Wednesday, April 1, 2009

LEGO: System Administrators Review

LEGO's video game franchise is thriving. LEGO System Administrators is the sixth entry in the tried and true video game franchise, which, since its inception, has not done much evolving. There is a reason why this sort of gameplay has been repeated throughout the LEGO titles; it's accessible and enjoyable. That's not to say that previous titles have been without their flaws. They suffer from nonsensical puzzles, difficult movement and an insipid AI. In LEGO System Administrators, however, those faults are spun into the gameplay in such a way that they actually better imitate the overall experience of being a system administrator (albeit a LEGO one).

LEGO System Administrators is unique from past titles in the building blocks' franchise in that it isn't based off a movie or a comic-book. This is an original tale. That gives the game a lot of latitude, since there's no need to follow a well-known plot. What we have here is a very basic tale of intellectual, socially aloof, heavily medicated, unapologetically flatulent system administrators who have to address trouble tickets while balancing client requests and dealing with the demands of intransigent management. All the while maintaining 99% service uptime. That's really all there is to it, and, let's face it, it doesn't need all that much more depth. If you're playing LEGO System Administrators, it's because you want to smash LEGO versions of virus-infected desktop computers and pick up LEGO-ized Paxil pills. A story is about as necessary as a project requirements document or a TPS report.

There are dozens of characters for you to play through while you tackle the six acts. The first three acts put you in control of the system administrators, where you're eventually allowed to switch between Derek (the wise but stoic senior admin), Jake (the constantly tardy Microsoft purist), Norm (the seething cauldron of rage), Kato (the trendy Apple slacker) and Bud (the eager intern) and many others. Each character has a special ability and a weakness. For example, Norm has an uncanny ability to write visual basic scripts, but can be a real douchebag if the rest of the office doesn't want to go where he wants to for lunch.

The second half of the adventure puts you on the side of management. You'll get to see the flip side of each act and learn how the management team sets up their individual, often conflicting master plans without regard to employee morale, compensation or workload. Each manager has their own special powers, making each of them unique. Hugh has the power to purchase an unlimited amount of new, complex, expensive equipment. Leonard can publish a newsletter where he takes credit for your work and blames you for his mistakes. Frank can instantly squash your promotion and send you back to the data center where you'll be watching a monochrome screen and loading tapes.

While much of LEGO System Administrators is about maintaining your sanity while keeping your servers online, there are some refreshing breaks. Just about every act has one vendor level. In these levels, you navigate through various greedy vendors in an attempt to get you and your fellow administrators a free lunch. While these levels are brief and the lunches are alcohol-free, they provide a welcome change of pace. Just be aware of the LEGO ethics officer, constantly on the alert to make sure you don't go over the allowed gift spending limit.

LEGO System Administrators is good fun, but it's really just the same thing we've seen before, except without the exciting characters, thrilling action sequences and fiscal responsibility. It doesn't do much to advance the franchise. It's just another day at the office.

Virtual Sink's Rating: