It’s a LEGO Universe – And My Whole Family’s Living In It

I love LEGO and I suppose it’s in my DNA because my daughters, particularly one of them, are LEGO building fanatics.  Give her a giant bucket of multicolored bricks and she’s off constructing every animal, structure and vehicle she can dream up.  My daughters also inherited my gamer geek gene (and their dad’s – I really shouldn’t take all the credit blame here).  So, LEGO Universe seemed like the dream game experience for our family – imagination, building, multi-player collaboration and challenge.  My daughters beta-tested the game for several months and have been playing the full fledged version for free this past month.  As have I – in the name of research of course.  You can read all the nitty gritty details about LEGO Universe and check out the Trailer, but

Here are my (Geek)Mom Top 5 Things I Love About LEGO Universe:

  1. It captures the spirit of real world LEGO in all the best ways – creative, inventive, somewhat challenging but also rewarding
  2. It has an amazingly whimsical sense of humor.  That might not be what most people look for in an online game but I seriously appreciate the small witty touches from the MiniFig who covers his eyes while you type in your password to the way guy who lost his pants outside the rock venue that’s hiding in a barrel.  Just funny.
  3. Piece of mind when it comes to the online safety of my kids.  The moderation is woven into every level of the game, from chat to character naming to on-site patrol of the game.  I know it’s a world where the real life creeps will be crushed by the Maelstrom.
  4. The ability to engage with others, determine levels of friendship or go it alone and build your own property.  Let’s hear it for imagination and the building of LEGO structures brick by brick in ways they can’t do in real life.
  5. LEGO Universe ignited my daughters’ imagination off-line too.  After logging off of LEGO Universe my daughters went on a building binge in real life and a bit of a buying spree at the LEGO Rockefeller Center Store.  It’s a habit I don’t mind feeding.

Here Are the Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

  1. This is not an easy game for younger kids.  It is rated 10+ and unless you have a very experienced little gamer on your hands you should heed that age.  Or be prepared to offer assistance and play along with them
  2. It’s Not Entirely Intuitive.  The game doesn’t offer a ton of hints or help along the way but once you get the hang of how to complete missions and where to look for clues it becomes much easier to navigate.
  3. The price.  This is a much richer, deeper and creative experience than a Club Penguin or Fantage but it costs $39.99 plus the yearly membership of $89.99 compared to their cost of around $58.00.  You get 4 MiniFig Players with your account so you can share among siblings and family members but in my house that’s not the best option because my twin daughters like to go into these online games at the same time and play together.  So $260 for 2 kids for that first year breaks down to over $20/month which doesn’t seem like a lot for hours of entertainment (my daughters get 1 -1/2 hours of computer time on Saturday and Sunday – sometimes it’s more if we’re especially tired!) but in the scheme of a family budget it’s something to consider.  Though I think we will be incorporating it into allowance and they will have to pay 50% themselves.

And I should mention that you get a month free when you purchase the game so you have time to make sure your child is going to stick with it.  You can also purchase month to month if you have a finicky kid who tends to get obsessed for a month or two and then moves on to the next thing.

It’s not in my nature or my blog’s nature to do this kind of straight up review but I really do love LEGO (and NetDevil) as companies and brands.  They’ve not only been some of the most passionate, creative and thoughtful people I’ve ever met but I have to love a company that values the power of imagination above all else.  That’s a trait I’m happy to pass on to my daughters right alongside all that other geekified DNA.

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22 thoughts on “It’s a LEGO Universe – And My Whole Family’s Living In It

  1. Have you tried Minecraft? I know it has no moderation for kids, and it doesn’t have as pretty graphics as LEGO (though I don’t see anything pretty about its terrain generator as I managed to see from screenshots).

    But it has lower price (10 EUR one price, no subscription!), has unlimited map generator which creates wonderful landscapes, you can build unlimited things (with a noticeable height limit though, if you start building extremely massive things), it is a bit creepy as it has monsters during the night, but that can be turned off with difficulty setting set to peaceful, has day and night, you can build roller-coasters (tracks), build logic circuits or traps etc., and probably a lot more. See videos and tutorials for it on YouTube.

    I have recently started playing Minecraft and I love it! I hoped LEGO would build something like this, and they did now with the Universe, but I am definitely not willing to pay 90 EUR a year, and when I decide to pay no more, all my things would get lost.

    With Minecraft you just pay once, and even if he discontinues the project, you can still play offline, and have your creations at your fingertips all the time, forever.

    Also, Minecraft works on all platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac), whereas LEGO Universe only works for Windows. Mac is gaining on popularity these days, especially in USA, so having a game on multiple platform is a big plus.

