This week, Lego turns 90 years outdated – an unimaginable milestone for a little bit toy firm that, at a number of factors in its life, was on the verge of going below. It’s extra spectacular nonetheless that Lego reaches this milestone whereas one of many largest toy manufacturers on the planet, recognizable to youngsters all over the place, and all achieved whereas remaining a non-public firm.
Lego has all the time had an attention-grabbing relationship with video video games. On one hand, the corporate naturally sees video video games as competitors: when Lego’s monetary outcomes declined for the primary time in 13 years (half a decade in the past), one market issue the corporate pointed the finger at was youngsters enjoying extra video video games. On the similar time, nonetheless, gaming has turn out to be an inexctricable a part of Lego’s enterprise.
We now get a high-quality Lego-based online game at the least each couple of years – and very often extra incessantly than that. These are normally primarily based on Lego’s licensed properties – so gaming adventures that retell the tales of comedian e-book, or Star Wars, or Harry Potter and its kin – simply with the story spun in a blocky, comedic type. Rather a lot is owed to the Lego video games as designed by British developer Traveler’s Tales, the truth is: a lot of the presentation of the massively profitable Lego films has its genesis in these gaming experiences.
However Lego video games far predate the primary sport of this type, 2005’s Lego Star Wars. And as a lot as I really like the Lego video games now we have immediately, a ninetieth anniversary retrospective look again does make me take into consideration how a lot I miss when Lego video games had been extra wildly experimental.
For essentially the most half, I’m speaking concerning the late nineties. ‘97 via 2000 was a mini golden age of Lego sport creativity, headlined by Lego Island, a PC title that was a particularly small-scale open world journey performed from the first-person perspective.
Lego Island was half journey sport, half mini-game assortment, permitting you to construct and race automobiles, ship pizza, zip round on jet skis, or just simply discover the island to marvel on the early 3D recreations of real-life Lego units – a few of which most children who performed this sport most likely owned. On the finish of all of it, there’s an epic confrontation with a Lego baddie, an escaped legal who needs to disassemble the island utterly.
I used to be vaguely obsessive about Lego Island, nevertheless it was simply certainly one of many titles that featured in lots of cheap multi-pack releases on the time. Lego Loco pandered to my prepare obsession with a low-impact, kid-friendly model of a rail administration city-builder. Rock Raiders was primarily a youngsters’ first real-time technique sport, whereas Legoland was fairly actually Theme Park, besides you’re, y’know, constructing a Lego-themed park. I realized to play Chess – and acquired fairly good at it – due to Lego Chess, the place I’d all the time play because the Cowboys, since that was my favourite theme represented within the sport.
Not all of those video games are nice, and plenty of of them are too easy for their very own good, however I’ve very fond reminiscences of them and actually adore what they symbolize. This was Lego in a massively experimental section; the corporate would contract varied sport builders and primarily have them make Lego twists on established genres and properties. Fairly than a by-the-numbers system the place the sport stays the identical however the franchise modifications, each sport was completely different and fairly distinctive.
Most of them had been on PC, however some extra apparent ones did make the soar to numerous consoles. Non-PC gamers will most likely bear in mind the Kart Racing Lego Racers video games essentially the most fondly from this period. The platform didn’t matter as a lot because the power these video games projected, although – which was a kind of tongue-in-cheek exploration of the themes of video video games that matched the way in which Lego as an entire approached its set themes like Castles, the Wild West, House, and past.
Every thing would in the end change when Traveler’s Tales delivered a sport with such a potent system and such a killer franchise connected that it might turn out to be the template for Lego video video games going ahead – however I do miss that period.
However, with that mentioned… it completely may be coming again, at the least a little bit? Lately we’ve had new Lego Star Wars and Marvel video games, but additionally distinctive little indie-style joys like Lego Builder’s Journey, and style copycats like Lego Brawls, which is mainly a mobile-based Smash Bros. clone with Lego characters. We’ve additionally had some cool crossovers, the very best of which was in fact the brick-built DLC for Forza Horizon 4, which relies on the real-life ‘Pace Champions’ units.
None of that is fairly the identical because the bizarre video games from the nineties, nevertheless it’s enjoyable to see new Lego video games popping up that play with the corporate’s personal manufacturers and themes relatively than simply pander with franchise fanservice.
However time marches on, and the connection between Lego and video video games is morphing once more. In Lego Super Mario, now we have a novel new strategy which blends a cellphone app and real-life bricks in a fascinating and academic manner. And for us aged folks squinting and remembering the nice ol’ days, the corporate additionally has a solution: joyful to ply our wallets open with lovely, intricate, and costly fashions of issues just like the NES, the Atari 2600, Inexperienced Hill Zone, a Horizon Tallneck, or a Mario Question Mark Block.
It’s by no means been a greater time to be a fan of Lego and a fan of video games. However, y’know… I’ll nonetheless let that nostalgia hearth burn brightly. Quite a lot of these outdated video games have now reached abandonware status – perhaps I’ll seize them and provides them a go – an ideal approach to mark Lego’s 90 years.