If you follow me here on UWG, you may have caught an article I wrote last year in which I outlined how my husband and I, though gamers we be, don’t generally play games together. We both like different kinds of games, we have different play styles, sometimes we get a little too competitive, and so on. Well, at the time, I felt pretty certain that we were both going to happily continue leading our together-but-separate gaming lives, and all would be alright with the world.
Well, here we are not quite a year later and I’m here to tell you that over the holiday, we took a chance on playing not just one but TWO games in co-op modes, and we both survived to tell the tale. (And everything is still alright with the world.) Never in a million years did I think we’d ever find common gaming ground again, but we did, and it had everything to do with LEGOs. Yep, those little plastic bricks in the virtual forms of Harry Potter (LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4) and the superheroes (LEGO Marvel Super Heroes).
I should preface here by saying that we were both interesting playing LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes prior to their releases. (We just figured we’d each play them when the mood struck.) Also, I alluded to a possible upcoming discussion about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes in one of my Listmas posts. That’s not happening here; this is just a story about how there’s still magic left in the world. Err… Or something.
LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 came first. I played through the first section (or first year; think Philosopher’s Stone if you’re familiar with the books/movies) on my own and really had fun. I’m not a mega-Harry Potter fan, but I had seen the movies enough to recognize the story, the characters, and the environments of the game. I really enjoy the irreverent tributes that LEGO games pay to their source materials, and LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 was no different. Though the characters didn’t speak, their actions in cut scenes and throughout the game more than made up for spoken dialogue. It was hilarious at times to have the story turned on its ear for the sake of a joke or two. LEGO games don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s one of the things I love about them.
Anyway, with some of LEGO Harry Potter under my belt, I mentioned to my husband, who also enjoys the Potterverse, that he should give the game a try; and I innocently offered to play it with him for a little while. We loaded up the game and I cautiously took up the second controller, secretly wondering just how long the session would last before our frustrations got the better of us. Well, having never played a LEGO game in multiplayer before, I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but it didn’t. In fact, we spent the whole afternoon playing through the second “year” of the game. After beating that stage’s boss, I paused the game and said to him, “Do you realize we’ve been playing together the WHOLE TIME? There were no Cookie & Cream incidents or anything??!” I said in disbelief. “Yeah. And it was fun too.” He smiled. And he was right. It was totally fun.
Our time with Harry Potter went on hiatus after we got LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. And since things had gone so well between us in with harry, Ron, and Hermione, we started playing LEGO Marvel Super Heroes in co-op mode from the start. And, well…we kind of just fell in love with it. (Though I have a few choice words to say about co-op mode in this and LEGO Harry Potter. But more on that in a moment.) He’s been a huge Marvel fan for many years, and he really enjoyed getting the chance to play as multiple characters from that universe, even if they had to be all cute and LEGO-y. I expected the game to be as just as enjoyable as all the other LEGO games I’ve played, and it did not disappoint in that realm. I’ll admit to being a little unsure of how things would go initially since the game includes spoken dialogue, but the parodies and characterizations were just about as perfect as they could be. That plus all the LEGO collecting and crime-fighting action one could hope for made for a darn fine experience.
Now, the gameplay wasn’t perfect, as we hit a few rough spots primarily due to how the game acts in co-op mode. In both games, in two-player mode, the characters appear on the same screen; and when they get too far apart, the screen divides, sometimes irregularly, in two. This screen division, while better than having to play split screen the entire time, didn’t always work very well and led to numerous camera issues because of the wonky views on screen. On several occasions, one of us would get stuck or would have to perform an action that could only be made viewable by placing the characters in close proximity. Also, in most levels, there were usually three or four playable characters, each with different skills, and you switched between them depending on what needed to happen. This led to plenty of chaotic boss battles where we’d accidentally switch to different characters and not realize it – not good especially when certain characters had to do certain things in certain orders to defeat the bosses. Also, the multitude of on-screen characters often got rather muddled as it was easy to lose track of where one was while performing a series of tasks. But our moments of fun and coordinated play overwhelmingly outweighed these annoyances.
While both LEGO Harry Potter (at least Years 1-4 and probably Years 5-7) and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes are absolutely worth playing in single-player mode, I now can’t not recommend co-op mode as well. It was all too fun (and often helpful) to have another player alongside in these games. And while I can’t say that these games have changed my opinion on multiplayer, they have at least demonstrated that my husband and I aren’t too far gone as we continue our together-but-separate gaming adventures.