    I also believe Minecraft will have/has much bigger user base than LEGO will ever have, first because LEGO is only for kids, secondly because of its silly subscription. Bigger user base means more chance of finding cool people to play with.

    Oh by the way, it is available on http://www.minecraft.net

    Just my thoughts.

  2. I was regretting having missed out on this with my children — until I saw the price. Wow! Too bad the makers of this game are making it cost-prohibitive for families. That seems outrageous to me!

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  4. My oldest child was a Lego freak. Sometimes, the hours he spent in his room creating Lego universes was the only thing that stood between me and a mental institution. I still remember, decades later, walking around, always carrying Legos in the pockets of whatever I was wearing.

  5. We had a lot of Lego at our house when the kids were younger. When they grew up and moved away – I kept the Lego. Now, when the grandchildren come to visit, they play with the Lego that I bought for their moms. I also keep buying little Lego bits that appeal to me… Several months ago we were on vacation with one of the sets of grandchildren. I bought a Lego book as a gift for one of them, and then asked him if he had brought some Lego along for us to play with. He eagerly showed me what he had in his pack, then looked at me and said, “So what Lego did you bring with you?” – like it was the most logical thing in the world that his Grandma filler her luggage with Lego instead of clothes… Lego is truly cross-generational.

  6. My kids won’t play with legos unless I get down on the floor and do it with them. I wish they weren’t that way, but they are. Frankly, it confuses me. When I was a kid, I’d spend hours by myself playing with legos and building all sorts of stuff. But they don’t do this, they’re far more social than I am. If it’s not a group activity, they’re usually not into it. My son actually wants to sell his legos. It makes me sad. :(

  7. Great review. My son is a Lego fanatic. We bought him two big sets for his 8th bday recently (practically had to take out a loan to cover the cost) And we all love to play the Lego Wii games.

  8. Great post. As I type I have (4) Lego mini figures in arms reach. My house is peppered with Legos 24/7. I also grew up with them so I think it’s great that they are still around for my three boys. The best thing Lego did was team up with Wii. Opened them up to a whole new generation of gamers.

    Allthough, I do not have daughters, I think it would be really cool for Lego to come up with more girl-themed sets. Just a thought.

  9. Congrats on beings Freshly Pressed! What happy memories you brought up! My two boys played with Legos for hours on end. The only trouble was I had to make sure we didn’t lose the special pieces–the important ones–the integral ones to the set! Grrr!

    evelyngarone.com

  10. I do not have any LEGO aged children of my own… but I was on the hunt for some sets for my nephew… and I was appalled at the price! I mean… outrageously expensive! These are small pieces of plastic!!!

  11. I know the game is cool and all my little brother wants to play it really bad but the truth is $90 a year isnt worth it. The fact that lego even made it that much is rediculous and most parents wouldnt want to use that much money on a game like that its cheaper to buy their kids the actualy lego sets. It would be fine if it were $5 a year or mabey even free. LEGO is rich! Why do they need to rip us off even more??? The game is not worth the price my little brother is better off playing roblox. And in this economy most families cant even affored things like this…

  12. Growing up I was a lego fanatic. My siblings and I amassed literally tens of thousands of pieces and remained committed to legos all through high school. Back then, the inherent simplicity of the lego designs tapped into their greatest quality–an unbounded series of possibilities to create ever changing, ever larger, ever more resolutions with the pieces you had. However, ever since those years, I’ve had a bone to pick with Lego.

    I get discouraged a bit when I hear things like this and I think Chris hit the nail on the head. There was a time when Legos were a discount toy, sold in Toys R Us, K.B., Caldor, Service Mechandise, etc. They appealed to a broad audience (in both age and price) which helped build their popularity. They were one of the perfect toys, as Rebecca points out, because their ability to encourage creativity was unmatched.

    But then they just got greedy. The prices went up and not only did the amount of pieces go down, but the specificity of pieces increased so that what used to take five pieces to build was now one giant hunk of plastic. They got more complicated and dumber all at the same time. The company began forcing its own creativity (or lack thereof) at the expense of the child’s. Today they’re more like Playmobile than their old likeness (which was always an expensive, specialty toy rather than what Legos tried to be).

    To be honest, if Legos were still the deal and flexibly creative product they used to be I’d probably still be playing with them. All companies need to make money, but this is just a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Lego needs to grow up and get back to providing a great toy at a decent price.

  13. I bought minecraft and now im hooked on it. It is much cheeper and u can still do awsome stuff, u can build like crazy and its only 10EUR. I think lego is ripping us off.

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