Tag Archives: Traveller’s Tales

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.

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

2016 gd games completed lego star wars the force awakens

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.

100%-ing LEGO Marvel Super Heroes nearly broke me

lego marvel superheroes 100 percent grind

Naturally, I saved all the elements I hated the most for last when working towards hitting the 100% completion mark in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Like races, of all variety. Like replaying every story level a second time to find the last few collectibles. That’s it, really. Those are the two mission types I disliked the most, as the fetch quests and bonus levels kept things lively, and so long as you have a character that can fly–my go-to was always Galactus or Ms. Marvel–then you can zip around the hub world and start checking off tasks…somewhat quickly. Getting there is no big problem, but one still has to factor in solving the puzzle to unlock the gold brick, vehicle, or character.

Races in the sense of a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc. to see which is the fastest in covering a set course are just the worst when it comes to open-world videogames. I avoid them at all costs. I think I did the obligatory one in Grand Theft Auto V and never went back. There are a few types in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: in air, in vehicles, or on foot. None of them are fun. One mistake generally costs you the entire race, forcing you to go back to the mission giver and try again, which is sometimes not an easy process. The flying ones are a real hassle as the controls for zipping through the sky like some cool person are clunky and, nine times out of ten, work against you. Here’s a real kicker though: Maria Hill challenges the player to a go-kart race on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, but it’s on a digitalized, floating track in the sky, and if she wins, the track disappears, and you fall all the way down to the city below. Want to try again? You have to either fly back to the Helicarrier or use a warp station.

Let’s talk a bit about Stan Lee. You know, the iconic American comic book writer, editor, publisher, media producer, television host, and actor who loves making cameos whenever it comes to all things Marvel. He’s a collectible in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, and there’s fifty in total to rescue. One Stan Lee in Peril is found in all the story levels and bonus levels, with the rest, a good twenty or twenty-five out in the hub world somewhere. Thankfully, an icon appears on the map to let you know where he is, but you can naturally only rescue one at a time. He’s not Multiple Man, mind you.

Anyways, after rescuing a bunch of Stan Lees in the hub world, I noticed there was no new icon showing up, which lead me to both recheck the map several times, but also assume that any new Stan Lee rescue missions were locked until I did something else. Or hit a set percent completion. As it turns out, that was not true; instead, there was a Stan Lee icon on the map the whole time, just hidden underneath another icon, one for a story mission that I had already completed. I only saw it visible when glancing at the mini map; you can’t see it through viewing the large map. In short, I could have been collecting Stan Lee the entire time, but didn’t because the developers thought it was a good idea to hide the icon on a map they clearly knew gamers were going to use as a means to set waypoints and track down things. In shorter, screw Stan “The King of Cameos” Lee.

Lastly, even after hitting 100% completion and enjoying the warm fuzzies of seeing all those collectibles collected, I still wasn’t done with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. See, I began playing the game co-op with my girlfriend, and evidently the Falling…with Style Achievement for successfully sky-diving off the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier is glitched if you try to do it first in co-op. The only way for me to pop it was to start a new game and never bring in another player. More frustratingly, you don’t get access to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier until after the first story level is completed. Imagine me, drained from grinding my heart out on LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, having to play a story level for a third time simply to be fully done with this mutation. Also, you can’t skip cutscenes the first go around. I grumbled through it, jumped off the Helicarrier, saw the Achievement pop, and felt an invisible weight lift off my shoulders.

At one point during my seemingly impossible climb to 100% completion, Deadpool mocked me for even trying. Made fun of me going after all these collectibles or doing another vehicle race simply to check it off an imaginary to-do list. I get that that’s Deadpool’s thing, breaking the fourth wall and whatnot…but when the videogame you are attempting to master is leaning back and laughing at you, one has to wonder. Super heroes are often defined by their sacrifices. I feel like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is one of my greatest.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #54 – LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

2015 games completed Lego Marvel

Loki desires
The Earth to be eaten up
Build a better world

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

One does not simply play the demo for LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings keeps surprising me. First, it is seemingly coming out at the end of this month instead of what I assumed would be a more timely release around The Hobbit, Part 1 on 34 in December. Second, out of nowhere, a free demo was dropped on the 3DS eShop this week; I stumbled across it blindly. Third, said demo begins with a crow taking a crap on whatever Hobbit you are controlling’s head, and that crow keeps crapping every 10 or 15 seconds until you progress a bit through the level. Oh boy. If dodging poop is what Traveller’s Tales is adding to the adventure to make it “funny” and their own, there is cause for worry.

