Nobody could accuse NetDevil of being unambitious. Three-and-a-half years in development, LEGO Universe is an attempt to graft the framework of a full MMORPG onto a plastic chassis designed to appeal to kids.
It opens, not with a whimper, but with a big bang. After designing your avatar using LEGO Universe's extensive character creator, you're thrust on to the bridge of a starship that's disintegrating in the maw of a gaping black hole. As your hull slowly peels off into the infinite, you have mere minutes to escape your fate, platforming your way around the ship to find enough rocket parts to build your escape vehicle.
It's been three years since NetDevil started work on its LEGO-themed MMO, but there still haven't been any opportunities to try the game out. Those hoping for a hands-on session at gamescom were disappointed - there was nothing to see but some new screenshots, concept art and trailers, including a rather good one parodying the Mad World promo for Gears of War.
"What is life like as a minifigure?" It's not a question many of us will have posed ourselves. Little plastic men with interchangeable body parts are normally our subjects, there to be manipulated and puppeteered by the all-too-visible hand of the play-god. Even in Traveller's Tales' phenomenally successful LEGO Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones, the minifigures exist only as a comedic vehicle for someone else's characters and stories. We don't generally try and empathise with them.