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Back in 1932, master carpenter and joiner Ole Kirk Christiansen could never have imagined the impact his newly formed family business would have on the lives of countless children. From these humble beginnings, he and his 12-year-old son Godtfred manufactured a simple wooden toy soon to be known worldwide as LEGO.
I jumped on the LEGO bandwagon in 1964. My birthday present (one of those basic sets in a wooden box) became the envy of all the kids on my block because it even contained wheels--the latest in LEGO technology. I spent most of that birthday getting in touch with my artistic side--building airplanes, submarines, and cars--totally oblivious to the problem that lay ahead. You see, my mother liked playing with LEGO as much as I did, but she used all the good pieces to build girlie things, like dollhouses. Being as young as I was, it was difficult to wrestle it away from her.
Today, more than thirty-five years and 200 billion plastic pieces later, the "little toy company that would" has entered the videogame market with LEGO Racers. Although the game follows a traditional kart-racing premise, some unique twists demand the attention of anyone seeking a different racing experience. One of these twists will have you deciding whether to build a racing machine out of authentic LEGO bricks, or use one that has already been designed for you. Should you decide to build your own, be patient... it may take a while, but the time is well spent. By applying some rudimentary physics, you will find that cars with sloped fronts and rear spoilers will have a slight edge in speed. After the addition of a driver, you'll be ready to fill the room with the smell of rubber...
Only a limited number of tracks (with themes based on popular LEGO supplementary sets) are available at first, but winning races will unlock further choices. You can compete against the computer; go head-to-head with a friend; or better yet, test your skills in championship mode, where six different LEGO characters host circuits composed of four races each. With every circuit mastered, LEGO sets will be awarded based on the character you defeated. Prior to being declared overall champion however, you must conquer the toughest opponent of all: Rocket Racer.
While negotiating the tracks in your harmless looking toy, you will notice a number of colored blocks spinning in the air. Running into these will provide welcome racing advantages in the form of cannonballs, oil slicks, grappling hooks and force fields. Parents concerned with violence need not worry, since these weapons merely serve to impede racers, not damage or destroy them. Shortcuts can also be found by blasting your way into secret passages that can only be discovered by trail and error--and a little imagination.
LEGO Racers is not likely to induce an adrenalin-high, but its innovative violence free design will be a refreshing change to parents. It will also appeal to a wide variety of gamers--young and old, male and female--particularly if they've enjoyed LEGO in the past. And speaking of the past... times may have changed, but I still have a problem. Although I'm now old enough to wrestle this virtual LEGO set away from my mother, I have two muscle-bound teenaged sons that won't let me anywhere near it.
LEGO Racers is rated E: