Why I Love is our regular feature which can be written by anybody. Yes, anybody! Even you!
GeekPlanet is all about sharing your passion for the things that you love, so for this column, all we ask is that you write at least 750 words about something that you love. It can be a movie, a TV series, a book, a comic, a personality, a historical event, a kind of food, a concept or just a specific feeling. It really can be about anything.
Want to contribute? Just pick a topic, write about it and check out our submission guidelines!
Let’s face it. Licensed games tend to suck. Developers have yet to create a decent Superman game. Aquaman is just as bad as you imagine, if not worse. Even the recent Iron Man game disappointed gamers. Not just superhero games suffer from this trend. The Bourne Identity game, despite having a premise well suited to console gaming, failed to meet the promises made by designers, those promises being exciting gameplay and a gripping story. The very bottom of movie tie-ins include games based on Fight Club, Back to the Future and E.T.
Surely there are games that rise above the dreck. Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City have both won the hearts of gamers and comic book fans alike. Marvel released a number of middle of the road games with the Ultimate Alliance series. Star Wars, too, has seen its share of success with Nights of the Old Republic and Rogue Squadron. However, even Star Wars cannot escape the occasional bad game. Remember Masters of Teras Kasi? Now we have Star Wars Kinect.
Lego games, at least in my opinion, tower over the rest of licensed games. I was drawn to them since the first Lego Star Wars game was advertised on television. At the time I had a number of Lego Star Wars toys. The game presented an opportunity to run about as a Lego Luke Skywalker with a Lego lightsaber in hand. However, the game proved difficult to find at a reasonable price. So, instead, we purchased the Lego Indiana Jones game.
I was won over at the start with a Lego version of the iconic opening scenes to Raiders of the Lost Ark. The smile didn’t leave my face as I controlled Lego Indy, having him whip across caverns and shoot insects with his little Lego pistol. I solved puzzles, navigated traps, and collected special items. After running away from a giant, Lego boulder I escaped the natives of the area, created a Lego boat-plane and flew off to the successful ending of the first level.
Completing the level unlocked a new feature, called Free Play. I had the option to play the level again with the ability to switch between several characters. I soon learned to appreciate each different character for their unique skills as the Lego games depend greatly on the division of labor. I selected a character with an education in archaeology if I wanted to decode a hieroglyph to enter a secret area. I picked up a shovel or used a character equipped with same if I wanted to uncover Lego bricks buried in the earth. These special skills expand to include anything from the use of explosives to the ability to break glass with a scream. Female characters jump higher while smaller characters crawl through small portals. Small quirks balance this assortment of skills. Indy fears snakes while Willie dislikes creepy crawlies.
The game encouraged replay. As I unlocked more characters I also unlocked more skills. This allowed me to play through levels and enter more secret areas or collect more otherwise hard to reach items until, having played through all three films, there was nothing left to collect. The game even offers a couple of bonus levels to test your cunning and skill. In the tradition of George Lucas the Lego Indiana Jones game has been remade and now includes the fourth chapter, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
When the price and availability of Lego Star Wars afforded opportunity for purchase, we picked it up. Being the first of the Lego movie tie-ins, it shows less polish than Lego Indiana Jones. The best change from Star Wars is the ability to swap characters over greater distances, making puzzles easier to solve not to mention certain perils more easily avoided. So playing Lego Star Wars proved more frustrating overall.
Just the same, the satisfaction of gameplay and the enjoyment of Lego’s take on a galaxy far, far away more than made up for the shortcomings. Moreover, plenty of vehicle specific levels allowed me to control the Millennium Falcon or a speeder bike. Otherwise much of gameplay is about the same. Astromech droids access certain areas while protocol droids access others. Certain sections open to bounty hunters or Imperial personnel. Only those with dark Force powers can manipulate certain objects while other special characters can access high places by use of a grappling hook.
The strength of Lego Star Wars resides in the puzzles such as building and moving space heaters in Hoth Base to thaw frozen blast doors. I navigated specific routes to make my way through the forest on the moon of Endor. I had constructed and driven little cars onto pressure plates to activate doors or platforms. In the vehicle specific levels I towed a bomb behind a snow speeder or a clone ship, whipping that bomb into enemies or obstructions. In the end, the gameplay, though difficult at times, proved rewarding.
While in Lego Star Wars all levels are united by the cantina on Tatooine, the levels in Lego Batman are all tied to the Batcave and to Arkham Asylum. The next in our series of Lego game purchases is primarily based on the Tim Burton movies and the Warner Brothers animated series. The Batman, along with Robin or Batgirl, foil the plans of the carnival of crazies consisting of the Joker, Poison Ivy and others. Batman must solve puzzles and beat up thugs in order to complete his objectives, each time gleaning more of the Riddler’s evil plot.
In Free Play you get to control madcap characters like the Penguin or Harley Quinn. You can pilot vehicles like the Batmobile or the Bat-boat. All the while the game maintains the iconic Lego design and now familiar sense of humor. Lego Batman offers a unique chance for Lego to showcase their aesthetic. While loosely based on pre-existing material, Lego Batman is littered with colorful Lego constructed levels like an ice cream factory, an amusement park, and the less colorful shipping docks. Humor plays hand in hand with the overall look of the game. For instance, Catwoman not only runs and leaps from rooftop to rooftop, ultimately she is lured out of hiding with a saucer of milk.
Next comes Disney’s Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. The central hub is in the form of a sort of boardwalk on the shore. Several ships float in docks between billboards displaying treasure maps that serve as access to the levels. On either side of the boardwalk are gated sections that can be opened by collecting gold bricks earned in each level. I solved several puzzles in the hub to unlock abilities such as extra health or treasure multipliers which added a bit more gameplay outside the actual film levels.
The film levels are what you might expect after playing the other Lego games, give or take a few surprises. One such surprise takes place in the second level. You may remember the spherical, wooden jail cells that featured in the movie. Well, I could choose to ride around in a smaller version of such a prison cell (running over natives and jumping gaps to reach certain pressure plates) or to go on foot. Many levels take place out to sea with ships going broadside or attempting to board the enemy vessel. These levels best showcase what Pirates of the Caribbean has to offer, that is swashbuckling.
Lego Harry Potter follows the source films closer than any previous game. The hub is The Leaky Cauldron which connects to Diagon Alley. Diagon Alley links to Gringotts, Madam Malkin’s, and even Knockturn Alley. Once the game advances to Hogwarts, the school becomes its own sort of hub for various adventures. I wandered the classes open to me, learning spells such as Lumos or Wingardium Leviosa that unlocked other parts of the castle. Although I was more or less herded to the proper areas it felt organically evolving. At times I attended a Potions class. At times I went out into the Forbidden Forest. All the while I unlocked special characters, new spells, and new areas.
Whether uncovering the mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone or competing for the Goblet of Fire, playing as Harry, Ron, and Hermione or any of the other Rowling characters is both charming and rewarding. As a fan of the films and the books this presented one more opportunity to relive the experience. I even visited the owlery and Hagrid’s garden.
I have yet to play the second of the Harry Potter games or the recently announced Lego Batman 2. I’m tempted to play even the redux of Lego Indiana Jones. In short I find the Lego games to have challenging levels, charming character design, and engaging game play. Now if only Lego would make the Romero zombie franchise into a series of games.