Retro LEGO® PC Games from the 1990s

A Nostalgic Look at Retro LEGO® PC Games from the 1990s

Kids these days. They don’t know how good they’ve got it. At least when it comes to LEGO® video games.

Bear with us here.

Imagine a kid. Called Billy. Billy’s first experience of LEGO video games was LEGO Marvel Superheroes. Billy’s just sitting there, having the time of his little life, whizzing round Manhattan as Iron Man or Hulk or Spiderman, thinking “I bet LEGO video games have always been this easy to enjoy hahahaha.”

Well here’s a newsflash, imaginary kid we just made up.

You sit on a brick throne built on OUR backs. We, who logged thousands of hours playing the original LEGO video games, hundreds of years ago, in the late 1990s. A prehistoric era, when ‘intuitive gameplay’ was as alien a concept as fidget spinners or televised competitive baking.

And you know what, Billy? We loved it. It rocked our brains harder than you, with your graphics and games that don’t constantly crash, could imagine.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of LEGO Games, join us as we revisit three of the most iconic (and infamous) early LEGO video games.

LEGO Racers (1999)

Now, Billy. You may *think* you know what makes a good racing game… Responsive steering, fabulous graphics, realistic physics etc.

But you are so unbelievably wrong, it’s actually embarrassing.

Because the greatest racing game of all time had precisely none of those things.

LEGO Racers pits you against the ‘greatest racing champion’ in Legoland – the Rocket Racer, who is so talented that he refuses to race anyone until they defeat six characters – including Basil the Batlord, Johnny Thunder and Gypsy Moth.

Makes sense? It doesn’t have to Billy, this is the Wild West of 1999 PC gaming here, COME ON.

As you would expect in a LEGO game, everything is customizable. You could make your car any shape you wanted and decorate it with LEGO accessories. I know that’s hardly revelatory to you Billy, as you spend $5,000 of your parent’s money on a charm bracelet to dangle from your virtual gun. But back in our day, we couldn’t believe our luck.

You wanted your character to have a robot head? Sure. A cowboy hat? No problem. A peg leg? Rude not to, really. You could even change your character’s facial expressions on their driving license (!!!)

Hours of fun. No, literally, hours went by before even playing the game…

The races themselves were a mix of total chaos, maddening gameplay and utter addictiveness that typified LEGO games of this era. The highlights were the boosts, the best of which let you enter a time-warp that teleported you halfway up the track. It’s a feature we’d like to see implemented into real-life professional racing. Let’s get moving on this, Science.

LEGO Island (1997)

Where else to begin but with the first LEGO PC game?

Most PC games until 1997 were those weird click-and-point ‘adventures’ that you didn’t realize were educational until you woke up in a cold sweat ten years later, feeling betrayed.

But LEGO Island… this was a 3D world, experienced through your character’s eyes where you moved WHEREVER you wanted (admittedly within the limits of a peculiar island). Plus, there were FIVE playable characters! The unadulterated luxury!

Exploring was excellent – mainly because of the weird islanders you constantly encountered, who only seemed to exist to perform comedy skits for your personal benefit, which usually involved disassembling themselves. The pain must have been unbearable…

The ‘story’ consisted of minigames around the island – from tow-trucking to jet skiing – which vacillated wildly between chaotic good and chaotic evil. But the game’s undoubted highlight came after you stumbled upon the discovery of an actual plot. The pizza delivery minigame made you deliver to the imprisoned ‘Brickster’, who… *checks notes*… used the pizza’s fumes to unlock his cell.

And yes, Billy, we enjoyed the game enough to blindly accept that.

A helicopter chase ensued where you shot pizzas at the Brickster to stop him destroying the island. Yes, pizzas – the thing that literally helped him escape. And here’s the best part.

If you failed, you really failed. There is a *truly* terrifying, nightmare-inducing cutscene, where all those islanders you’ve come to know and love… HOWLED IN DESPAIR as their livelihoods lay in ruins around them. The Brickster screamed above the wails: “IT’S MINE, ALL MINE.”

10/10

LEGO LOCO (1998)

This train simulator is included here principally for the absolutely mind-blowing graphics in its introductory cutscene, featuring a creepy, evil floating human hand (of course), which seemed determined to interfere with minifigures trying to prevent a train crash.

Who could do such a thing, Billy?

Perhaps predictably, the gameplay couldn’t quite live up to its introduction. The stated aim was to build villages, populate them and send postcards via trains. After a while, however, we think we speak for everyone by saying all anyone did was pick up increasingly irritated minifigures and drop them in places they didn’t want to be.

So, Billy, in answer to the earlier question – “Who could do such a thing?”

Ahem. Us. We could do such a thing.

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