Lego is no longer just for kids this holiday season, with the Danish company bringing its first ever bricks-and-iPhone game, the Life of George, to America October 1.
Adding a physical component to a casual mobile game is really an experiment for Lego to gauge what tech-savvy adults like. The popularity of sandbox games like Minecraft is proof that plenty of people love to build any and everything, though they probably play with their iPhones more than Lego sets these days. So can the Life of George app get more grown-ups playing with Lego bricks again?
This Lego set is really not the star of the game -- George is. The box itself contains just 144 pieces, a Playmat that doubles as a "green screen" for your creations, a brief getting started guide, as well as a sticker of George.
How it works
To play, you need to download the free app for the 4th-gen iPod touch, iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 from the iTunes App Store. An Android version is in the works but Lego's rep would not offer any concrete dates, so don't hold your breath, Android users.
You can play the game either in Game or Creation Mode, as a novice or expert.
In Game Mode, you have the option of playing on your own or going head-to-head with someone next to you (pass-and-play only).
Because George the software engineer loves to travel and take photos of interesting objects he encounters, your job is to recreate his objects with Lego bricks as quickly and as accurately as possible. As soon as you finish building an item, you have to place it on the Playmat and take a picture with your device's camera so the app can grade you. Depending on your score, you could unlock more objects and levels to advance the game. Of course, with this being an app, new levels could be added in the future via a software update so the game can grow beyond the initial 12-levels.
Each level is a different destination that George has visited and therefore contains objects (displayed in albums) that are unique to that area. For example, the first level is Hawaii so the player needs to replicate a fish and a pineapple in order to unlock and pass all 10 items, and hopefully move onto the next level.
When you are tired of simply replicating George's objects in Game Mode, you can switch to the Creation Mode to save your own unique designs. This way, when you play against someone else in Game Mode, you can even challenge them to reproduce your designs to up the ante. Eventually, Lego would like to make it possible for players to share their designs with others but that is not available at launch.
In keeping with George's techie/geeky nature, he is already very active on his Facebook page and YouTube channel, where Lego wants to encourage players to upload user generated how-to videos on their creations or to share tips with each other. That's why this Lego set has an unusually mature recommended age -- 14+ -- to comply with age requirements on social networks rather than because the Lego objects are offensive in any way. Good to know!
Availability & Pricing
The Life of George Lego set can be ordered from the company's U.S. website as soon as this Saturday. Or, you can also find it in select stores like the Lego Shop in Rockefeller Center, Toys R Us in Times Square and FAO Schwartz in New York, as well as in some Apple stores in the near future.
Because the app is free, you just need the $29.99 Lego set to start playing -- not only for the bricks but also for the Playmat for scoring your items. The best part is that Lego seems to be thinking ahead on how to keep players interested and that makes the game much more promising than just a box of bricks. If Life of George catches on, I can see Lego introducing different characters that "photograph" different objects than those featured in this game. But for now, I would much rather get the Android app soon so I give this game a try. I wonder how challenging the objects are and whether there is enough content in the app as is (who knows when Lego will come out with an update). What about you?