In the first of our "All About Video Games" series where we will be looking at a particular video game franchise, we are focusing on the Lego video games.
Although there are other types, the main Lego video game titles are platform games. Players progress through the game by solving puzzles to reach particular platforms, jumping across gaps and fighting bad guys. As they do this they can unlock new Lego characters, locations and play modes.
Some of the older Lego video games were PEGI 3 rated, but the majority of more recent titles are PEGI 7. Mature themes are helped by the fact they are made to look like Lego bricks. When characters die for instance, they fall apart and cry out but don't bleed. Soon afterwards they re-appear and the player can carry on.
As these games progress the complexity of the puzzles and difficulty of the fighting and exploration does increase. My seven year old daughter, for example, found that she needed some assistance with some of the puzzles in Lego Batman 2 for instance.
More advanced players will be able to complete the main story mode of these games in a few days. However, they offer longevity by the fact that unlocking characters on the initial play through enables you to access new areas on subsequent plays. This means that keen players will play through the game a number of times. It also means that younger players can get frustrated trying to reach particular levels before they have the appropriate character -- something parents should bear in mind when called in to help.
[caption id="attachment_715" align="alignright" width="300"] Lego Batman[/caption]
The Lego video games generally use a checkpoint save system that means you need to reach a certain point in the game to save your progress. This can make it difficult to get younger players to stop for mealtimes and the like. However it should be remembered that the game can be paused to take breaks and there is usually no more than 20 minutes between save points. Additionally, the sleep feature on handheld consoles like the DS and PSP enable players to pause the action until the next time it is needed -- even if that is in a few day's time.
One of the more popular aspects of the Lego platform games is that they can be played co-operatively. Two people can work together simultaneously to progress through the main adventure. The console versions of the games (Wii, Xbox, PS3) offer this mode on a single system. Each player connects a controller and works together to solve the puzzles and beat the bad guys. It's a great way for family players of different abilities to play together.
The handheld versions of the games (DS, 3DS, PSP, PS Vita) offer this mode with a link up system. This means that you need two handhelds (and usually two copies of the game). It enables players to work together as described above for the console game. Additionally, because the systems are connected wirelessly the players don't need to be in the same room to play together -- something that adds a little novelty for younger players.
The exact offering of multi-player modes in the Lego games varies through the different editions. Here is an overview of what each game offers on both handheld and console versions:2012 – Lego Batman 2
Handheld multi-cart multi-player
Console split-screen multi-player2011 – Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7
Console split-screen multi-player2011 – Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
Console split-screen multi-player2011 – Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Console split-screen multi-player2011 – Lego Ninjago
DS/iPhone2010 – Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4
Console split-screen multi-player2009 – Lego Rock Band
Console shared-screen multi-player2009 – Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
Console split-screen multi-player
Handheld multi-cart multi-player2009 – Lego Battles
DS/iPhone2008 – Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
Handheld multi-cart multi-player2008 – Lego Batman
Handheld multi-cart multi-player2007 – Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Handheld multi-cart multi-player2006 – Lego Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
Handheld multi-cart multi-player
As you can see from the list, some of the handheld versions offer a "multi-cart" multi-player. This means that for two people to play together you need two copies of the game and two handheld systems. The other handheld multi-player mode is "single-cart" which enables two people to play together with one copy of the game that is downloaded from one handheld system to the other.
The Lego video games are usually based around different Lego film franchises and follow the stories of the related movies. This means that they also relate to (and draw on the designs from) the physical Lego sets that are also developed.
[caption id="attachment_716" align="alignright" width="300"] Lego Harry Potter[/caption]
The games use these Lego sets and mini-figures to retell the related movie story in a comical, tongue in cheek fashion. This can be a little over the heads of younger players, but should appeal to parents who will appreciate the "in" jokes and film references.
Some Lego games such as the Harry Potter and Star Wars game split the franchise up into separate video games. This enables the game to spend longer on each element, but does mean you need to buy two or three games to experience the complete story. Other Lego games such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars The Complete Saga contain the whole film series in a single game. This offers better value for money as only one game needs to be purchased.
Lego video games are a great place to dip your family gaming toes into the world of platform games. They also offer a way for beginner and expert players to enjoy a game together. The split screen multi-player mode is particularly good in this respect as both people can explore at their own pace.