Lego is the saviour of the licensed video game

By Matt Martin, Friday, 2 May 2014 09:40 GMT

Matt Martin writes a sickening daddy-blog about the omnipotence of Lego and how it can improve every game ever made.

“Those nasty torture scenes in Call of Duty wouldn’t be half as unpleasant if it was Alex “Ajax” Johnson in the Melting Room.”

I can’t get rid of the children in my house. My own grubby little mites, their school friends and kids we don’t even know. They just seem to wander in from the fog with their little faces, eyes wide, like the street urchins from Fagin’s gang in Oliver seeing a meat and potato pie for the first time. It’s because of Lego Marvel Super Heroes.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is the best superhero video game ever made. None of the other contenders – Rocksteady’s Arkham titles, City of Heroes, Konami’s X-Men arcade machine, Irrational’s Jack Kirby influenced Freedom Force – come close. Those are all good, don’t get me wrong, but no one has nailed the sheer madness, creativity and vibrancy of comic books like Traveller’s Tales has. It pretty much includes the entire Marvel universe and is approximately 900 times more accessible. The game features Ego The Living Planet on the title screen for Christ’s sake – that’s better fan service than the Han Solo fridge.

Here’s another thing. Lego Star Wars games are the best Star Wars games ever made. Want to see a hobbit hit an orc over the head with a frying pan? That’ll be in the best Lord of the Rings game ever made. Even brattish moonchild Harry Potter works better in Lego form, mainly because in the films he’s already a stiff plastic boy with a drab haircut and John Lennon bins. Using this logic (and it is proven logic), everything is better when rendered in cute brick form.


Which is why we need more licensed Lego video games. In the dark days of the PSone and the PS2, licenses were everywhere and they were horrible. Movies, comic books, TV shows, books – publishers scraped the barrels until their fingers were bloody. How else can you explain such signings as La Femme Nikita, Taxi Driver, the Ology books or Snoop Dogg and John Singleton in some god-awful wannabe GTA rip-off? Unsurprisingly, none of those games ever made it to release and I like to think the greasy marketing execs who chased down those deals are currently floating in some vile blue-sky thinking Phantom Zone even now.

“The only way to successfully reinvent 20 year-old characters is to turn them blocky, give them cute plastic hair and let them do a stiff-legged jumping high-five.”

I need to be clear on one point; we need more licensed Lego games, not the original creations. Because Lego Chima is some lame-ass hippy animal bullshit, where a lion and a crocodile fight over chi power. Kids don’t want some mystical Lion-O rambling on about the power of life. Give me an axe and head to bury it in, hippy. Lego City Undercover could have been the exception here, and the game was great, but unfortunately it was released on a system that’s dying harder than Bruce Willis’ movie reboots so only about seven people played it.

And then there’s Lego Ninjago, which has the potential to be very cool until you realise there are already a stack of Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sets out there just begging to be turned into a video game.

If Traveller’s Tales and Warner Bros want to capitalise on the fan service that has made Lego Star Wars, Marvel and Batman such hits with kids and their dads they need to flip Leonardo and friends into Legoland and nerd it up to the fullest. Lego TMNT (as opposed to Lego LGBT, which in my imagination is one hell of a game), could be the next big hit. Don’t stop there, go full-on 80s cartoon mode and brickify Ulysses 31, Thundercats and Mysterious Cities of Gold while you’re at it. A Lego TMNT game may be in the works at TT Games. It would hardly be a surprise, but having a physical Lego set is no guarantee of a digital game. Just ask The Lone Ranger, a license so old even I don’t remember it and I’m your dad.

To recap: Lego video games print gold bricks. Ker-ching.


But now there’s the opportunity to get really meta and create Lego video games of existing video game licenses. Harmonix and Warner dabbled with it in the past with Lego Rock Band but the scope to go further is endless. Those nasty torture scenes in Call of Duty and Battlefield games wouldn’t be half as unpleasant if it was Alex “Ajax” Johnson in the Melting Room with a laser pointed at his lid. Replace the tedious car upgrading of Forza or DIRT instantly by having all the cars built from Lego and the game becomes 100% better. It’s what the little plastic bricks are made for.

Those games that are constantly being rebooted like Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia? Give it up, accept the only way to successfully reinvent 20 year-old characters is to turn them blocky, give them cute plastic hair and let them do a stiff-legged jumping high-five. That’s a better idea than a double decker couch.

We may have celebrated the death of licensed movie video games, but that means the games business not only missed out on some of the biggest entertainment franchises of recent years but also the chance to hook a new audience as well. The Hunger Games movies have made over $400 million apiece – where was the Lego version of those? Hell, Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie isn’t a DJ, she’s Katniss Everdeen. Anything that transforms from one thing into another can basically be worked into a Lego product.

“Lego is a real-world level editor. Why can’t I buy a virtual Lego experience where I create whatever the hell I want using a blank brick canvas?”

More importantly – and this is the biggest mistake Warner is making with the Lego license at the moment – is there are no Lego games that allow you to play with bricks in your own way. Lego is a real-world level editor. Minecraft is the best virtual Lego set that isn’t made by Lego. Why can’t I buy a virtual Lego experience where I create whatever the hell I want using a blank brick canvas? And if a blank canvas is too daunting for designers and/or players, we need to be able to go further than the character creation tools currently in Lego Marvel Super Heroes. It’s cute to put Spider-Woman’s head on Luke Cage’s body and equip Thor’s hammer, but I want to build an entire building. And then a city and all the flying space-car-ice-creams and minifigures to fill it out. Set us free.

Because if you’re ever in doubt, Lego is the answer. What can we do with this old IP no one cares about any more? Lego. What about making our teen phenomenon relevant to the gamer demographic? Lego. How do we repackage a horribly violent, jingoistic, macho war fantasy to the under 12s? Lego.

Lego is the cure all. Lego is the magic bullet. Lego is the future of video games. Come, friendly bricks, and fall on me.

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