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Feb 12 2014

The “What If?” Machine: Telltale and TT Games

telltale TT captureTelltale Games and TT Games are two studios who know what they do, and do it well. After developing video games based on Disney movies with the occasional Sonic title thrown in, TT Games found their niche in 2005 with the release of the first Lego Star Wars, the first Lego game for consoles since Bionicle in 2005. Since then, TT Games has gone on to make Lego renditions for series like Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings. Their newest is the tie-in game for the Lego Movie, featuring characters like Batman, Gandalf, Abraham Lincoln, and someone named Sheriff Not-a-robot, who I suspect might be a robot.

Moving into slightly less kid-friendly territory, we have Telltale Games, the masters of point-and-click episodic adventure games, who will have been around for ten years as of this June. Well known for their adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, not AMC’s The Walking Dead, they are currently one episode into season two of their Walking Dead series, and just recently released episode two of The Wolf Among Us, a five-part saga similar to The Walking Dead series in art style and gameplay, based on Fables, a comic book series by Bill Willingham. Telltale has also done episodic series for franchises like Law & Order, Jurassic Park, and Wallace & Gromit, as well as single installments such as Poker Night and Puzzle Agent. Apart from their current projects, they’re also developing episodic series for Borderlands and Game of Thrones, the latter of which has me harder than a Lannister at their family reunion. The things I do for love.

via Lego Educational Resource

via Lego Educational Resource

There are a multitude of common themes among the Lego games developed by TT Games. One of the more well-known and well-received is the implementation of slapstick (or better yet, slapbrick) comedy demonstrated by the mute Lego characters. This culminates in a lot of exaggerated miming that is used to drive the storyline as well as provide humor to the game. The use of silent characters is welcome, as it means we don’t have to listen to Jar-Jar Binks while playing Lego Star Wars, and better yet, I can have Qui-gon beat the stupid out of him over and over whenever I feel like it. Lego games also feature a massive amount of collecting things, whether it be Lego studs, pieces of Lego sets, costumes, or other characters. I don’t know anyone who’s taken the time to obtain all of the collectibles in any Lego game, but whoever has deserves some sort of medal. I’ll get Russia on the phone.

Anyone familiar with Telltale’s The Walking Dead knows what makes their games great: emphasizing decision-making, story, and influence over other characters, rather than just making another zombie massacre simulator. The comics and AMC show present the idea that sometimes the other survivors are more dangerous than the zombies, and that’s brought to life (sorry, undeath) in Telltale’s episodic series.

So, while the snow continues to fall out here on the east coast, let’s put on our “what if” pants, and mess around with some heinous hypotheticals. What if Telltale developed the next Lego game, and TT Games developed the next Walking Dead game? Would the world be gifted the game it didn’t even know it wanted? Or would we create an abomination that Dr. Frankenstein couldn’t even dream up?

lego lotr

Yeah i know it’s Lord of the Rings, but he’s scowling so let’s pretend it’s something serious.

Well, a Lego game developed by Telltale would most notably feature Lego characters speaking to each other, but the silly slapstick comedy that you’d see from a typical Lego game would be gone. Clever quips and one-liners would be the extent of laughs. A prominent feature from Telltale’s Lego series would be the mental repercussions of living as a Lego character. A person who falls apart into separate pieces will come back as they usually do, but they will be forever changed. Going to the other side is a traumatizing experience, and those who have frequently been there more than others suffer from severe PTSD. This inability to completely die has everyone struggling to comprehend their immortality. As you typically see in Telltale games, your decisions have impact. The pieces you decide to put on your character affect the interactions with the people who recognize them. Breaking something apart and building it into something else may be helpful to someone, but to someone else it might be detrimental to your relationship, and they may retaliate. An emotionally rich plot is also a must. I’m imagining an outbreak of a phenomenon in which people aren’t reassembling after they’re broken. While some see this ultimate death as sweet release, much of the population is concerned that the Lego people won’t be able to sustain itself. This will result in many tough choices for the player, with many, many ethical dilemmas.

There's about to be coins everywhere...

There’s about to be coins everywhere…

So while Telltale would deliver a serious, chilling rendition of Legos, we wouldn’t exactly see the same tone set in TT Games’ The Walking Dead. The survivors of the apocalypse can only interact with overly exaggerated body movements and miming, i.e. shrugs, folding their arms, rolling their eyes, falling over laughing, etc. The zombies in this game are embarrassingly stupid, and will be typically be seen tripping over each other, trying to bite other zombies unintentionally, poorly posing as non-infected to try to sucker in survivors, and stumbling into blatant traps. Survivors will embrace using super-cliché zombie strategies, such as pretending to be a zombie, using giant hunks of meat as bait, and use of the classic chainsaw. The zombies will simply explode no matter which way they are killed, and of course, money flies out of them in all directions when they do. Every level is filled with collectibles that shine and glow as if they’re critically important, but they’re really just for the sake of collecting.

As much as I would enjoy playing a serious Lego game alongside a silly slapstick zombie game featuring silent characters, it’s probably best that each studio sticks to what they do best. Hopefully, some day from now, TT Games can borrow the rights that Telltale acquired to make a Lego Game of Thrones game. Lego would make for an excellent medium for a story filled with so many dismemberments. Although I can certainly think of one that may prove challenging.

1 comment

  1. Rick Hoppmann (@tinyworlds)

    Pretty good read!

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