Written by  :  Mr. Eight-Three-One (1638)
Written on  :  Jan 15, 2014
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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Everything LEGO Island 2 should have been

The Good

It shocks and frustrates me how many people are completely unaware that the LEGO Island series had a third game. While I mostly attribute that to the fact that it's unnumbered, I also believe it's because LEGO gave it next to no marketing. It's really a shame, because if any game deserved to be called a sequel to the original, it was this one. It's up for debate if it truly outdoes the original, but dangit, it's a really good game in its own right. I may have ticked off a lot of people in my last review towards LEGO Island 2, but really, a lot of the reason I dislike it so much is because this game proved to me just how much it could have and should have been.

The plot in this game is that the citizens on the island are putting together a new movie appropriately titled "Xtreme Stunts," and Pepper and the Brickster are the main characters in it. You go around the island shooting five different scenes, all in the form of various minigames.

The main minigames in this game consist of a freeway chase, a motorcycle race, a jet ski race, an airplane chase, and a skydiving game. With maybe the exception of Motorbike Mayhem which I'll get to in a minute, they're all fantastic and fun to play. Freeway Frenzy and Wave Catcher are probably my favorites, just because of how fast paced and satisfying they are to play. For each minigame you win, you get a L.A.F.T.A., a trophy from the LEGO Academy of Film and Televsion Awards. Each minigame can earn you up to three of these from three difficulties. When you earn enough, you will open up more minigames until you reach the climax of the game. I won't spoil anything about it, but I will say it's a very fun climax and well worth playing up to.

It may not sound like much of a plot, but to be honest, the plot is only partially the focus in this game. In fact, it can be finished relatively quickly. Plus, it doesn't need to be a spectacular plot; the last game tried doing that, and look at how that turned out. The other main draw to this game is its freedom. Yes, we're back to the level of freedom the original game had to offer. While Pepper is still the only playable character and it's still in the third-person perspective, the island in this game is huge compared to the previous games. There is a lot more room to run around and have fun, so much so that you have a map accessible on your PDA at any time. What makes the game even better is the reworked physics compared to the previous game. Pepper now jumps more like a video game character would, bounces off of walls and slides down steep slopes such as mountains. You can also jump while you're swimming. Even better, you can actually do legitimate tricks on your skateboard such as tailgrabs and 180s, and you get points for doing them. You can also grind on rails and walls and jump off ramps. To make it even more awesome, there are two skateparks around the island for you to practice these tricks in.

The citizens around the island also have a lot of extra things to do to keep you occupied as well. For instance, they will give you fetch quests or challenge you to a skateboard race around the island. There are also collectable red bricks around the island called brickimals, which allow you to place animals in pens around the island. These add a lot of replay factor that the original game missed out on.

One thing that continues to shine about the series is the music. This one provides you with a radio, meaning you won't just be listening to the same theme on the island all the time. Instead, you will cycle through various songs, and they are catchy as can be. The minigames themselves also have music to themselves, and they always suit the mood perfectly, with the crowner going to Air Chase's fast-paced adrenaline pumping theme. They even threw a few lyrical songs into there as well, and they aren't too shabby. The best part is that they're all saved as OGG files, meaning they're not too hard to listen to on your own accord!

Besides all of that, the graphics have much improved over the last game. There are all sorts of details added into the game, with extra effects added left and right. The water looks much more realistic in this game, having actual ripples (although they're absent in the PS2 version), and the game is also far more scenic than the last game. There are also some smaller touches to make the island feel more alive. Some characters occasionally leave their regular locations and hang out elsewhere. The writing isn't outstanding, but there are still some clever jokes thrown in every once in a while. Finally, the load times are much improved from the last game, now only reaching ten seconds tops.

The Bad

Sadly, it's not all improvements here. The voice acting, while not as bad as it was in Island 2, is still pretty painful at times. I can at least confirm they hired real voice actors in this game as they are credited, but they still didn't even bother trying to make them sound like their original voice actors. Enter and Return are shining examples, having voices that will shatter all your fond memories of them from the first game. Pepper does not talk at all in this game, being a heroic mime and only grunting, and considering how he does sound when he grunts...let's just say it's probably a really good thing. The characters themselves also still lack a lot of the charm they had in the original game, which really is a shame. However, I do give them credit for at least putting actual emotion to the characters this time around.

There also still isn't a whole lot of liveliness in the animation. It's a step up from the previous game, but it still could be a lot better. The conversations also still suffer the issue of having only one character talking at a time, which makes them boring to listen to.

However, the biggest complaint I have with this game is that it still needs a lot of polishing, with some bugs outdoing LEGO Island 2 in terms of seriousness. One of the biggest issues is that the game is an absolute pain to get running on computers as modern as Windows XP. It will work on Vista onward with enough trouble (I've gotten it working on 8, but I had to do some tweaking to get it running without a CD), but you'll only be able to pull it off with patience. You should also be warned that even if you do get it working by a stroke of luck, you'll have timer issues to face as the frame rate is not capped at 60. Some of the most glaring issues are Pepper sliding way too quickly and boats being unusable. You can probably alleviate these with slowdown software if possible, but it's best to just pull out an old computer.

Aside from that, I had mentioned Motorbike Mayhem earlier. This minigame had potential, but the physics are so unpolished that it turns into an exercise in frustration. The motorbikes very often don't land properly and slow you down when they really shouldn't. It's really frustrating considering it's only the second minigame in the main story.

Above all else though, there is one bug that truly breaks everything. Anyone who has played this game enough, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Even if you can get past all the things I mentioned, there is still a saving bug. Whenever you overwrite a save file, it has a very small chance of going corrupt and being unusable, crashing the game whenever you try to load it. Because it happens so rarely, it generally happens when you're very far in the game. I have not heard of anyone who has not had this bug before, and it makes getting 100% a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be. I'd recommend saving the game in a separate slot every time in order to avoid this. It's absolutely astonishing they would even release the game with such a serious glitch in place. If you have a PS2 lying around, get it instead -- it does not have this issue.

The Bottom Line

Despite its shortcomings, Island Xtreme Stunts is a fantastic underrated game that deserves a lot more recognition. While I won't say it beats the original in terms of charm and liveliness, it certainly beats it in the gameplay area. It offers a lot of freedom and fun, and it stands on its own very well. If you find yourself defending LEGO Island 2 and haven't played this game yet, pick it up when you get the chance -- you won't regret it.