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27 years later, the spirit of Lego Island lives on in a surprising place

"It's been a long time coming."

Lego Tycoon: Tilted Towers screenshot showing Pepper Roni.
Image credit: Epic Games / Lego

Lego fans of a certain age had a bit of a moment last month, when pizza delivery kid Pepper Roni - yes, from stone-cold 1997 classic Lego Island - popped up in a trailer for a new video game.

The redheaded hero, last seen more than two decades ago, has been resurrected by the Lego Group for a cool cameo in Lego Tycoon: Tilted Towers - a game made for a very different generation of Lego fans, but one which this Lego Island veteran has also had fun with.

Lego Tycoon is the latest official experience for the brick building brand to launch in Fortnite, following the arrival of Epic Games' main Lego Fortnite mode last year and a smattering of smaller, more experimental mini-games since. It's made by Beyond Creative, a Dublin-based development studio dedicated entirely to building games in Fortnite.

Lego Tycoon: Tilted Towers launch trailer, guest-starring Pepper Roni.Watch on YouTube

A mash-up of the popular tycoon genre, Fortnite's most iconic location, and millions of virtual Lego bricks, Lego Tycoon: Tilted Towers is the most accomplished Lego experience yet outside of Epic's own mode - and helps raise the bar for what can be created in Fortnite's powerful UEFN creative toolset.

It's also just a smart concept. Tilted Towers is notorious for being knocked down and rebuilt numerous times over Fortnite's history, with more apocalyptic near-misses and complete do-overs than any Fortnite fan can count. The idea, then, that you're rebuilding the city is a clever one - and the fact you're seeing it recreated faithfully in Lego for the first time is also fun. It's very different to Lego Island, of course, but as a small isle filled with digital Lego bricks and characters - not least Pepper Roni - its vibe isn't a million miles away.

"It's been around a year, it's been a long time coming," Beyond Creative boss Kasper Weber told me on a video call, discussing the project's origins. "But it's been fun working alongside the Lego group. And we've been able to see the [UEFN] tools being built alongside the game."

Beyond Creative is one of several development studios entirely focused on building games for Fortnite, and has previously worked to make experiences for brands such as Nike, Nvidia, Balenciaga and the NFL.

"We've only worked in Fortnite for the last three-and-a-half years, so we're very specialised," Weber noted.

Lego Tycoon: Tilted Towers screenshot showing in-construction Tilted Towers.
Tilted Towers under construction. | Image credit: Epic Games / Lego

"[Tilted Towers] is one of the most iconic places," he continued. "We brought back one of the most popular POIs in Fortnite and thought it would be fun to build out of Lego bricks. We predicted the tycoon genre would be popular and they are really good in the Fortnite game ecosystem."

The whole game takes around three hours to finish, depending on how efficiently you manage your time, resources and money. Are you happy to let the game run casually, or do you dash about optimising your incomes wherever possible? (The latter.) Do you invest in hiring miners to gather resources for you? (Yes.) But then how much money should you spend on upgrading them, versus buying new buildings for passive income? (It's a fine balance.)

There are moments that feel rewarding when your setup is working, money and resources are flooding in, and all you need do is wait a couple of minutes, feet up, to be able to progress. It's at these times now that I dare to leave the game running while I go make a cup of tea, hoping nothing goes wrong. But earlier on I'd feel compelled to keep watch, or maybe earn a bit of extra cash by visiting one of the businesses I've just constructed to pick up a side-quest. You can stop by Pepper Roni's pizzeria, for example, and earn an extra crust or two by going on a delivery run.

Every so often, the whole sim comes to a standstill as Lego Tycoon recreates one of Fortnite's own apocalyptic events - the great flooding of its map. Alternatively, you might need to fight off a wave of zombies, Fortnitemares-style. Or, more positively, chase down a loot-laden llama for a fine reward.

Lego Tycoon: Tilted Towers screenshot showing a flooded Tilted Towers.
Tilted Towers under water, as the map floods. | Image credit: Epic Games / Lego

"I'm from Denmark myself so I've grown up with Lego sets all over the house. And we've planned a few fun Easter eggs in there," Weber says when I ask about Pepper Roni's inclusion. There are now even more Lego Island references in the game, it transpires, with the addition of XP awards titled with further references to the video game classic.

How has Lego Tycoon performed within Fortnite - a game which is now just as much of a platform as it is a battle royale - compared to expectations? Certainly, the experience received a marketing push from Epic Games when it launched, though its player count has dropped since.

"Success for this experience in particular is doing something new with the Lego brick in Fortnite," Weber responds. "It's a playground of learning what games are going to work in the Fortnite ecosystem and what games are not going to work. And we're thrilled to see that our game, this early, has seen such great player engagement and player reactions and comments - how happy and excited they are for this game."

More updates for Lego Tycoon are on the horizon, and I'm keen to see what gets added next, as the wait for the inevitable-yet-still-unannounced physical Lego Fortnite sets continues. Now, what's the Brickster been up to?

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