The demo level is the scene at Weathertop, a hill in the Eriador region of Middle-earth. The hill itself is pretty important in terms of Middle-earth history since it was once a major fortress of the kingdom of Arthedain, home to one of the seven palantíri, and the place of several battles. For our purposes, it’s the spot where Strider and the four Hobbits pause to rest for the night only to then be attacked by several Ringwraiths. The Witch-king ends up stabbing Frodo with a Morgul-blade, which is not a good time for the wee halfling.

Anyways, it’s a moment in the books/films that I’ve experienced before in LOTR videogame form and will continue to do so long as they make these types of games. It’s hard not to. It’s both iconic as all gets and made for a “boss fight” kind of level. Most recently, I took down these Ringwraiths with sword and fire in Aragorn’s Quest, but I also recall doing it almost exactly the same way elsewhere. Or maybe I’m just crazy. It’s been a long time since I dabbled in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, so if there was a Weathertop fight there, I don’t recall, but have to assume it would at least have been handled differently, seeing as that game is a turn-based RPG built on Final Fantasy X‘s battle system. I have a couple other LOTR games in my collection–The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PS2) and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North–but don’t remember if there were any Weathertop fights in them.

Regardless, LEGO The Lord of the Rings handles it pretty much the same way, with Aragorn ultimately chasing these screeching undead away with fire. Before that happens, Frodo must slip the One Ring on, construct some decoy Hobbits, and have the Ringwraiths attack them in order to damage themselves and become dizzy, open for damage. And before that, you climb Weathertop, using Sam, Pippin, and Merry to do different actions while avoiding that crow that keeps crapping on you. It was extremely frustrating while trying to catch a fish because the crow always shits on your controlled Hobbit directly, knocking him out of the action animation, and you only have milliseconds to reel in a fish before that crow circles back for more. I did not like this part at all, and poor Tara had to listen to bird poop sound effects–think ppbblt–for several minutes on end; I’m sorry.

I won’t be getting LEGO The Lord of the Rings on the 3DS, as I prefer all my LEGO games on the Xbox 360 so I can S rank them like a crazy person–well, except for LEGO Pirates so far, grrr–but the game still looked really good on the portable. I even flipped the 3D effect on to see the One Ring in all its realness. Cutscenes were a bit brief, and it’s still extremely bizarre to hear the films’ dialogue spoken by these blocky boys, but whatever–that’s just something I’ll either get used to or I won’t. Based on what I saw of a Free Play level, it looks like we’ll be unlocking different “skins” for characters like in LEGO Harry Potter. I’m sure it’s still going to be a ton of fun to play co-op with Tara. I just hope we can get through the crow-crapping level part much faster if she distracts it while I fish for food. Guess we’ll find out relatively soon.

LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is done casting Crucio on me

It took the whole weekend, but it’s done. All characters and character variants unlocked and bought; all Hogwarts House crests grabbed; all students in peril saved from peril, whether that peril was a man-eating plant or them just being lazy and oversleeping in a hammock; all gold bricks found; all Achievements acquired. LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is now completed as a whole, and I’m happy to be moving on from it finally.

Unfortunately, the grinding these LEGO videogames demand is detrimental to their overall quality. I’ve written about this before, and will most likely continue to write about it for the next half-dozen of forthcoming LEGO videogames. I mean, it took how many iterations to get Traveller’s Tales to add a new camera system and voices to their LEGO beings? Yeah, change does not come fast to those developers. So expect the obtuse and exhausting collectathon to continue on for a good while. But since I’ve already gone on at length about that annoying aspect, let’s talk about something else pertaining to LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7: glitches and unforgiving level design!

For a game series constantly billed as co-op friendly, it’s strange that some goals can only be completed solo. Meaning you have to look directly at the person next to you, take their hand gingerly, and say, “Sorry, but you‘re the problem; I need you to drop out.” That’s a pretty cruddy thing to do–to anyone, really–but if you want to unlock the following Achievements, you gotta bite the magic bullet and kick them to the curb:


O Children (20G): Complete the scene where Hermione and Harry dance in the tent


Weasley Does It (25G): Use a Weasley box with every Weasley


What If? (20G): Defeat every Harry freeplay variant as Lord Voldemort

Tara and I tried unlocking all of these as we played the game. We did everything we thought we were supposed to do, and yet nothing seemed to work. I even began thinking outside of the box, using Hermione as a Weasley. For a time there, I thought we were losing our minds, but no, all we had to do was kick my wife out of the game and have me do everything all over again by myself to get them to ping. Boo to that. I mean, all the other Achievements were not like this, and so it has to be labeled as strange. Wonky, even.

