Tag Archives: LEGO

Top five E3 2011 announced games that I desperately do want

I’ve never really paid too much attention to E3 in the past, but this year I got the itch, and I actually watched some of the press conferences live over the Interwebz as they happened and, thanks to the killer kids at GiantBomb, listened to many podcasts and interviews, as well as devoured every bit of data put out there. And there was a lot to be put…out. Um, that sentence didn’t work as well as I’d have liked, but whatever. Let’s move on.

Videogames! They’re always coming out, and I always want ’em. And while E3 is usually about the big names, the same ol’ shooters and Kinect jazz hands and next iterations in the big name franchises, there’s also a lot of smaller titles there. Sure, they don’t get the same coverage and applause, but dang it, they should. A lot of them have potential, I promise. More so than the Wii U “experiences” at least.

Here’s the top five games that debuted or were announced at E3 2011 that I want to gobble gobble in the near future. Well, probably not the near future, as many of these titles are still a ways off, but a gamerboy can dream.

5. OverStrike

Insomniac Games is one of my favorite developers, and one of the big losses of choosing the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3 was losing access to the wonderful Ratchet & Clank series. So, when the rumormill started churning recently, and word was that Insomniac Games was going to announce a new multiplatform game, well…I got excited. Welcome, OverStrike! It’s not a shared Ratchet & Clank title, but it still focuses on crazy weapons, as well as class-based shooting. I’m usually not fans of these types of games, but knowing what kind of creative team is behind it is more enough for me. Okay, I’m in.

4. Luigi’s Mansion 2

The Internet has been quick to remind us all that the original Luigi’s Mansion was not as good as we are remembering it to be, but phooey on them. I thoroughly enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion, thinking it to be a great change of pace, giving the other brother some love. Hearing him call out for Mario always got a chuckle in the room. Plus, I believe in ghosts, and they should all be vacuumed up for being very real things that really scare me. Think this will be perfect on the 3DS; a little ghost-busting on the go. Okay, I’m in.

3. LEGO City Stories

An open-world GTA-esque game featuring…LEGO characters. Y’all know my deep love for the LEGO games, and y’all know my deep hatred for the majority of GTA-like games. Hopefully, this fusion will be a game-changer. Maybe because it won’t be so serious. The fact that it’s coming out for the 3DS is interesting; hopefully they can fit an entire seamless city on one of those wee carts. Okay, I’m cautiously in.

2. Rayman: Origins

It looks simply gorgeous, retains the same fun and strong side-scrolling gameplay, and is going to allow for user-generated levels. Okay, I’m in.

1. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

Sonofabitch, now I need to buy a PlayStation 3. Okay, after I rob a bank, I’m in.

What newly announced games are y’all excited for? Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension? Shame on you, Grinding Down readers.

Games Completed in 2011, #19 – LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game

“A LEGO pirate’s life for me” would’ve made for a good post title. I’m just saying…

Traveller’s Tales has pretty much cemented their LEGO videogame formula, and it seems like they like what they have in the blueprints and are probably not going to stray from it too much. This is both good and bad. The good comes from the aspect that, nine times out of ten, the formula is fun and silly and an OCD gamer’s utopia, with a billion different things to collect and tasks to complete. The bad is that if you’ve played one LEGO videogame, you’ve played every LEGO videogame, whether it came out today or five years back.

LEGO Pirates doesn’t do anything new or shiny, but it is probably the second most appropriate franchise for LEGO-izing next to Star Wars because the Pirates of the Caribbean films are fun, light-hearted, goofy, epic, and made up of a variety of wild locations. Plus, there’s the character of Jack Sparrow, a man that sways and sways your attention towards him immediately; I still can’t believe how perfectly they nailed him and his persona in LEGO form, right down to the drunken swagger. It truly is a sight to see.

LEGO Pirates covers the main cinematic trilogy, as well as the newest film On Stranger Tides. The cutscenes do a great job of moving the plot along humorously, but a lot of giggles were lost on the fourth movie as I didn’t really understand what was happening and why; these games certainly do benefit from a gamer already knowing the tales in and out, allowing the jokes to resonate more without losing out on crucial plot details. Here’s my guess for the fourth film: Jack Sparrow doesn’t want to grow old so he’s off to find the Fountain of Youth. Blackbeard feels the same way. However, for the Fountain to work, they need to make mermaids cry or something. Then some stupid wannabe pirate girl gets stabbed, and we need to use the Fountain to heal her. Oh, and Captain Barbossa has a peg leg now. Maybe a mermaid ate it. The end.

