Tag Archives: LEGO Star Wars

Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

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There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.

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LEGO Star Wars is from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

I’ve not played every single LEGO video game out there, but I’ve gone through a good amount, most of which were in order of release. For me, it began with LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game back on the PlayStation 2, but it’s probably more accurate to say that the starting point for the evolution of these LEGO video games from TT Games began with LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. That’s where you began to see things like an enlarged hub world to explore and a split-screen camera option for when playing with a co-op partner, both of which have become mainstays for the series. Going back to play LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga recently has shown me just how far the series has come, for better or…no, just better. It’s only gotten better.

That’s not to say LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is a bad game or un-fun. Mel and I have been having a good time completing levels, collecting studs, unlocking red bricks, buying multipliers, and revisiting areas for hidden collectibles. We chip away at the larger beast. The LEGO grind is here, but it’s enjoyable because, compared to LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not every level takes upwards of an hour to complete. Not every door requires you to solve a minigame to open it. Not every puzzle is dastardly obtuse. I guess there’s some worse in the newer entries after all.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is basically a compilation of LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game and its sequel LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, that way you can play through them all together using one single product. Which is good for us because I only ever played through the former of those two, and Mel played the latter with her brother many moons ago. So we both got to experience some new areas together. Also, the game incorporates two previously deleted levels–“Anakin’s Flight” and “Bounty Hunter Pursuit”–though I’m only finding out about this now. Many other levels were redesigned and updated so that both games worked with each other and felt unified. Either way, the games follow the movies, which means you’ll get to see the exciting Trade Federation negotiations go down, young Anakin grow up, watch Luke learn about his father and The Force, and see Ewoks take down the Empire with sticks and stones. Since this is an older entry in the series, the cutscenes are wordless reproductions, but still silly when they want to be.

Here’s something I didn’t expect to ever say: Jar Jar Binks is essential. Early on, his ability to both double jump and jump high is pivotal for getting some hidden minikits, red bricks, or blue studs, which are the ones worth the most money. We brought him into every level we could during Free Play. I do miss the camera that would split in half and allow both players to do their own desires; here, you are stuck to each other, and often it made things easier for one player to simply drop out then for both to jump across sinking platforms floating in red-hot lava. Also, the flying levels are a struggle, especially when you need to get from point A to point B with missiles or a bomb being dragged behind you, and the whole world is out to make you explode. Later, we managed to make a door glitch out and not open despite doing everything right because glitches need stitches. Or something like that. Sorry, I didn’t know how to end that sentence.

We’re currently around the 65% completion mark, with several more levels to fully finish. Then there are special levels to do after you complete everything else, as well as challenges, arcade mode, playing online, gold bricks to buy, characters and vehicles to unlock, special cross-over Achievements to pop, and so on. Only after all that, after we see that 100.0% high in the sky, can we happily put LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga to bed. Still, this has been good co-op fun, which is not bad in July 2017 for the 23rd greatest video game of all time, according to the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition in 2009.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #65 – LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Growing up Jedi
You know what to do–get studs
Shun flying levels

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

My five favorite games in 2016

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According to my “2016 completed games” tag here on Grinding Down, I finished 83 games in 2016. That’s…a lot. Certainly the highest amount I’ve seen since I started tracking all this nonsense. Yes, yes, many of these games one might consider tiny and small and not worth counting, but it’s my life, my mind, and anything that sparks my attention and holds it for more than a minute or two is worth calling a game, as well as worth seeing through to completion. Now, many of these games that I beat in this year of the monkey were not released in the last twelve months, such as Final Fantasy IX, Read Only Memories, and Costume Quest 2. Also, of the five below, I’ve only actually beaten numbers five through three, but that won’t stop me from lovingly praising the top two entries. Can’t stop me now.

Before all that, some honorable mentions. Gears of War 4: You are all right, a bit straightforward, and I’m finally getting better at the multiplayer, but I really don’t like how serious everyone takes the game, which often makes it not very fun to play (see, I like playing games to have fun). If you want something weird and artsy, give Karambola a bite. Devil Daggers is cool as hell, probably because that’s where it was spawned to begin with, but I’m total rubbish at it. Shout outs to Earthlock: Festival of Magic, a throwback RPG that I’m surprisingly spending a lot of time with this last week. Lastly, The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is a great freebie that will likely resonate with those that suffer from social anxiety, like me. Remember, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

If you’re wondering why something is missing below, some dear game you hold close to your heart and swear up and down made 2016 all the better by existing, chances are I just didn’t get to play it this year.

