LEGO Island: The First Lego Game on PC


[typing]
[funky jazz music] This is one of those games I know that plenty of
people grew up with, but I’d never played until now. Lego Island, developed and published by Mindscape
in 1997 for Windows PCs. This is the first of the officially-
licensed Lego video games, and in a world where we’ve got a new Lego thing
tossed out what seems like every other month, it’s kinda neat to look back at where it all started. This is a later print run of the
original release of the game, which boasts how it’s sold over a million copies, so you should give in to peer pressure and buy it, too! Otherwise, you’ll be a loser for the next 19 years, until you pick it up on eBay for a YouTube video. Inside the box, you get the game
on a delightfully-colorful CD-ROM and an instruction manual in the form of a comic book! OK, just seeing this, I’m already sold
on the game. This is awesome! Sure, it’s talking about the same installation stuff
and gameplay elements any other manual does, but it’s presented in a way that makes me happy! Lego Island begins by providing
some full-screen intro cinematics, generously tossing around characters and locations that mean absolutely nothing having not played the game, but it’s just so earnest in how cool it thinks it is,
so I’ll give it a pass! After this you’re greeted by an Infomaniac… [chuckles]
Wait, that came out wrong. He’s THE Infomaniac! Gotta be careful with the phrasing! Anyway, this dude is hyped up on
something strong, and possibly illegal. INFOMANIAC: Hellooooo! ¡Hola! Willkommen! Bienvenue! Konnichiwa! Aloooooha! How ya doin’? Yo! And in any language, welcome to Lego Island! LGR: I don’t think I’ve ingested
enough sugary cereal for this game. Oh, well, enter a name and
choose a character to play as. Each one of them has their own little intro video and each one of them will be responded
to in specific ways by the population. What population, you may ask? Well, Lego Island is an open-world sandbox. In reality, it’s more like a fancy 3D interface
for a selection of short mini-games. Think Sonic’s Schoolhouse, but with fewer accidental expletives. In a way, it also resembles
those children’s activity centers you used to see so many of in the mid-’90s, where you wander around and
click on things to see what happens and occasionally you’re given
some kind of objective to complete. It’s open-ended, but it’s not exactly high on emergent
gameplay or creative freedom, which is a bit strange for a
Lego game, if you think about it. Here, you’ve got an island to explore, which features an assortment of buildings,
citizens and random events taking place. And in six key areas, you’ll be
presented with six different events: pizza delivery, auto racing, tow truck driving, ambulance driving, helicopter piloting, and crappy Wave Racer. And yes, you’ll notice a pattern there. For a game about Lego bricks, which is a toy that lets you imagine
and create literally anything, there sure is a huge focus on vehicles. Again, I’m kind of confused by
the lack of creative freedom, but, hey, it’s the first Lego game,
so I guess they had to start somewhere. At least you get to build most
of the vehicles in the game, although, again, you’re only limited
to creating them brick by brick, tock by tick, [crossfade to WOMAN singing]
No matter how thin, no matter how thick. ♫ Papa told Mama And Laura told Nick You can move a mountain If you do it brick by brick ♫ LGR: Sorry, that song is darned catchy. [clears throat]
Uh, yes, other than changing come colors and stickers on a few of the pieces, you can only place them in the order
and the location the game tells you to, which… alright. That’s fine. It’s still a welcome aside to the rest of the game which is… okay. It’s okay! Not amazing, not groundbreaking, but totally passable. I can imagine I would probably like this a lot more when it released and I was 11 years old, but without any nostalgic ties to the game, there’s not really a lot to write home about here. For one thing, the tech behind the
game is a pain and a half to deal with. I started playing the game using Direct3D mode on my main Windows 98 PC, with a 750 MHz Pentium III
and a 16MB Voodoo3 card and… Wow! To say the game runs too fast and
the controls are insanely twitchy is an understatement. It seems Lego Island is one of those games that ties the underlying simulation to the frame rate. And since it’s made for a 120 MHz Pentium I system, you start running into major
issues on anything much speedier that pushes the game beyond
10 frames per second or so. Yes, ten! That’s just… ugh, no! So I ended up forcing it to run under
a software-emulated graphics mode and slowed down my CPU a bit, and I got it to be a more-tolerable 25-ish frames. It’s still not ideal, since the
controls remain too responsive, some of the animations are screwed up, and the whole game looks darker for some reason, but hey, I’ll take it over THIS any day. Right. So, the game is hard to run at the correct speeds, even on what you think would be appropriate hardware, but what about the gameplay? Well, there’s really just not much to speak of. As established earlier, the side activities
all involve driving to some degree, and none of them are particularly fun. Pizza Delivery puts you on a skateboard and has you delivering pies
to citizens around the island. Auto Racing is the absolute worst
driving experience I’ve had in a long time. Tow Truck Driving doesn’t involve you doing anything except going somewhere and watching a cutscene. Ambulance Driving is… really the
same thing as Tow Truck Driving, just with dead people, or people that almost die. Helicopter Piloting is kinda neat,
if only for the different perspective. And Crappy Wave Racer… is crappy Wave Racer, but still not as bad as Auto Racing, thank goodness. So, if it’s not for the gameplay,
why is this so well-remembered? Well, I think I know the answer, and that is personality! Lego Island is chock full of it, even if this is just a glorified activity
center with crappy engine code and some pretty weak mini-games. Lego Island is an absolute charm fest when it comes to the snarky characters, the upbeat soundtrack and the story. Yes, there’s a story. The gist of it is that there’s an
evil dude called the Brickster, and since he’s a man that just
wants to watch the world burn, he’s in jail. That is, until you deliver a spicy-hot pizza to him, which he uses to destroy the locks and escape. Which, hey, you can’t blame me. The sign says “No Pizazz.” Nothing about pizzas. How was I supposed to know? After some cutscenes that remind me of something straight out of a spastic Garry’s Mod Machinima, you go on a wild goose chase after the Brickster. He’s driving around destroying all the buildings and you’ve got to stop him before
the whole place is looking more grim than the Lego Group’s financial outlook circa 2004. Eventually, you’ll take to the skies and toss pizzas at him to slow him down, and toss donuts to the cops
to lure them to the Brickster. And if you succeed, then yay! The world is saved and Lego stock prices soar. If you don’t, then oh my God is it terrifying! [BRICKSTER laughs maniacally] BRICKSTER: All mine! Mine?… [man sobbing]
[sad Dixieland music plays] LGR: And that… is Lego Island. A game that charmed the pants off me, even though I’m not wearing pants. Maybe it’s not the most fantastic PC game of ’97 and maybe it’s not the outlet of creative freedom that I thought it could be for a Lego game. But it still manages to remind me of
some of the best parts of childhood. Where villains are bad because bad things happen. Where anyone can do anything if they only show up, because that’s what my generation
was taught for some reason. And if you fail, then it’s the worst thing in the world and all you can do is admire the carnage. Three cheers for pre-pubescent memories, Lego Island! Hip hip hooray! [woman singing]
♫ If you think the family’s ready For a plate of good spaghetti Sorry if it makes you cry But all we got is pizza pie… ♫ LGR: And if you enjoyed this episode of LGR, perhaps you would like some other episodes of LGR, which are these right here. You can click them, or come back
every Monday and Friday to see more. That’s when the episodes come out. And as always, thank you very much for watching.

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