As mentioned before, the gameplay remains the same. You play through a level by yourself or with a co-op partner, smashing everything in your path to collect studs and open new places to explore. Some new tricks include using Jack’s magical compass to find hidden treasures or looking through a telescope and tracking a certain someone as they move around. Other than that, the game is much more puzzle-heavy than combat-heavy, and sometimes the puzzles can be a little difficult to solve, especially when one requires you to have destroyed X over there to complete. I was particularly stuck on the final level of On Stranger Tides, mad to discover that all I was missing was pushing in a block that did not look, um, pushable. Grrr.

Strangely, I noticed that Traveller’s Tales did not include a level editor this time around, which previously showed up in LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 and LEGO Indiana Jones 2. That’s fine. I only tinkered with it a few times and just didn’t find it too much fun, especially since there was no way to share levels online or download new ones. No big loss. I still think drop-in, drop-out co-op via online would be marvelous, as the screen splitting up is often headache-inducing.

If you’re not a fan of the LEGO videogames, this one won’t certainly convince you. However, if you do love collecting studs and building items from broken LEGO bits and listening to dozens of characters mumble their way through a scene or riding giant crabs, then you’ll love LEGO Pirates. There’s plenty to do, to see, to be, and if you love carrots you’ll be especially pleased to know that there’s a lot of carrot humor. Whatever that means.

Living the LEGO life of a pirate

The demo for LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game begins with a young Elizabeth Swan punching a parrot in its face. It’s pure zaniness, but that’s what these LEGO games have always been about–retellings with a special touch. If you’re not laughing, you’re not having fun.

I started to play this demo by myself, but when Tara saw what I was doing, she quickly grabbed another controller and joined in on the fun. We’ve always enjoyed playing the LEGO games together, especially LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which was very close to us in terms of interests. Here’s a comic I did many moons ago about our time with LEGO Batman (the weakest of all the LEGO titles actually):

Much of the demo for LEGO Pirates (I’m shortening the title from now on) is actually cutscenes, setting the story up and giving Tara and I many reasons to giggle. The entire game will cover all four movies. We’re playing the first level of the Curse of the Black Pearl, which has Jack Sparrow arriving in town and getting locked up, Elizabeth accidentally summoning those cursed pirates and getting herself kidnapped, and Will Turner slowly becoming allies with a wanted criminal.

The first playable part of the demo is inside Will Turner’s workshop. One player controls Will, and the other controls, um, some guy I can’t remember the name of. His partner? Together, we broke items, collected studs, fed a carrot to a donkey, and repaired a machine, which revealed where Jack Sparrow was hiding. Then it was time for a sword-fight high up in the rafters, and even though I was just mashing the attack button, the swords clinked and clanked and swung wildly, giving the impression of a real duel to the death.

The next area has us controlling Will and Jack, trying to break our way out of jail. This involves using a dog and sniffing out keys. Once we’re done this area, we’re outside in the shiny, bright sunshine, attempting to get to the docks to steal a ship. Tara takes control of Jack and the laughs hit a high when he hops on top of a barrel and begins rolling around with it. We get to do some combat with some soldiers, and then we’re over by a ship, trying to figure out how to commandeer it. Staying in the water too long gets you eaten by a shark. After solving the rather simple puzzles and zip-lining over onto the ship, the demo ends, leaving us wanting more.

However, after playing the main part of the demo, you can go back and do “free play” on the first level, which just gave us an excuse to try out some other fun characters and explore a few locked areas. Tara ran me over several times with a donkey, and then we were officially done for the night.

So, the gameplay is exactly what we’ve all come to expect. For some, that might seem like a downer. However, it’s still the sort of gameplay I like, as it is not too intense for co-op play, and just enough of a collectathon for my OCD. Granted, there are not as many memorable characters to unlock in LEGO Pirates as there were in LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Harry Potter, but I think it’ll still be a blast to control Bootstrap Bill.

The full retail version releases tomorrow, and I’m gonna get that booty faster than you can say, “Oh, barnacles!”

DEMO IMPRESSIONS – LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

LEGO Star Wars started it all in terms of popularizing the idea that LEGO elements + videogames = addicting fun. Unfortunately, that well dried up quickly after two games, which covered all six movies. You rescued Padme and fought Count Dooku and saved Princess Leia and blew up the Death Star and played around with a bunch of ewoks. What was left? Well, evidently the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was ripe enough for LucasArt and Traveller’s Tales to make a third game, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, and a demo recently popped up on Xbox Live the same day as that shoddy deal-breaker we know as Dragon Age II.

