Legos. Like most kids I loved to fool around with Legos when I was growing up. Sure, Legos eventually took a backseat to video games in my teens - and given how much a nice set of Legos went/goes for (who knew plastic was so expensive!) – perhaps it was for the best. However, as I grew into an adult I became somewhat disenchanted with Legos from afar. Unlike in my youth, Lego more-or-less sold their soul and paired itself with every bankable intellectual property you could think of. We didn’t have Star Wars Legos in my day, we had the “M-Tron” series, and while this will make me seem like a crotchety old coot, we loved them. I didn’t need a pre-established universe to enjoy my space Legos… my imagination – the very thing Legos once thrived on – could fill in the blanks.
My memories of such Lego fun time pretty much mirrors my relationship with video games; namely how I believe the games I experienced in my youth are superior to what we have now. As you’d expect I typically get ripped on for having such a narrow point of view, for living in the past and for wearing nostalgia goggles. To a certain degree, yes, I am guilty of that yet it does not mean I am incapable of seeing how time can dull even the sturdiest of games. There are several games I can think of offhand that have failed to age gracefully. Still, this isn’t the argument I want to make. The point is ever since Lego City Undercover debuted for the Wii U it has seemed like a title I’d really like to play, but – and here’s the kicker – I’ve never played a Lego game.
While purchasing a Wii U is very far down my list as far as future purchases go (a 3DS would definitely come before that) I found myself questioning the popularity of these games… I mean there had to be something to them for developers to produce them at such regular intervals, right? With so many IP’s to choose from – Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter – I decided to go with Star Wars since I have a decent amount of respect for episodes IV, V and VI despite not being a hardcore fan. So while the subject matter was a little touch-and-go at times I was more interested in the gameplay. Unfortunately, nothing short of the Jedi mind trick could change my opinion that The Complete Saga is about as shallow as you can get when it comes to a video game.
Now I get that these games are more for younger audiences, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many adults have told me they enjoy these games as well. Those quotes in themselves helped motivate me to pop this thing into my DS XL but those statements wrote a check its tush couldn’t cash. The gameplay in Lego Star Wars follows a rudimentary formula that can be summed up as busywork. The game occupies your mind with what’s going on on-screen but it’s all for the sake of being occupied. I know that sounds like a rather redundant statement so I’ll state it another way: the whole time I was playing The Complete Saga I had this feeling I could be playing something much more deserving and rewarding.
This isn’t to say why children like these games is lost on me. Sadly it’s pretty easy to see the appeal to the younger sect. Yet this is where my past kind of conflicts with the current reality. I grew up playing Mega Man games. Even after all the damage Capcom did to the property later on I still love Mega Man. I may have turned a blind eye to it in the blissful ignorance of childhood I can now admit that these games where practically the same thing over and over and it’s pretty amazing (e.g. sad) that Capcom was able to milk it for as long as they did. That said, the Mega Man games were the Lego games of my youth. The thing is while I don’t see a difference in the overall pattern of releasing an absurd amount of games with as little change as possible, I do see a difference in the overall value. It’s true that Mega Man never evolved unless a spin-off was created (the excellent Mega Man X being a great and perhaps best example) I simply feel that Mega Man’s gameplay is a few hundred times more rewarding than what’s here even though it’s been done to death. It’s true the Lego game may take longer to complete but it’s nowhere as fulfilling.
The other thing about the Lego series that is somewhat of a hitch is the insanely low difficulty. The lack of consequence for “dying” is something I just can’t eye to eye with having grown up with unmerciful NES games. Removing such a boundary from the game only reinforces the fact that The Complete Saga is a hollow collect-a-thon with no challenge what-so-ever. It’s the equivalent of giving the player a participant trophy when they absolutely suck. I’d go on about how this train of thought is damaging but to shorten this paragraph by a sentence or two I’d suggest checking out the “You Are All Diseased” and “It’s Bad for Ya” comedy specials by the late George Carlin. Alternatively, you can also listen to the somewhat antagonizing “Neverlution” special by Christopher Titus where Chris more-or-less plagiarizes the whole Carlin bit. The point is you need a boundary like this even in a video game so there is something to work towards other than unlocking insipid stuff with cash. Video games should deny players access to later content until they’ve proved their skills. This occurs one time within The Complete Saga.
To be honest I wish there was more to say about this game. The game does make me glad that I grew up when I did and games didn’t give out gold stars like candy. I’m sure some out there will believe I’m missing the point of these games but the only thing I see is an experience that's probably just re-skinned time and time again to wring a bucket of cash out of loyal fans. And again, I see the irony as I realize that’s all that Mega Man was but at least Mega Man was its own entity and not the combination of two brain dead properties. For what it’s worth I’d rather play an aging and ailing franchise than one that was created to cater to the lowest common denominator. Still, if I can take one thing away from all of this, it’s the hope that Lego City Undercover will be a lot more robust than this game whenever I get to play it.