Written by  :  Mr. Eight-Three-One (1638)
Written on  :  Jan 13, 2014
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.43 Stars2.43 Stars2.43 Stars2.43 Stars2.43 Stars

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A game that gets a free pass for nostalgia way too often

The Good

When it comes to games I played as a kid, there are those I loved and still love, those that I never liked, and those I can't believe I ever liked. And then there's LEGO Island 2. To say I can't believe I loved this game as a kid would be an understatement. It just gets so much wrong that it's staggering this game has the following that it does. All too often I see people giving this game a free pass because of how much they liked it as a kid. While I can't consider one of the worst games I've ever played, it has a ton of very glaring flaws.

The game is played completely differently from the first game. Rather than being an open-world Grand Theft Auto styled game, it's a completely linear story-based game full of minigames. Pepper is the only playable character this time around, and it is played in the third-person perspective as opposed to first-person. If you were a fan of the first game and loved it for its uniqueness, these changes will probably turn you off very quickly. Sadly, it's only the beginning of the game's issues.

Before we get to the truly negative stuff, I will say what I did enjoy. Firstly, I love the game's music. It's incredibly memorable and always fits the game's atmosphere. It was also nice to be able to walk across the grass, something the first game didn't allow. I did enjoy some of the minigames, but since I didn't enjoy the bulk of them, we'll get to that in a minute. I also will admit, despite a lot of faults in the game, there is a lot of genuine effort that went into making the game, albeit in an unbalanced way. It seems like the development team consisted halfway of people who really did care and wanted nothing more than a good product, while the other half was just ready to be done with the project.

The Bad

Okay, positives over, now for some insane venting. First off, the game is absolutely void of any of the zaniness that gave the first game so much charm. Tons of little things contribute to this issue, but the biggest offenders are the writing and the voice acting. The jokes here are nowhere near as clever as the first game, sometimes being downright painful. To drive the point home, here's one of the Infomaniacs "jokes":

"Someone saw the page at the mummy's tomb. I mean, not saw, like cut in half."

I'm sorry, was there supposed to be something funny in there? Kids may be easily amused, but they're not THAT easily amused. The worst part is that it's the same scriptwriter from the first game, so there really is no excuse.

Oh, I mentioned the voice acting, right? Oh my goodness, the voice acting in this game is so awful. I am downright convinced that they just pulled the developers from the office to record the lines, and they were all called good on their first take. It would probably explain why no voice actors are credited. Until someone can convince me otherwise, I'm just saying the developers did the voices as a fact. It doesn't sound too far off either, as most of them sound like British people doing a terrible American accent (Silicon Dreams is a British developer). The voices range from okay to ridiculously boring, as if the actors only did it because they had nothing better to do. Some of them are also just unpleasant to listen to, with Pepper being the shining example as the most annoying character in the game, a huge issue when you're the one playing as him. Even if the voice actors were good hypothetically, the conversations fail to engage you, with only one character talking at a time and none of the fun, lively animation that made the first game's cut scenes so fun to watch. In the end, the characters have no charisma in this game and you end up remembering them about as much as NPC villagers in countless other games.

Speaking of animation, the graphics in this game are also dreadful. Remember what I said about the graphics not aging well in the first game? This game's graphics not only look bad today, they looked bad in 2001. It makes a copious abuse of textures instead of actual models, the characters are lazily and stiffly animated in a human way as opposed to the cartoony way in the first game, and the scenery is flat out really dull to look at.

The biggest departure from the original game is that this one has a story. And man, is it a terrible story. No amount of scriptwriting could polish how stupid the plot in this game is. The game starts off with you delivering pizzas to help build Pepper's house (geez, that's a fun way to start a game), when you have to give one to the Brickster. Naturally, he finds a way to get out of jail using the pizza you give him, and flies the helicopter over to the information center and steals a book called the constructopedia. Apparently this holds the island together, because every page he rips out tears apart a building, and he hides each page on other islands and summons some bots to raid the island. What are these other islands I speak of? Castle Island and Adventurers Island, based on the Knights Kingdom and Adventurers themes, respectively. Eventually you reach Ogel Island to take him on once and for all.

