Hi. My name is Holly Ann, and I’m addicted…

…to LEGO Dimensions.

Addicted, as in, TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY. RIGHT. NOW.

I can’t begin to describe how intensely awesome this game is. Or how purchasing the parts for it feels like selling your soul. Phoebe and Dipper brought it to my house Friday for Family Friday, and I was hooked. Bad. Like a junkie looking for a fix.

First things first. Just what is LEGO Dimensions, and who cares? LEGO Dimensions is a video game originally released in 2015. The plot is super simple. Lord Vortech (voiced by Gary Oldman) and his robot henchman X-PO (voiced by Joel McHale) are searching for Foundation Elements. With these 12 Elements connected, they can basically take over the universe. The 12 Elements are artifacts from different universes (which are different fandoms), such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Frodo’s One Ring, etc. In a bid to keep the universes from falling under single rule, all of the Elements were scattered.

Everything would have gone according to Lord Vortech’s plan, except Robin, Frodo, and Metalbeard are sucked into a vortex with the Elements. Their friends Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle willingly jump into the vortex to save their friends. They fall out of the vortex on Vorton, where they need to rebuild the generator that allows them to travel to different universes, saving their friends, collecting keystones, and saving the Foundation Elements.

That’s only scratching the surface of the game. The worlds they travel in are varied and hilarious, as are the heroes they work with. There is a franchise for absolutely everyone. Gremlins. The A-Team. Retro Ghostbusters. Modern Ghostbusters. Knight Rider. Jurassic World. The Simpsons. Mission:Impossible. Doctor Who. Back to the Future. Midway Arcade. The Lord of the Rings. That’s listing about half of the franchises included. Other franchises are being added, The Goonies, Beetlejuice, and Teen Titans Go! being the ones I’m looking forward to purchasing. Meh on Power Puff Girls. Although the idea of seeing Stripe tear through their pastel world is very very enticing! Just look at the picture below. The Joker, Stripe, Gizmo, and Harley in Gotham. Don you just know that’s going to be a wild party?!

When I said that this game was ridiculously expensive, I wasn’t kidding! There are several levels of add-ons that can be purchased. I’m going to go into a little detail about each level, starting with the least expensive and ending with the grandaddy. The least expensive are the Fun Packs. They retail for around $11.99 and are usual one character and a vehicle of some sort. Excalibur Batman and the Bionic Steed from The Lego Batman Movie are just one example. As you purchase updates for the vehicle (Bionic Steed in this example), you can also rearrange the LEGO configuration to resemble the new form. My favorite is Crabmeat from Sonic, which turns his airplane into a giant rideable crab. It’s also worth noting that vehicles aren’t character-specific. I absolutely LOVE running Stripe around Middle Earth on Shelob.

Next up are Team Packs. These feature 2 characters and 2 vehicles from a
franchise and will run you about $24.00. I’ve alluded to it several times, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t feature it here. My favorite team pack is from Gremlins. Gizmo and his RC racer are cute, there’s no denying that. But I absolutely love Stripe!

As with any videogame, the characters have certain catchphrases that they use. I can’t get enough of Stripe’s incessant babble. Sometimes as he’s tearing around you hear “Gizmo caca!” straight from the movie. Other times he merely grumbles to himself and laughs. If you leave him standing too long, he pulls out a bucket of popcorn and starts eating. Start moving again, and he discards the empty bucket.

If you want more levels, you can purchase a Level Pack. For around $30 you get a character, two vehicles, and then more levels for the game. For the adults who are playing LEGO Dimensions, there is Mission:Impossible, The Simpsons, Midway Arcade, and Doctor Who. Those aren’t the only Level Packs by a long shot, but they seem to be aimed for the older set. Midway Arcade comes with a stereotypical 80s gamer LEGO piece, the Spy Hunter car, and an arcade machine. This Level Pack promises over 20 classic arcade games.

Currently there are three Story Packs that you can purchase. Story Packs allow you to play through an entire movie. The three current packs are Ghostbusters (2016), The LEGO Batman Movie, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. What you get in each pack varies a little. The LEGO Batman Movie gives you Batgirl and Robin as playable characters, as well as a vehicle and a new LEGO piece to add to the game pad, which looks like the inside of the Batcave. Fantastic Beasts… gives you Newt Scamander as a playable character, Niffler as a playable character, and the Magical Congress of the United States is the game pad add-on. Ghostbusters (2016) features the Chinese restaurant facade where the girls have their office, Abby Yates and the Ecto vehicle. I don’t know if this is true for the other story packs, but finishing the Ghostbusters (2016) story unlocks the other Ghostbusters. When selecting Abby, it’s possible to play as Holtzman, Erin, or Patty. For $40, I think this pack is a pretty good deal. Even if you don’t use the facades on the game pad, they’re still neat to have, and playing through a whole movie instead of a few levels is definitely a plus.