More frustrating than the above is the bad level design on Magic is Might from Year 7. In this level, players must make their way through the Ministry of Magic in hopes of stealing a plot-vital item from Dolores Umbridge. After dueling with her, you are chased down a narrow corridor by a swarm of Dementors; this level is set up in the “Indiana Jones and the rolling boulder” sense, with you running towards the screen as danger follows behind. A Hogwarts House crest is hidden behind a golden statue off to the side, and for me, this was the last crest I needed to get; however, time is an issue, and you have to be quick to grab it. If you touch the statue or wall near it, you die, and the Dementors attack your respawned body immediately, pushing you forward. You cannot go back to get the crest without replaying the whole level again, which means you get one chance, and one chance only. Also, if you try to walk past the statue and then go behind it, you die. You can only acquire it by being Fang or Griphook–someone small or fast–and going behind the statue without touching it or the wall. I replayed this level four times before I learned the errors of my way and figured out what to do. Ugh.

Thinking back, LEGO Batman had something just like this, and the proof is in the post. Here’s what I wrote about it way back in the day in October 2009:

LEGO Batman. Sure, I “beat” it months ago, but every now and then I pop back into it to grab some missed items and trying and unlock everything. And I’ve gotten just about everything…that is, but three collectibles. Now, one of them is painstakingly annoying to obtain. Trust me, I tried three times in a row last night. In one of the Penguin’s villain levels, you have to guide your characters down an icy slope, going through five specific flags to unlock the hidden canister. Sounds simple enough, yes? The problem is that if you miss even one flag you are then dropped into the level’s final boss battle room and cannot return to try again. Meaning you must replay the level again and again and…again. I’ve had zero luck so far. Insert heavy sigh.

Gee, that’s the exact same sort of level design used years later for LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7. Whoever comes up with these parts, please stop. I don’t care if you think they are a barrel of fun or there for a reason. Just stop. No one likes replaying levels again and again for a single collectible.

So that’s it. I’m done…until LEGO Lord of the Rings, that is.

Avid reader and avid button-masher in LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7

Tara, as LEGO Hermione, was running around Fred and George’s newly opened joke shop Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, blasting things apart for studs and solving yet another extremely cryptic puzzle. It took her at least five minutes to realize that I wasn’t with her, let alone moving LEGO Harry around the map.

Where was I? On the store’s ground floor, right in front of a Quibbler dispenser, reading. Laughing and reading. Well, LEGO Harry was doing that–in truth, I was just mindlessly mashing the B button to earn this little zinger:


Avid Reader (25G): Use a Quibbler dispenser 25 times

The Achievement’s description is displayed just above, but it could totally say “Press the B button 25 times” and call it a day. Because that’s all I did. You press B, LEGO Harry pulls an issue of The Quibbler out of the dispenser, glances at it, chuckles, and tosses it into some invisible void where it disappears completely. Then you press B and start it again. Do that 25 times total, and you “earn” an Achievement.

I dunno.

The Quibbler, for those that don’t know, is a tabloid within the Harry Potter universe. It’s published and edited by Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s father, and is often considered odd and full of rubbish. Many don’t take it seriously. However, I’m now imagining an alternate time and place where, like in L.A. Noire, picking up a newspaper/The Quibbler kicks off a mini cutscene that fills in some plot exposition without slowing the pace down during the main missions. Given The Quibbler‘s love of strange, random stuff, which is in line with the LEGO videogames, the developers could have done something similar to this. Maybe not 25 times, but 10 or less, and it would make picking up The Quibbler so much more special. Alas…

The LEGO videogames do have moments of genius when it comes to their Achievements, but more or less, they fall into generic tropes of do X action Y times. Those are never exciting. I loved hiding in a barrel as Professor Snape and unlocking Solid Snape in the previous title. Doing five backflips in a row in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is a feat worthy of Try Wearing a Corset. The Achievement Shot to the Goon (defeat 8 goons in 8 seconds) from LEGO Batman at least makes doing X a test of skill and not simply a test of mindless endurance.

I guess the thing that bothers me so much about this Achievement is that it takes the place of the what-could-have-been. Like, give us something for falling to our deaths a lot when navigating the moving staircases within Hogwarts. Or how about a slice of Gamerscore for enlarging Hermione’s head with the Engorgio Skullus spell? See, it’s really not that hard, and unaware gamers can earn just plenty from playing the story levels and so on. That said, if you are reading this and work for Traveller’s Tales and need helping designing the Achievements for LEGO Harry Potter 3: Out of Retirement, I’m available for hire.