Retro Monday: “Lego Island”

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Title: “Lego Island”

Developer: Mindscape

Publisher: Mindscape

Released: October 1997

The Lego Movie” is doing well isn’t it? $200 million worldwide (so far) is certainty a good take by movie standards. I was so good ‘Warner Brothers’ said they are doing a sequel set for 26th May 2017. So why not talk about Lego? Lego as in Lego the block is a bit boring to talk about but Lego as in Lego video games sell really well. Or at least reasonably well depending on the title. So why not talk about where the Lego video game empire all started.

Lego Island” was a third party game that was released and developed by Mindscape. Mindscape is still around but is only as a publisher. Short version: they was the parcel in a game of pass-the parcel between EA, The Learning Company and Gore Technology Group, (with sprinkles of Ubisoft). More proof that the industry is the story of companies buying other companies rather then making games.

The game sees you play as a Lego person wondering around Lego Island, an island made out of Lego’s. So what is, basically, now the ‘Lego City’ range circa 1997. Before you draw comparisons to “Lego City Undercover”, “Lego Island” is nothing like Undercover. You can play as police officers, Nick and Laura Brick, it is not even cosmetic. You can choose to play as five different characters, the aforementioned Nick and Laura police officers who’s relationship is (I think) paternal, or as Mama and Papa Brickolini and their adopted son Pepper Roni. Mama and Papa run the island’s pizza place while Pepper delivers them. This was the 90’s after all.

It turns out that Pepper was voiced by John Morris, AKA ‘Andy Davis’ from the “Toy Story” series. Looking at the other voice actors, they where an interesting, and rather impressive, choice too. June Foray (a legendary voice actress in things from the original “Flintstones” to ‘Granny’ in “Lonny Tunes Show”) was Mama, David Lander (of acting on the US TV fame) was the games ‘bad guy’ “The Brickster” and Terry McGovern, (AKA ‘Lauchpad McQuack’ from 80’s hit and 2013 re-mastered game “DuckTales”). So a game not voiced by people at the office that day then… wait… what? Everyone else was… Can see where most of the money went then.

It doesn’t really matter who you play as because you do the same things with every character with no differences. You can go into a few of the islands buildings and talk to some of the islands inhabitants like the ‘Informaniac’ (AKA the tutorial guy) at the islands ‘Information Centre’ and the other characters you not playing as. As things to do, you can build a helicopter and fly about, build a racecar and race on the racetrack, race on a jet ski when you’ve built it, or deliver pizzas from the Mama and Papa’s pizzeria. It’s this pizza delivery mission where what can be called a plot happens. For all the characters, delivering a pizza is easy. Except for Pepper who, like me, is dyslexic. There is a bad figure locked up in the islands one-person jail called the Brickster, and pizza is his spinach. Oh, a “Popeye” reference that needs explaining, that is good writing right there.

As Pepper, the sign that’s next to the jail that says ‘No Pizzas’ is all jumbled up, like I said he, like me, is dyslexic. So Pepper gives the Brickster the pizza and he breaks out of jail. Now it is up you, as Pepper, to save the island before the Brickster can disassemble the island.

The game is pretty fun. As a game fore kids it is awesome. I remember loving the game when I was a kid. Everyone else must f found it fun too because it was reviewed well by critics at the time and won ‘Family Game of the Year’ awards. On top of that, Wes Jenkins, the creative director and writer, won a ‘Smithsonian Institute Innovation Award’ for the game. The game was after all graphical and programming marvel. Programmed with DirectX in full 3D, a program was written into the game too automatically lip-sync the characters with the voice-overs so it could be re-voiced in any language. And this was in 1997! It was this acclaim that spawned 1 directs sequel in 2001 and a spin-off in 2002 and started the video game franchise that is still going strong today.

Lego Island” is a great game for kids even today, (IF you can get it to work on these modern finagled machines). It comes highly recommended for the littlens to play when you go and do grown-upy things.

Retro Score: 4/5

Modern Score: 4/5

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