Where do I even begin on this? Firstly, where the heck did that book come from? There was no mention of this book anywhere before the exact moment the plot needed it. Not in the first game, and not in this game. Just to make this more painful, the Infomaniac leaves it on his desk free to take. If the book is that powerful, why is it not locked up somewhere where nobody will get it? Secondly, what purpose do the other islands have and what purpose do they have being in this game? Why are the medieval times and ancient Egypt-styled areas in the same timeline? LEGO Racers could get away with this because nobody wants a plot in a racing game. This game has no excuse though, and it defies the willing suspension of disbelief. Oh wait, I know exactly why they're here -- to shove marketing down our throats. Thanks LEGO.

One of the most glaring issues that everyone knows this game for is the load times. They last a freaking eternity. As in, some of them go up to TWO MINUTES. A YouTube user TheLairOfRockwhales made a Let's Play (which is now deleted) and calculated what percent was spent staring at load screens. The end result was 15% -- for comparison, pokecapn's Sonic 06 Let's Play calculated 11%. Yes, this game's load times are worse than Sonic 06. That's pretty bad.

Sadly, that's only the surface of the game's problems, I haven't even talked about the gameplay yet. The on-foot controls work okay I guess, but the physics are really stiff and glitchy. In fact, the whole game is really glitchy. You can get stuck in buildings if you don't try. I don't recall coming across any bugs that really break the game (there are a few you can get, but you're unlikely to actually come across them without doing it deliberately), but there still seems to be a very apparent lack of playtesting. There is also an overall sense of no polish; you can walk straight up the sides of mountains without sliding off.

The minigames have a lot of potential. I did like the two parachuting minigames towards the end of the game and I liked the Centrifuge one despite the lack of originality in its concept (you press left when you pass over the left and right for the right), but the rest of them get killed because of a flaw or two that makes them lackluster, or are just boring in the first place. There's a diving minigame on Castle Island that felt totally shoehorned in because you had to find bricks to fix a bridge that had a barely noticeable gap, and what for? To let the opposing sides go back to war. What? Oh, and on top of that, the minigame is neither challenging nor fun. There's a jousting minigame that requires you to mash left and right and then charge and aim at the dark night, but the aiming controls are completely botched and often go out of alignment, making it stupidly difficult. There's a minigame on Adventurers Island where you are in a speedster racing to the other side of the island, which should be fun, except for one glaring problem: the controls are atrocious. You skid way too much and hitting anything bounces you way further back than it really should. To add insult to injury, Pepper says the exact same thing every time you hit something ("Oops, driving ain't like skateboarding!").

And then there's the fishing minigame. Holy crap do I hate this one. You try to cast hoping to get the big fish who apparently swallowed a page. The problem here is one word: BORING. Half of the time you're just waiting for something to happen, and the explanation is so shoddy that it's going to take you about an hour before you finally comprehend how the game works. It's just a patience test to see how long it will take Big Bertha to bite your pole, and once you finish it you will vow to never go back to it.

The final nail in the coffin is that there is zero lasting appeal. There is no reason to come back to the game once you've finished the main story unless you just want to play the minigames for a higher score (Hint: you won't). There is a secret cave, but it's bizarrely only accessible with a cheat (why?) and there isn't anything to do besides that.

The Bottom Line

LEGO Island 2 isn't the worst game I've ever played (even though you probably got that impression from my lengthy venting), but I can't believe it has the following that it does. When you factor nostalgia and actually analytically look at the game, there really isn't much going for it. I have no ill will towards the developers, as again there were signs of care put into the game, but it's pretty clear this product was rushed out the window for money. Even if you do factor out the fact that it's following the classic original, you still have the many faults of the core gameplay to get past, and the plot is still incredibly stupid. There is some fun to be had in the game, as I did like roaming around the island and driving the vehicles, but that just reminds me of how much fun the original game was for its open-ended gameplay that wasn't trying to be a generic game. And truth be told, a lot of the reason the gameplay is rife with cliches is because of executive meddling -- Wes Jenkins outright asked the higher-ups if he could make it more like the original, but they declined being too afraid that it wouldn't sell. That kind of fear to tiptoe out of the norm is really what kills this game. Yet, I liked this game as a kid. I was a stupid kid.