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LEGO Universe - Cool Kids Games

LEGO Universe is a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) that was launched in October 2010 by Warner Brothers. Although the game is rated for players age 10 and up, it also appeals to adults who are gamers and who have grown up with LEGO. Players are able to play in two different worlds for free, though universal access to all features requires a monthly $10 subscription. Players download the game from the LEGO Universe website and then access the game on secure servers. The game is available in English and German.
The popularity of LEGO extends back to 1949 when the interlocking plastic bricks were first produced in Denmark. Since that time, the company has expanded into books, games, amusement parks, robotics and video games. The attraction to LEGO is its simplistic block-by-block designs whereby children (and adults) can build anything they desire. The creation of LEGO Universe is not only an additional branch of LEGO - it is a marketing tool to further establish the LEGO brand.
About the Virtual World
In LEGO Universe, players take the role of LEGO minifigures in an age-old battle of good versus evil in an alternate universe. A maelstrom is the center of the dark energy that threatens the universe. Players split up into teams (or factions) to try and destroy the maelstrom and a beast called a Spider Queen in various worlds. Players collect battle gear on their journey to help them fight their foes. Players also collect LEGO bricks along the way to build models on their personal property. Properties are like a home base where the player is safe and is able to allow fellow players access to their property.
What's Good
LEGO Universe is an action-oriented game that will appeal mainly to tween boys and older teens who are fascinated with futuristic worlds and fantasy. The graphics and overall design of the game are top-notch. With LEGO and Warner Brothers partnering on this project, you would expect nothing but rich colors, detailed images and a solid platform. Parents can be reassured that there are no adult themes in the game. There is no drinking, smoking, drug use, sex or offensive language. Words that are not found in the dictionary will not be shown.
LEGO Universe offers an easy-to-navigate website for parents to find out information about the game, registration, online safety and customer service. Players can easily connect with fellow players in an online community, share game plans and become friends anonymously. The LEGO brand is heavily promoted through the website and not through the game. Although tokens cannot be accumulated to buy LEGO merchandise, players can easily browse the entire LEGO catalogue online to purchase LEGO products.
What's Bad
Violence may be an issue with some parents. Although there is no blood or gore that can be associated with adult video games, players are involved in an intense battle of good versus evil that may be a bit extreme for younger players. Swords, knives, hammers and laser guns are used as weapons. Although the players are only made of LEGO, characters do get smashed, broken and die. The facial expressions on most of the evil characters can be quite obtuse and unsettling for younger players.
Parents may see an increase of requests for LEGO products just because the LEGO brand is associated with the game. Younger players may find the storyline complicated, but their familiarity with online gaming should ease them into the story. Some themes may be too intense for younger players. Parents should browse the game with younger players and discuss these themes.
LEGO has traditionally been a popular children's toy that has succeeded because of high quality and standards. LEGO has done an excellent job of promoting online safety and has provided parents with many tools to share concerns about safety or design issues with LEGO Universe. LEGO's online safety message is prominently displayed and spelled out in easy-to-understand language. A moderator is a prominent role within the game and in online chatting to ensure a child's safety.
Players and parents should be aware that the game is scheduled to be shut down at the end of January 2012. Though the game is based on the popular LEGO blocks, the company is disappointed with the game's online presence and has decided to shut LEGO Universe down. Players with existing paid memberships will enjoy one free month of play in January. Refunds for any unused credit will be paid back to the credit card holder beginning February 1, 2012.
This review was written by a responsible parent and media professional who runs a children's games review website. Click on the links for more useful reviews on cool kids games and fun websites for kids.

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