Here we go. The last list of the year…

5. Tom Clancy’s The Division

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Tom Clancy’s The Division is a game I never expected to find myself playing. Honestly, I picked it up because a friend from work was getting it and wanted to play together. This is a rare happening, where I get to play a videogame with another human being that I know. I couldn’t resist. It’s a cover-based shooter with loot in a snowy, disease-laden New York City, which, despite that, looks amazingly pretty thanks to all the Christmas decorations left up. Getting through the main missions and to the endgame stuff was pretty easy, and I found myself obsessed with collecting all the collectibles, which had its ups and downs.

Unfortunately, that endgame stuff, as well as the Dark Zone in general when not safely traveling in a group, were not entertaining to me and didn’t keep me around for long afterwards. Nor did the Underground DLC. However, Ubisoft and the game’s developers have seemingly been working to fix a lot of the game, and my few attempts at the Survival DLC so far have brought me back into the fold, excited to craft a scarf with better cold resistance. It’s not a perfect game, but there’s something to it, a looty loop I can’t turn down.

4. Even the Ocean

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For many this year, the biggest surprises were things like Doom and Hitman, old games made new and modern. Well, I didn’t play those. For me, the biggest surprise of the year was Even the Ocean…mostly because I had no idea what it was until I saw a trailer and then immediately contacted the developers for a review copy. The story is grand, telling the struggle of Aliph and her quest to fix a bunch of power plants to stop the foretold invasion of flood-bringing monsters.

The game is a mix of narrative sections and platforming sections, with each area highlighting a new twist on Aliph’s abilities and the ways to balance her energy levels. What’s super amazing about the whole thing is its openness–you can tackle most of the power plants in any order, and you can play the game just for the story, just for the platforming, or a combination of both. There are even further options in the menu if you find the platforming too challenging and need some extra help. There’s a lot of love and care in Even the Ocean from Sean Han-Tani-Chen-Hogan and Joni Kittaka (y’know, Analgesic Productions), and it more than shows in every character interaction, design choice, and piece of music.

3. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is glitchy and broken in a few spots, but that never stopped it from being fun. Frustrating, for sure, but always fun when it was working. I guess that’s something that can ultimately be said of every LEGO release from Traveller’s Tales. This is a game that I mostly played with Melanie, and we ate it up in pieces throughout the year, finally completing all the DLC add-on missions and last remaining Achievements back in November 2016. As always, there’s a ton to do and collect, and the cutscenes are more enjoyable than ever, full of the usual charm and goofiness, but even show off some details not explained in the film. That said, I still hate racing side missions in these games, and throwing in floaty spaceships didn’t make them any better.

2. Stardew Valley

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I have not experienced a full year yet in Stardew Valley, having last played somewhere in the middle of in-game winter. Winter is rough. There’s less to do when it comes to your farm, and I didn’t prepare ahead of time for this. The good news is, one, that it doesn’t matter, because the 31 hours I’ve played on Steam leading up to this standstill were amazing and some of the most addicting gameplay I’ve ever experienced. Two, I plan to restart the game very, very soon on Xbox One, keeping the incoming winter season in mind from the start, but otherwise doing much of what I did before, such as wooing Maru and focusing heavily on digging deep into the mines for rare gems.

Stardew Valley is the epitome of the “just one more…” mantra, with the unit here being day. In this open-ended, country life RPG, you have inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot and given up working in a corporate office. That’s the start of the game, and you decide where to go from there. You can attempt to fall in love and marry a local villager or work to restore the community center. Do not support the Joja Corporation. There’s also events every season to partake in, or you could simply wake up every day, water your crops, pet your cat, and hang out on the farm until the sun sets, doing it all over again the next day. It really doesn’t matter how you play, as it is all rewarding. This is backed by a stellar soundtrack that perfectly matches every time of day, every season. Also, the sound effect when you collect an item is pure bliss.