Anyways, wars…in the stars. To be honest, I’ve never once watched that titular TV series, and so a lot of what is happening story-wise is a bit lost on me. I mean, I guess we’re somewhere between Episodes 2 and 3 here, but where exactly is any Wookie’s guess. So feel free to mock my inaccuracies; I promise not to throw a lightsaber at your neck.

After some classic scrolling yellow text, the demo opens with Padme Amidala and C-3PO looking a bit worried, and that probably has something to do with General Grievous taking them prisoners. It’s up to Obi-Wan, R2-D2, and Anakin to save those dunderheads. We can walk down a straight chamber, destroying items for studs, slaying generic enemies, and solving puzzles by using, none other, the Force. At one point, the gameplay does mix it up, requiring Obi-dobbi-doo to actually throw R2-D2 across a huge gap to gain access to a new section. Otherwise, the demo plays out as expected for these LEGO games, with the only new curve being that, when the reunited group eventually gets split again, we can switch between them at whim to help solve more puzzles.

I eventually got to a sort of bridge room, where I was trying to move something in the middle to…uh, do something. Except the Force was being extra finicky. Couldn’t figure out where to place it or how to get it to do a magical dance. Yeah, I didn’t even understand what I was supposed to do, and the fact the enemies constantly respawned in the room left me little to no time to experiment. That’s when I hit PAUSE and exited out of the demo.

I dunno. It’s definitely got a lot of that solid, fun LEGO gameplay, but I’ve already done this before. Y’know, sliced through troopers, moved things with the Force, blocked incoming shots with my lightsaber. Doesn’t seem like there’s much originality here, and if I had to do it all again, I’d rather go back to the original trilogy. Think I’ll just let this one pass on by and wait for LEGO Pirates of the Carribean or LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean will have you scrubbin’ ye barnacles in anticipation

While I wait and wait and wait some more for LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 to come out, I guess I’ll have to settle for a little Jack action. Specifically, Jack Sparrow, as he’s the main star of the next franchise to fall to the power that is LEGO. And this is a good thing. You can see why below in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean‘s debut trailer:

Ha, that’s totally Jack Sparrow in LEGO form. No denying it. Even has the drunken swagger down. Hope one of the many collectibles is bottles of rum.

It’s been reported that the game will be released on “all major platforms” this summer, and that the game will cover the events of the first three movies, as well as the upcoming fourth film, On Stranger Tides. Gameplay will follow in the footsteps of all the other LEGO videogames. Meaning that it will be light-hearted and extremely addicting. Looking forward to this filler until we can get back to fighting a LEGO Voldemort…

Full Gamerscore magically earned for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

It was a bit of a grind, playing the same levels over and over, pestered with some frustration thanks to glitches telling me that there were Gold Bricks where Gold Bricks were not, but another LEGO game has fallen under the power of my mighty gaming fist. Either way, all Achievements have now been unlocked for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Sadly, the majority of them were extremely tame, and I feel like Traveller’s Tales really missed a lot of opportunities with this one. Sure, other LEGO games were just as mild when it came to in-game tasks, but LEGO Batman had a couple nifty Achievements that dealt with gliding for a specific distance and backflipping about as Robin, and the groundwork here is so diverse and magical that it is, ultimately, a shame it got wasted. Basically, the bulk of Achievements here are about doing X a Y amount of times.

Like so:

  • Destroy 50 plants with Lumos Solem spell
  • Collect all House Crests in Years 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Rescue all students in peril
  • Defeat 10 enemies with a Muggle character
  • Defeat 20 enemies with Fang
  • Scare 20 students using a ghost character
  • Defeat 20 spiders with Ron
  • Fall asleep typing up this lame list

By and far, the only shining light Achievement-wise is this nod at a certain stealthy dude that might get sorted into Slytherin if the Sorting Hat ever got on his head (I hope some of you get that; hint: ssssssssnakes):


Solid Snape (15G): Hide in a barrel as Snape

Yup, that’s it. A funny one, too. The rest are…extremely uninspired.

Another swing-and-a-miss from TT involves the Mauraders’ Map. In Year 3, Harry and Ron are chasing Peter Pettigrew down a dark Hogwarts hallway. Well, not Pettigrew exactly. More like Scabbers (spoiler!). Anyways, just like in the movie version, fancy script floats in the air showing the location of several characters, moving as they move. It looks awesome; it’s also the only time it happens. I think that, after completing Year 3, Harry should have gotten to keep the map to use around Hogwarts, because that place is a bit big and confusing, and it would’ve really helped with the game’s immersion. Maybe they can remedy this in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7.

