The Age of Innocence.
A fair warning to those of you who have played the last few games in the Lego-labeled franchise: The new Lego Battles is nothing like Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars, or Lego Indiana Jones. It's a whole other beast entirely, drawing from the more traditional Lego playsets of Pirates, Wizards, and Aliens to create a simpler real-time strategy experience that is brilliant... if you're a kid under the age of 12. If you're a full-grown adult who has spent any time playing Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, or any similar RTS, this is going to be like putting aside that John Grisham novel and picking up a copy of Everybody Poops.
[image1]But it's not like this game is being made for adults, anyway. Because what are the odds that you're going to play through this and then force your parents to take you down to Toys "R" Us to buy the $100 Trolls’ Mountain Fortress playset? Here's a mathematical relationship to help you with this: If you are more than 50% likely to beg, scream, and throw a tantrum in order to get it, you're probably in this game's target demographic. (That is, you're a bratty child.) If you're outside of that group, then your initial response may be to shrug your shoulders and let out a unenthusiastic “meh”.
There is no challenge here for anyone who is even casually versed in the art of RTS combat. It's a good way for beginners or kids to learn the basic system of the genre without too much punishment for screwing up while keeping them enticed by bright colors and familiar branding. But even with that being said, too much has been watered down. I know that Lego games are not made to be the most challenging, but rather, try to offer up an amusing, family-friendly experience - it's just not happening this time.
Cut-scenes look great and maintain the same silent slapstick humor you've come to expect from the series (who doesn't love drunk Lego pirates?). It's fairly impressive how good they got them to look on a DS. Everything in the game looks like a bright and shiny world filled with choking hazards for those under 3 years of age. The four different worlds each have a varied look, ranging from Middle-earth-like fields of Knights and Wizards, to the plains of Lego Mars. Suffice it to say, it's very Legoland-ish.
[image2]Missions are the standard affair: Capture this, defend that, kill everything. But like I said earlier, you shouldn't have to waste too much time or effort completing the missions. The real time killer lies in trying to find all the hidden collectables in a level. One thing Lego games have always gotten right is the amount of extra content they throw in. This time, however, searching out all the little secrets just feels monotonous. Oh yeah, nothing celebrates a victory more than clear cutting a forest of plastic trees for 10 minutes in an attempt to uncover blue stud number 10 out of 20.
You'll also have a new appreciation for your mouse and keyboard after trying to play an overhead RTS with a stylus and D-pad. The controls are just flat out a pain to work with. A stylus is just not the right tool for this type of gaming, and you need the right tool for the right job. Let's say you're trying to move a group of soldiers from one side of the map to the other. You trace over them to get them all into a group, then you have to use the D-Pad to move them all the way across the map, because there is no function that lets you switch the overworld map to the touch screen. You have your group ready to go and point to the destination, only something's wrong: You no longer have your platoon selected and must scroll all the way back to the other side of the map and try again.
And there's no guarantee that it'll work the second time, either. The only other function of the on-board controls is one that cycles through each character on the map individually. It probably would've been more helpful to have an “idle villager” button or something similar, instead of cycling through them in what seems to be a random pattern.
[image3]The A.I. also seems to have some path-finding issues, which probably lead to a lot of inner-office brawling. Well, maybe there were no fights, but no one wants an employee who can't figure out how to make a character walk around a circle of bushes to get to the other side rather than just stopping when faced with a leafy shrubbery and staring at it blankly, until a giant hand in the sky realizes you're not doing what you're supposed to and impatiently wastes time guiding you around the most basic of challenges.
If you're trying to teach your kids/siblings/cousins/padawans to play Age of Empires, this is a place to start with them, as it will teach them both the
monotony patience of RTS games. If you're an adult who loves Legos and lives with his parents, this game is for you. Anyone else over the age of 12 is going to want something with more depth, and besides, making a game childishly easy is not the way to fix broken controls. Any kid can tell you that.