A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a beginner's real-time strategy (RTS) game featuring mild violence. Tiny characters hack at and shoot enemies and buildings with melee and projectile weapons, but everything is so small that it's difficult to make out what's happening. There is no blood or gore. Note, too, that the game often feels like a promotional tool for LEGO building toys, particularly those in the Danish company's Castle, Pirates, and Mars Mission series.
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What's it about?
LEGO BATTLES, unlike other recent LEGO games, does not play off of a movie or comic book property, but instead makes use of the Danish company's own licenses -- specifically, its Castle, Pirates, and Mars Mission series toys. It's a traditional real-time strategy game that sees players constructing castles, farms, mines, and other buildings, then creating tiny people to go out and harvest various resources that are used in the construction of yet more buildings and units. Grander objectives involve ridding the land of evil enemies, such as skeletons or pirates, and finding and collecting hidden items, including LEGO studs and treasure chests containing minikits that allow for the construction of extra units.
As RTS games go this is a simple one; maps are small, missions are swift, and the touch screen controls are highly intuitive (draw boxes to select units, then tap the location that you want them to march to). Kids should be able to figure out how to play via the brief, in-game instructions.
Is it any good?
If you've played other LEGO games, which have earned kudos for their original visual flair, it will be hard not to be let down by this title's lackluster production values, which are bland and fail to justice to the toys' unique visual aesthetic. Also disappointing is that you don't actually get to build things -- or at least not in the traditional LEGO sense. You do have to collect LEGO studs, which act as resources, but the buildings you create simply spring from the ground fully formed, with no player interaction required. They don't even appear to be made of LEGO bricks. In other words, LEGO Battles would have played exactly the same had the LEGO brand and a few recognizable LEGO objects been absent -- which makes one wonder why they're there at all (other than to provide a recognizable license that helps sell the game, of course).
At least LEGO Battles is well designed. It's highly derivative of other real-time strategy games, but there's not much wrong with how the game plays. It's just a shame that LEGO Battles fails to tap into the properties that make the Danish building blocks such great toys.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why LEGO appears in this game. Does the LEGO brand appreciably enhance play? Do players get to exploit the toys’ construction properties? Or is it simply a matter of a recognizable license being employed to make a game more familiar and attractive to consumers?
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