Friday, November 4, 2011

LEGO Heroes

As part of a strategy to expand interest in their construction bricks LEGO have licensed a number of popular film properties. All of these properties have cross generational appeal and include Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and most recently Pirates of the Caribbean. In addition to producing themed construction sets, LEGO has also licensed the LEGO property to TT Games to create video games based around the figures.

LEGO Batman

Most relevantly to this blog is the LEGO Batman game, which, unlike the other games is based around the comic book version of Batman, rather than any specific film release. This is reflected in the choice of characters, their costuming and the way the narrative is framed. Unlike the other licensed properties which use the existing narratives from the films, the LEGO Batman game uses a story specially written for the game. This enables the game's most interesting aspect - the opportunity to play each level from the perspective of both Batman and his heroic friends and the Joker and his villainous cronies.

However the LEGO Batman game is ultimately less successful than the other licensed LEGO/TT Games products. The pleasure of these games lies ultimately in the chance to control familiar film characters and guide them through their stories. This allows us to experience the narratives from a new perspective, that of a protagonist, rather than the passive viewer. In addition there is a fascination about seeing the familiar characters reconfigured into LEGO bricks. The cut-scenes of these licensed games are not direct LEGO recreations of sequences from the films the game is based on. Instead they frequently satirise the films infecting the games with a sense of ironic knowingness. In the case of LEGO Batman there is only a limited element of familiarity so it has to stand a lot more on the quality of its gameplay, narrative and characterisation, while there is no opportunity to satirise an original version. Batman is heavily rooted in camp but the overriding comic quality of all LEGO games does not work to the advantage of the LEGO Batman game. Instead it makes the game feel trivial, rather than a serious superheroic quest.

LEGO Harry Potter

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