I’ve got other complaints (and praises! I promise I loved a lot, too!) for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, but I think I’ll save ’em for a full writeup.

LEGO Harry Potter’s final boss fight is like an Unforgivable Curse

Unforgivable.

Well, that’s another game beat for 2010.

Over the weekend, Tara and I finished up the last book section of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, completing the full game with a lowly completion percentage of about 35%. Yeah, there’s a lot more to collect, as well as Hogwarts to explore and open more Metroid-style. We’ll get there…in time. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. You see, I’m disappointed…greatly. The boss battles here are three steps back from the wonderfully imaginative ones in LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. Instead of creative and challenging, they were lame and over way too quickly. The Mountain Troll required you to lift its club over its head three times and let it drop; Aragog and his spider kiddies required some trial and error, but it was ultimately easy once you knew what to do; the fight against the Dementors was over fast once you realized you only had to target each one with the Expecto Patronum spell. And now we get to the final boss battle, the big one, the face-to-face duel between Harry and You-Know-Who. In the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, this fight was epic; it came out of nowhere; it gave us the readers our very first tug of emotional death; and it become memorable the moment it was done.

The very same boss fight in LEGO Harry Potter? Eh, not so much. First off, Cedric Diggory is alive during the fight for co-op purposes. Fine, fine. Not a dealbreaker as it allowed Tara to battle the incoming Deatheaters as I, Harry, played wand versus wand with Lord Voldemort. This meant that, when Voldie cast his spell at me, I had to tap X rapid fire until it pushed the spell back into him. Then I did this a second time. And finally, a third. BOSS FIGHT OVER. Wipe nonexistent sweat off your brow. Roll scene and credits. Oophm.

Tara even commented that she felt something was off there. That the maze level leading up to the boss fight was more challenging and clever than that. Which it was. Ten times the challenge. A shame really. Still, we have plenty more game to play…though I did go and grab some easy Achievements last night, namely these three:


Chilled Out (10G): Freeze 20 characters using Glacius


Boo! (10G): Scare 20 students using a ghost character


Back in Time (10G): Use the Time-Turner

The majority of the remaining Achievements involve a lot of replaying. I’ll have to check with Tara if she wants me to wait and do it with her together or if I can plow ahead and go for the full Gamerscore. It’s gonna take some time, but it will be FAR from a challenge.

Oh well. Maybe things will get a bit tougher in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7. I mean, after all, Umbridge will be in charge for a bit then.

This post is all about LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Apologies for the lack of content over the last few days. It’s summer, it’s the holidays, and it’s just not fun for me to update a silly blog when I’m spending time with loved ones, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you Muggles reading this drivel. Oh, I certainly do. You’re the best, even if you’re extremely quiet and reserved. Anyways…

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. I can has it. I left work last Tuesday and immediately headed to my local GameStop. Walked in, eyed the clerk, and cast my spell. “Avada Kedavra!” I shouted, throwing my wallet into his face. He fell over dead, heavy as a bag of rocks, faster than Edward Cedric Diggory could say, “Cho.” Another clerk came out, and this time I thought about what I really wanted.

“Um, do you have LEGO Harry Potter for the Xbox 360?” I asked.

“Sure.” He rung me up, almost in a daze, and then before he could call the cops on me for taking out one of his own, I threw a Stupefy in his face and hurried home. Alas, I had some other stuff to do, so the game just sat on my desk like a letter from Hogwarts, begging to be enjoyed. Finally, after some coffee and Clarkesworld slushing, it was time.

I played the first hour of the game and then, in some sort of crazy fever rush, wrote about it for The First Hour in the very same evening. No idea how that happened. Usually, it takes me a day or two to clean up my notes. Add in how lazy I can get and well…this is a miracle and should be looked upon as such. You can check out my review of the first hour of gameplay for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 by clicking this very sentence. I know, just like magic.

After that, I had to wait for Tara to come over so we could experience Hogwarts co-op style. We played the first hour again together and have, as of now, gotten to the middle of Book Two. Our next mission is most likely following the spiders into the woods to deal with Aragog. You’d think with an entire weekend we’d have gotten farther in the game, but the castle itself is almost like a never-ending level, with so much to explore and a Metroid-like progression to it. This means you’ll come across lots of spots you can’t access until you have a new ability, such as speaking Parseltongue to get by a snake or the right kind of spell to take out a specific obstacle. It makes retracing familiar ground a treat, and there’s always something new to see or experience or collect.

