A movie, a videogame based on it and the ever-popular brick set — Lego has gone beyond being just a favourite pastime for kids
If you’ve ever built anything with a lego set, you will enjoy The Lego Movie, a first-ever, full-length 3-D, computer-animated Lego adventure. It is that always-favourite story of a mini-figure who finds himself in circumstances that require heroism of the adventurous kind. Emmet Brickowski, a construction worker and eternal optimist finds a piece of “resistance” that is the key to an adventure of a lifetime. A band of superheroes (the mysterious WyldStyle, brooding Batman, mystical Vitruvius) tell Emmet the idyllic Lego world is actually run by the despotic Lord Business and his henchmen, who will use “Kragle” to freeze all Lego creations in their perfectly-designed state and in so doing, destroy the free world. Of course this is contrary to the spirit of building, and the ingenuity of Lego creations, but fighting the evil tyrant? It is a quest for which Emmet is hopelessly under-prepared.
Spoiler: The movie ends with a twist. A young boy is seen playing with his father’s prized Lego set. Dad comes down to chastise son for messing up his Lego city, real-life version of Lord Business vs. Emmet. Soon the scales fall off, dad rediscovers lost wonder, realises he shouldn’t curb the boy’s talent and creativity. A great moment for parents, kids and the Lego blocks. You enjoy the laugh-a-minute one-liners and feel mighty pleased with the sets — these we made with our Lego pieces! The impeccable voice-cast has Christ Pratt, Will Pharnell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman among others, and the action shots are really cool.
The Lego-movie videogame developed by TT Games (available on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Wii-U), is fun too. It re-enacts the movie scene-for-scene and you get to control a galaxy of colourful characters. It slackens a bit in places, but doesn’t lose its over-all appeal of adventure. Most of the game-play cues are from the previous Lego videogames — a combo of combat, platforming and puzzles. You start by working the everyman-turned-hero Emmet, but soon are given choices like Batman, Superman and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. You mix-and-match their abilities to solve problems. You smash, you rebuild — the essence of a Lego set, so juniors at home will love it. The virtual bricks are in shapes/sizes you remember so well, tempting you to have a go. The multi-player mode makes switching between characters less of a chore.
Parents of course, would rather put their money on physical Lego sets. “Building with lego is tactile, demands involvement of all five senses, improves brain function,” said techie Mahesh, whose seven-year-old has a roomful of Lego sets. “It is safe, creative, helps thinking in 3-D. You can put together a basic set of blocks in various ways and feel a sense of achievement. My 12-year-old daughter often joins him to build Lego towers and vehicles, though she won’t admit it.” The sets make excellent birthday gifts, say gift shops across the city. “I got six,” said the kid, busy putting together Chima Braptor Wing Striker, Gorzans Gorilla Striker, Ninjago, Lion Chi temple and Evil Cyborg. “I watched the movie, and loved Emmet.”
Out-of-the-box thinking that Lego encourages led 12-year-old Shubam Banerjee to create a low-cost Braille printer out a Lego-Mindstorms kit. Speaking to a news channel, he said reading a flyer soliciting donations for an organisation that helps the visually-impaired made him resolve that he would do something for them. Realising he knew very little about what life must be like for the visually-impaired, “I asked dad ‘How do blind people read?’ Dad said, ‘Google it.’ So I did.” He learned how expensive Braille printers were, and wondered if he could do something in that direction. He zeroed in on his Lego sets.
He began fitting the blocks together, and eventually had a printing unit. He hooked it up to a basic robot. You click on buttons for words and the device prints embossed dots on a roll of paper. (Check a demo on his facebook page/YouTube). Lots of questions, research on the Internet and four weeks of work on the family kitchen table, and he had a workable model. He calls his invention Braigo and said he’s happy he could make something that worked and actually helped people. The Lego-Mindstorms kit costs $350, a lot less than a regular Braille printer would. “I’ll write detailed instructions,” he said, “and put them online for others to copy for free.”
It is a great time for Lego. Lego-The Hobbit allows players to replicate an elaborate scene envisioned in The Hobbit. Techies recreated a hilarious 1984-version of Apple Mackintosh with Lego pieces, using stop-motion animation — both viral works of Lego art. And Banerjee’s Lego masterpiece has the potential to make a big impact.