It’s official. Lego themed games are slowly killing the entire Lego Systems franchise.
Lego Rock Band can be expected this “Holiday 2009” on the Wii, XBox 360, PS3, and supposedly the Nintendo DS (although I cannot say for sure if that includes the Nintendo DSi, which lacks the GBA slot presumably needed for a strumming widget), as announced this week by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Traveller’s Tales Games, Harmonix, MTV Games, and I think your mom is involved with the project too. Seriously, I feel like some sort of “stacked like legos” jab is in order in respect to the collaboration efforts of this motley crew, but you know what? I can’t even muster that much effort.
Let me get right to the point. Beyond my cynicism, I can see some value in this game. It has a widespread target audience: think Rock Band obsessed dads bonding with their Lego Game loving sons… and try to avoid the ensuing case of diabetes. According to PC World, it will probably incorporate scenery from past games for one to “rock out in”. How charming. And finally, you can literally build your band, not in the way that you could build your own band in past incarnations of Rock Band. No, in a wholly different manner. This time they won’t even try to look realistic. Supposedly, existing Rock Band controllers will be compatible with this game, but there may be specialized controllers available for this latest incarnation. This can only mean one thing: if you think you had blisters on your fingers before, buddy, just wait until the buttons have warts on them so that they resemble the classic Lego System Bricks. Oh, boy! But if you are like me, these reasons are not going to convince you that a Lego Rock Band game is a good idea for the franchise or for the gaming community.
Tardy Preamble: I LIKE Lego System Bricks, and I like playing with Lego System Bricks. I call them Lego System Bricks because I am engaged to a man that insists that they be called nothing but Lego System Bricks lest I invoke the wrath of the Rocket Shrimp (long story). That’s how much I like them. My boy and I, we have custom Lego System Brick key chains (for those of you not gagging yet, yes, they are inscribed with lovey messages). See that down there? That’s me fawning over my walk-capable Lego AT-AT, and don’t even get me started on my Lego AT-ST. And what’s more, I think that Star Wars is the best thing to ever happen to the world of Lego, so it’s not that I am opposed to cross-pollination in the land of Lego.
I played Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Swapping heads and defiling sacred pop-culture scenery, you say? All about it! I reply. But something about this Lego Rock Band idea reeks of wrongness to me. Think about it: Lego mini figs singing, that is, forming intelligible words (for the most part, depending on the song). Can you? I, for one, cannot. Now consider the evolution of Lego games, from the late-nineties onset of Lego-themed PC games to the undeniable success of the award winning and widely appreciated Lego Star Wars games (including Lego Star Wars I, II and TCS.) Whether or not you enjoyed or even liked them, this inter-breeding of the Star Wars and Lego franchises has made a niche for Lego themed games despite an otherwise underwhelming selection. You know it’s true. Outside this revered Star Wars family, Lego themed console games have met with scattered success and often relative failure.
The pinnacle achieved by the most recently released Lego Star Wars made me expect big things from the 2008 announcement of the titles Lego Batman and Lego Indiana Jones. I was on the waiting list for the former game (for the Xbox 360), and while it certainly provided amusement, it didn’t live up to my expectations. Lego Indiana Jones fared about as well. In fact, I am surprised to find out that it fared considerably better than Lego Batman in the eyes of most critics, because after plummeting to my death about a dozen times due to what I considered a failed game mechanic, I have had nothing but scathing things to say about it. Apparently, the Nintendo DS versions of both games were right on target, but the major console versions didn’t seem to capture the reception and flavor that had been expected as a culmination of the Lego games we had seen thus far. But the consensus follows (and I swear this is not just my opinion, check the wikz): Lego Batman and Lego Indiana Jones were just not as fun as Lego Star Wars.
Ok, so now that I am done ranting about why I think Lego themed games are currently engaged in a downward spiral, let address the issue that I think most people would raise at this point: Lego Rock Band will not be in the same format as those already mentioned. It won’t be an narrative-style adventure, and it certainly won’t be following the premise of a movie or preordained storyline. It will be a Rock Band game with a Lego Systems flair. Fair enough. But I think that it will be little more than that; a replica of Rock Band, albeit with a new selection of songs, but now your band, your stage, and probably your scrolling “notes” will be composed of Lego System Mini Figs, Bricks, and Studs respectively. Big whoopity deal. Risking the wrath of the Rock Band ring, I would like to propose that the world doesn’t need another simulated music game. And so help me, if I hear one more reference to rocking out with one’s block out, I will do something drastic. They’re bricks, numbnuts! Lego System Bricks!
In conclusion, I have to point out that we saw some of the best Lego System products (excluding the Mindstorm line) spawned of the marriage between Star Wars and Lego, and we also saw some rather interesting and profitable Batman and Indiana Jones Lego collections released in conjunction with those games. What can we expect from Lego Systems along with the release of Lego Rock Band? If anything, whatever it is, it will never live up to this.
So what’s the big picture here? Let me make this abundantly clear: Lego Universe better rock a hell of a lot harder than Lego Rock Band, let me tell you, or else there will be hell to pay.