By far, it’s the best LEGO game I’ve played yet. LEGO Star Wars comes in a close second, but the simple fact that everything you see or interact with is magical allows for a much more fun–and surprising–environment. Hitting a couch in say LEGO Batman might just have it explode into a bunch of studs. Hitting a couch in LEGO Harry Potter could mean anything: seriously, so far, couches alone have done backflips, jumped high into the air, disappeared entirely, swallowed students, and shrunk down to the size of a dustball. That’s what I’m talking about.

Co-op is pretty fun. The camera occasionally still goes wonky, especially during lessons where you’re stuck in a small room, but otherwise it works well when splitting up. One thing Tara and I both really don’t like is that certain spells are lumped together under one spot, meaning if you want to cast a certain one, like where you shrink an opponent’s head or tie him up with rope, you have to wait for it to cycle through to it. Annoying and unnecessary. And since co-op is fun, I’ve decided that’s how I want to play the rest of the game. So, until I see Tara again over the weekend, no LEGO Harry Potter for me. That’s okay. I might go find a cheap game to fill in the gap until then since I’m mostly done with everything else in my collection, save for blowing up an endless stream of white dots in The Saboteur.

DEMO IMPRESSIONS: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

If I wanted to be dramatic, I’d start this post off with something like, “I thought this day would never come!” But it did. I knew a few days ago that the Xbox 360 demo for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 would be released soon, and all I had to do was wait, then download it, and then fall in love. Simple as that.

The demo comes in two parts. The first section opens up in a classroom setting with Professor Flitwick teaching his students how to perform the levitation charm Wingardium Leviosa. This is a pretty iconic scene in the movie/book as we really get a good sense of who is good at magic and who isn’t; in that vein, Ron is a total flop and I don’t suggest using him, but Hermione can pull off the spell with ease. We’re tasked with rescuing three students trapped up in the rafters, and using some spells to move items around (kind of like using the Force in LEGO Star Wars) to solve several puzzles, they are all quickly saved. Not much else to do except beat up some books so we’re off to the next scene…

…which involves Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Fang, and Hagrid! A demo after my own heart. See, Hagrid is my absolute favorite character in the books. We’re heading into the Forbidden Forest as punishment for sneaking around the castle after “lights out,” and as expected, then divided into two teams. Harry has to deal with a unicorn while Draco is more or less the wuss he’s always been. I got to control Ron, Hermione, Fang, and Hagrid, and this section really shows off a lot of gameplay.

Like in previous LEGO games, a lot of progression relies on using different characters and their abilities for specific purposes. What’s nice here is that, since a lot of the characters are wizards, instead of swapping weapons and people, you’ll be selecting new spells instead. At my disposal for the Forbidden Forest level were two spells: the previously learned Wingardium Leviosa and a spell for dealing with the local violent plant life that I can’t recall that name of. Fang can dig up stuff (and climb a ladder, which looked ridiculous), and Hagrid wields a crossbow, as well as his magical umbrella. Again, don’t bother using Weasley.

You destroy things, you collect studs, you solve puzzles, you collect a host of other items, and you move forward, putting to memory all the stuff you missed or couldn’t unlock yet. It’s a LEGO game, and it’s going to be good fun when it comes out. The Harry Potter world is seemingly a perfect fit for the formula, and I’m really curious about all the stuff not shown in the demo: class lessons, Diagon Alley, riding on broomsticks, co-op, and so on. The few cutscenes work well too, relying on mute characters and a previous knowledge of the plot to hit home some humorous moments.

But speaking of collecting, there’s going to be a lot to gather up. There’s four pieces of the Hogwarts crest to find in each level, as well as a student in peril, true wizard status, items that unlock special characters, studs galore, and gold bricks. Probably more, too. Definitely gonna keep one busy for a bit.

Ultimately, I’m really looking forward to LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 releasing at the end of June. And then visiting the actual castle in October.

LEGO Harry Potter Collector’s Edition to cast Avada Kedavra on your wallet

It seems that LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is getting the royalty treatment of a collector’s edition, ramping the price up to $70 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii versions. This magical package will include the game disc, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a set of four House Crest LEGO magnets, and an exclusive Avatar item for those gaming on the Xbox 360. Yeah, I’m gonna go out on a limb and just say that for $20 more, it’s not worth it. The featurettes will surely be on the Interwebz in time, and then that really just leaves us with…magnets. Things you stick to your fridge’s door and forget about for months. I mean, c’mon. It’s a LEGO-themed game. Why not just give us some actual LEGOs to play with? We know you have ’em.

Right. So, what has two thumbs and just can’t get excited over magnets? THIS GUY.

Chances are that my Purchase of the Month for May 2010 will be LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, but most certainly not the CE. Not unless someone casts a Confundus charm on me…