Even the Ocean was made by two people, and Stardew Valley was made by one, Eric Barone (@ConcernedApe). I find this beyond impressive, to the point that it hurts my brain. Everything you’ve heard about Stardew Valley is true; it’s a game you play now to remember fondly later.

1. Disney Magical World 2

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This might seem like it is coming out of left field, or it may be no surprise at all to those that know me, but yeah, Disney Magical World 2 is my favorite game of 2016. Naturally, I’ve had a post in the works for this one for a couple months now, but haven’t had the chance to put all my thoughts into words and hit the publish button. You also might remember that my favorite game of 2014 was Disney Magical World.

With the sequel, not too much has changed, and I’m more than happy about that. Since getting the game in October, I’ve put over 40 hours in it and have no plans of stopping now, despite only having three more stickers left to acquire. You still move between themed worlds, tackling missions for specific Disney characters and collecting a vast number of ingredients/materials, all of which feeds back into making food for the café, creating ace ensemble outfits, and crafting countless amounts of furniture. There’s also a garden to tend to, and your own house–really a single room–to decorate. Mine’s mostly green. Gone are the collectible cards full of nostalgic art, replaced with pieces from a larger picture puzzle that allows you to interact later in a special area for bonus “like” points…I’m not a huge fan of this switch, but it is a minor element that can be nearly ignored if desired.

Disney Magical World 2 is a fantastic portable game. I pick it up and play for twenty, thirty minutes, and always have something to do. I don’t follow the same pattern each time, but it usually goes like this: run to the café, collect money, load it up with more food to sell, run to main street and see what the lady with the stall is selling (it changes multiple times throughout the day), purchase a new outfit or make some furniture, run around the map and collect puzzle pieces or see if there are any quick material-gathering missions to do, accept a story mission or two, and, lastly, return to the garden to pull up any finished crops and then plant new ones. Phew. This is not the same every time, but more or less my plan of attack. I have some story missions left to do in the Alice in Wonderland, Little Mermaid, and Lilo and Stitch worlds, but I’m trying to save them, really make this last. Besides, even after all the time and work I’ve put into it, I’m only at 33.51% completion.

So far, the in-game world of Castleton has changed for Halloween and Christmas, with the next scheduled event happening on April 1. I was hoping to see something earlier than that for either Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day, but, regardless, I’m looking forward to spending more time with Disney Magical World 2 in 2017. I wonder if I’ll have rung it dry of content by the end of the year.

The fact is I hit 70,000 Gamerscore perfectly

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Mark the date down, for today, this twenty-ninth period of twenty-four hours as a unit of time, is yet another behemoth moment for Grinding Down: 70,000 Gamerscore. Hit perfectly thanks to Killer Instinct‘s “Stylish Fulgore” Achievement for 10 points, but really, this was a group effort. Those involved will be thanked two paragraphs down, but first, a summary of my long, meticulous journey to this point and the previous landmarks I visited along the way. Because I enjoy thinking about the trek, imagining myself as an unassuming Hobbit on a grand Adventure, one to eventually share with future generations, becoming legend. Hmm, methinks it is almost time to rewatch Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time.

Well, naturally, this all started in February 2010 with 10,000. After that, almost a year later, I slid into 20,000. Next, 30,000 was acquired another year after that in March 2012. The black sheep of this story happened in September 2013 as I wasn’t able to get the number I wanted because of stupid ol’ Fable III and settled on 41,000 instead. The gap between that amount and 50,000 was almost two years, as I backed away from the Xbox 360 for a while…for reasons. Here’s the kicker–it was only last June of this very year that I was celebrating 60,000 Gamerscore, which means I did a whole bunch of popping Achievements in the few months since then. Let’s examine where this exponential growth occurred the most.

Let’s see, let’s see. I dug back into my larger-than-necessary backlog for the 360, polishing off Hitman: Absolution and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as much as possible. In terms of the Xbox One, the games that really helped grow that Gamerscore were LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Costume Quest 2, Monopoly Plus, The Wolf Among Us, and, embarrassingly, Ben-Hur. Of course, I’ve dabbled in a number of other games, both large and small, both on consoles and mobile, and, as mentioned before, this was a team effort. Even the games where I opened them once and played for less than twenty minutes matter. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to thank every game individually, but they should know in their heart of hearts that they are greatly appreciated.

