LEGO Universe: Local developer NetDevil's new online game wows critics

Last January, we looked at the high stakes for NetDevil, a Louisville game developer chosen to build LEGO Universe, a massively multiplayer online game based on LEGO bricks. Building a successful MMO can be risky, and NetDevil's previous attempt had fizzled. But judging from LEGO Universe's release last Tuesday, the company should have nothing to worry about.

The much-anticipated game, years in the making, has turned heads among critics, according to a review roundup in the British publication the Independent. Kotaku, the influential video game blog featuring Denver scribe Brian Crecente, declared that the game was just as much fun for nine-year-olds as it was for adults, noting, "Its whimsical mix of LEGO elements, humor and collecting is a powerful combination"

A Wired reviewer was impressed, too, concluding that "younger players will love the bright atmosphere and their parents will likely love the no-blood approach to combat," although noted the game's price -- $40 apiece plus a $10 a month subscription fee -- could be a strain for families with more than one LEGO maniac needing their own copy.

Not everyone was charmed, however. IGN, a major PC website, gave the game a middling 5 points out of 10, complaining that, "LEGO Universe is what people in the real-estate industry would call a fixer-upper. There are a lot of issues that mask the elements that sets Universe apart from other MMOs, including bugs, strange gameplay choices and a general lack of content."

Still, you can't please everybody, and judging from the majority of LEGO Universe's early reviews, the game has pleased enough people to make the hard-working folks at NetDevil feel optimistic about their product. Then again, there's still the all-important holiday shopping season. Will LEGO Universe be number one on enough kids' Christmas wish list?

That's a LEGO challenge for another day.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "LEGO Universe just got trickier: Judges rule LEGO bricks can't be trademarked."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner