Review by Alecto

"When the ESRB says E for Everyone they actually mean ages 1 - 4"

Playing with Lego is fun at any age, I don’t care what the box says. When I saw Lego Creator Knights’ Kingdom I thought I had found something wonderful: a game where I could build anything I wanted out of medieval-style Lego without having to suffer the physical pain of accidentally stepping on the little buggers. The brief blurb on the back CD jacket promised even more excitement: the phrases “role-playing scenes from the past” and “a land where you have the power to shape history” led me to believe that I was in for a super exciting RPG strategy-adventure to boot. Well…not quite, as I was soon to find out.

The “Six Challenges of Knighthood” pretends to be the adventure part of the game, but is actually just a thinly disguised tutorial where you learn to manipulate the controls and construct objects in the Lego World while completing tasks for a super-annoying legoman assistant named Richard the Strong. To give you an idea of how trivial the “challenges” are, the first one consists of moving yourself forward and sideways with the mouse and zooming in on a bunch of people, then going over to a castle and opening a portcullis. I’m serious. Complete five more like this and you’re a bona fide Knight in King Leo’s court.

The game would seem to be designed for very young children. But even as a 3 year old I would have wanted to smack anyone who treated me with such a condescending and patronizing manner. The in-game helper Richard likes to enunciate his words overenthusiastically like an English version of Steve “the Crocodile Hunter” Irwin except that Richard speaks with painstaking slowness. He comments every time you touch a button, like you’re some moron who’s going to fry the computer if left alone for one minute. If you click into the options menu where you can adjust system specifications, he pipes in with a stern warning: “woah there! This is a dangerous area! You shouldn’t touch anything in here without your parents to help you!” There is no way to bypass Richard’s lectures; they must be endured even if you’re hearing the same voice-over for the 100th time. After just explaining about the bucket icon where all the lego pieces are kept, Richard asks for a canon. “Can you find me a canon?” He asks. Obviously it would be in the bucket he just talked about. Clicking on the bucket causes Richard to click his heals in excitement while a roar of background clapping ensues. “Excellent!” he crows. “Well-remembered!” By this point I was beating my head against the desk and praying that the challenges would end soon. Another of the challenges involves supposedly building defenses for King Leo’s castle against an attack by the evil Cedric. After painstakingly creating a single segment of wall in front of the castle you are asked to mount a canon on it. After constructing this defense of half a wall and one canon, Richard proclaims “Ha! That will keep Cedric at bay!” Ya, maybe it will if Cedric is as idiotic as you are…It just doesn’t stop. Another quest is to build a jail. “A jail needs strong windows and a door,” Richard intones. Gee, d’ya think? “Can you tell me where the window is?” he asks. Well I would guess that the window would be under the window icon…but who knows, I could be wrong.

Unfortunately by the time the six challenges were over and I was turned loose to create my own kingdom from scratch, my mind had been numbed to the point where I just didn’t seem to have the energy. So I decided to check out one of the pre-created scenarios instead—a small tower with a jousting tilt in the courtyard and two horses. The lego kingdom is a 3-D environment where you can view your creations from all angles. That is, IF you can manage to maneuvre yourself into the appropriate position. The camera is a little unwieldy because it’s controlled by a combination of mouse dragging to move left, right, forward or back and clicking on a trackball to move to different altitudes. I could never seem to zoom out enough to see the entire area, but in a sad reversal of fortune I would often zoom in too close to an object and become “stuck” inside it. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that wonderful phenomenon that happens with polygons where you go so close to something that its walls actually disappear and you can see through it to the other side. But I digress. Back at the jousting scene, I thought it looked like a good opportunity to try out the action button which makes the people, animals and objects (if applicable) in the Lego World actually move around. Expecting to be treated to a rousing jousting match, I was disappointed to find that pressing action only caused the horses to run around in figure-eights without taking any notice of each other. Ahh, now I finally understood. When the back of the box said that I would be able to “watch battalions of King Leo’s heroic knights doing battle against evil Cedric the Bull” it actually meant that I could drag some lego people onto a screen and watch them run around in circles.

I quickly discovered that each animal or person, when placed in the Lego World, makes its own annoying sound over and over again at a regular interval…a kind of Chinese water torture for the ears. And the music harkens back to the darkest days of midi where you’d wonder whether you were supposed to be hearing a trumpet or a clarinet. Of the five clichéd good-guy or bad-guy themes that you get to choose from to listen to during the game, two of them use exactly the same drum beat and all five of them blare out of the speakers as a solid wall of sound completely lacking any kind of subtleties or changes in volume. Needless to say I turned the music back off after about 30 seconds.

After recovering from the disappointment of my action button discovery, I took a shot at just winging it and creating something from scratch. The game doesn’t let you build your castle one block at a time, which would have been the most fun. Instead, you drag pre-fab walls, towers, catapults and other bits out of a bucket and place them onto the center screen. The pieces eventually snap themselves together if you can manage to move one piece right next to another. (Good luck, I hope your mouse is really precise). If you want to actually build something unique you have to go into the workshop where you FINALLY get to work with single bricks at a time. The work-shop is the best idea in the game because it lets you get creative. You can even do something there that isn’t possible with real-life lego: paint the bricks any color you want! So for those who were always secretly disappointed that Lego never issued the Rainbow Castle Playset, here’s your chance to fulfill your dream. But the workshop is for building small-scale objects and not for constructing an entire castle so if you want a totally original castle you have to build it in pieces in the workshop then connect each piece in the main screen.

So at the end of the day, rather disillusioned with the game, I was left trying to derive any cheap little tidbit of entertainment I could by playing “bumper horses”—putting about fifteen horses into the screen and clicking the action button so they all bump into each other while trying to do their mindless figure-eights, and using the destructo-bricks to blow up stuff. Huh-huh…blowing up stuff is cool…

Well, in the end I wasted a few bucks but learned some good life-lessons.
1) Never get suckered in by the hyperbole on the back of the box. Because those little game descriptions aren’t always accurate
2) Just because people are young doesn’t mean they’re stupid and won’t notice a bad product. So put forth some effort when making your kiddy-games
3) When it comes to Lego, nothing beats the real thing

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 09/03/02, Updated 05/06/03

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