I feel like with every one of these posts, I try to convey an air of lukewarm detachedness. That hitting these milestones is no big deal, simply a little fun to have with a system designed to reward gamers for all sorts of actions, such as defeating a tough boss or simply watching a game’s credits all the way through. The truth is…I care about hitting these numbers very much. The minute I begin to inch closer to them, I immediately start scanning out the list of potential Achievements and begin planning my path forward. I find it entertaining, and maybe someone out there reading this does too–hey, let me know if ya do–and I’m genuinely curious about what mix of games will lead me to the 80,000 mark. I do have a bunch more episodic adventures from Telltale Games to go through, and those are pretty easy Achievements to pop. We’ll see.

With all that said, picture proof:

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Wait, I took a better pic, since that screenshot ended up being so tiny. Also, I refuse to change my Avatar’s outfit. The more likely reality is that I no longer remember how:

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2016 Game Review Haiku, #43 – LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BB-8, so cute
It is the best droid, true fact
Poor R2-D2

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

30 Days of Gaming, #29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

I have to believe that the last time I played with LEGO blocks–actually played with them, like used them to build the most buffoonish of homes loaded with booby traps and secret rooms–was when I was still only in the single digits. Now, as a man of twenty and eight years, I play with LEGOs all the time, but digitally, with a controller in hand, using them to collect a bajillion studs, form platforms, and as a means of transportation. That’s right. From toys to videogames, the building blocks of life.

At first, when LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game came out, it was hard to think of it as anything else but a children’s game. I mean, it uses the toys of children to tell a simplified story of something much more epic, with no punishment for failing, minimalist controls, and bright, colorful characters. It plays everything safe from a visual standpoint, and at that point, no one knew what a LEGO game was. Some kind of sandbox thing where you just play around in a room with virtual LEGO blocks? A racer? Multiple choice trivia? Nowadays, everybody knows what a LEGO game is, and you’ll either love love love each one that comes out or find them uninspired and repetitious. Me, I’m addicted to their goofiness and collection-based gameplay.

I remember the very first time I played LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game quite well. I was beardless then, and in a Target, wandering around the aisles. Many of my weekend evenings were spent doing this, as at the time I had no girlfriend, no wife, no friends. A playable PlayStation 2–behind glass and locks and the occasional employee with shifty eyes–was making noise, and that noise sounded pretty dang familiar. Upon closer inspection, it was the theme to Star Wars. You know how it goes. I grabbed the controller and started playing. I was a little LEGO Jedi, and the first action I took was to use the Force to push a battle droid all the way across the screen until it exploded…into LEGO bits. Like magic, every ounce of me warmed and tingled, and it never got tiring, Force-pushing dudes. Some young kids stopped behind me to watch, ooh-ing at all the right times.

Getting to the know the LEGO games more intimately, I saw that they were just as much for adults as they were for children. In fact, many of the puzzles were overly complicated, involving planning and meticulous placements of key items. Kids might enjoy seeing characters falling down or opening a treasure chest to find a lone banana in cutscenes (those folk at Traveller’s Tales love their fruit jokes), but it’s the little nods and things unspoken that hit home for older gamers in the know. Such as LEGO Jack Sparrow’s swagger or the way LEGO Malfoy heckles Hermione or how LEGO R2-D2 floats perfectly across a chasm. And they are fun to play co-op, though maybe not at first, as the camera tech hadn’t come around until LEGO Indiana Jones 2, allowing players to split off in any direction and join back up whenever they were ready.

Since that infamous day in Target, I’ve played every single LEGO-based videogame save for these: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars and LEGO Rock Band. That’s not surprising as I’m not interested in much Star Wars lore other than episodes four through six, and plastic instruments are inferior to true instruments. Sorry, it’s true. And I’m picking up LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 on the same day I get Skyrim, and while I’m naturally more excited about traversing mountains, cooking salmon, and stealing spoons, I’m also giddy to get back to Hogwarts with my wife and cast some spells. Very curious to see if this LEGO game gets as dark as the final books/movies, though I’m mostly confident that TT will have handled the material a whole lot better than the film franchise.