the all-powerful Brainiac who, to no one’s surprise, wants to shrink the world. Not the most original premise but does it have to be for a game targeted at kids? This is definitely one of the more fun LEGO video games for adults, and I highly recommend picking this one up if you’re in need of a good time.
Humour is surprisingly mostly funny, even for a game with voice acting. The interactions are pretty cute, and there’s a couple of standout personalities (gotta love Robin!) so it’s hard to argue there’s anything wrong here.
LEGO Batman 3 earns 4/5 for good level design, and 4/5 for its humour.
So, there we go. I can scientifically confirm that LEGO video games ARE indeed fun for adults and kids alike. Everyone will have a different time playing each title, so I recommend choosing something you know you’ll get invested in, if you only really like Star Wars then you probably shouldn’t play LEGO Batman! You can pick most of these older games up for <£10 for most consoles, and with such a back catalogue of worthwhile titles, you can’t go wrong!