Before you can play though, you need the basics. That’s where the Starter Pack comes in handy. The game is available for XBOX 360, XBOX One, Wii U, PS3, and PS4. No matter what platform you choose, you are looking at around $65.00-$80.00 for the starter pack. Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty competitive price when you consider that most games debut in the $50-$60 range. With the Starter Pack you get the three main playable characters of the game, Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle. Also included is the Batmobile. You also get the game pad (where you place the LEGO pieces to introduce characters and vehicles), the game disc, and a LEGO build of the Vorton vortex, which matches what you see in the game. Basically, you get everything that you see to the left. ¬†

the most expensive packs are almost laughable at this point. They’re called Polybags. As the name suggests, it’s literally a plastic bag. With one figure. But it’s exclusive and therefore expensive. The only place you can really get ahold of them is ebay or amazon.com, and you will pay out the ass. The two characters are Green Arrow and Supergirl. The prices are outrageous. I’ve seen $129.00 for both, $65.00 for Supergirl alone, $35.00 for Green Arrow. It’s literally all over the place based on who is selling and when you check. Green Arrow was apparently a GameStop exclusive when you purchased any pack on Black Friday of 2016.

When I first started purchasing additional content for this game, I nearly shit from the amount of money. Of course, I started purchasing after all the Easter sales had come and gone. The buy one get one free, the half off. Those types of sales. To the best of my ability, I’ve followed Dipper’s recommendations and purchased lots or discounted items off ebay. I also just snagged a plastic snapcase for the figures and their vehicles. In part so I can bring them over when I visit Phoebe and Dipper, and in part because my cat is an asshole. She recently figured out that there was interesting stuff to knock over on my desk and shelves. LEGO is known for small pieces, and quite frankly, I don’t want to lose any.

The main reason I’m not as upset about the prices is that most LEGO sets go for
about $15.00 as a base price anyway. I purchased the Ghost Rider and Hobgoblin set for myself, and it set me back $20.00, and it doesn’t do anything but get assembled and sit. Granted, it’s absolutely insanely cool, but that’s all it does. Because I intend to take it out of the box and build it, it won’t even maintain a collector’s value. Speaking frankly, I don’t give a damn. The set is great, reminds me of Dipper, is horror themed (c’mon, a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle from Hell?!) and makes me happy. The same is to be said of LEGO Dimensions. The pieces are a blast to put together, the game itself is a riot, and the content is varied enough that it appeals to a variety of audiences.

 

Writer’s Notes:

Please forgive my lack of links in this post. With so many buying options from stores like Target, GameStop, and Walmart to online retailers ebay and amazon, it didn’t seem worth it to tag the packs. Not to mention the many varieties available.

Information on the voice actors for the series can be found here. In some cases, recordings from the movie or TV series the lines came from was used. For others, other voice talent was hired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing Appropriate Movie Content

When I sat down to blog, I wanted to finish recording Phoebe and my recent movie-spree. However, as I continued, I found myself defending my choices, which took away from the post too much. I also realized that I subconsciously had a rubric I ran the movies through before suggesting them to Dipper. I decided that instead of bogging down the other post, I would make this one separate.

There have been people who have questioned my choices, even though Dipper has approved them all. It may not seem like there is a system at work, but truly, there is. You see, I love Phoebe very much. I don’t think I could love her more if she were truly my flesh and blood. For all intents and purposes, her and Dipper are Family. And I would die for either of them, just as quickly as I would die for Tkout, my husband. I realize that since Dipper and I are so close, and she and I are so close, I’m one of the people she looks to as a role model. When I struggle with my depression and anxiety, she’s told me that I’m a superhero, because she sees me push through and do my best, even if that varies based on how sick I am that day. To that end, I believe the movies and images she’s exposed to now will help shape the woman she’s going to become. My hope for her is that she never forgets her own power and strength, and that she has the courage to push forward and meet her challenges head-on, and take her defeats with grace and no small amount of learning. She’s an amazing girl, and I think the world of her. To me, she’s already a superhero. The challenge is going to be to get her to see it herself.

The movies I show her are meant to entertain her, and sometimes teach her a lesson. Other times to give her positive role models. Every movie that we watch has gone through a checklist, provided below.

Content to Avoid: This obviously will vary a little in terms of what you find acceptable, this is just what I look for.

  • Sexual: I don’t know how much she’s heard from her schoolmates, if anything. I’m also not sure what her mom screens for. Kissing and other PDA is fine. The most sexual scene she’s seen with me was when Alice and Spence are rolling around on their bed in Resident Evil. It’s in a flashback, so it’s choppy, and even though you get the idea of what’s going on, there’s nothing graphic. It’s enough to suggest the nature of their relationship, and easy enough to pass over.
  • Sexuality: I consider myself open-minded. But I don’t want to get into a discussion about sexual identity with a 9 year old who hasn’t hit puberty yet. She’s smart enough to handle it, and her parents are open-minded as well. But unless I’m asked, I’m not going to be the one to enlighten her.
  • Explicit Violence: Here’s the thing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is vicious and bloody, but much of it happens off-screen. For instance, when Franklin is sawed in half, it’s in the dark. You don’t see it in bright light and CGI effects. I try to keep away from overtly gory content.
  • Rape: Sexual content and violence. This one I stay away from, even if it’s hinted at, because I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. There is never an excuse for rape, it is never justified. NEVER. Also, I don’t want to be the one to tell her that the world is that ugly.
  • Religion: Some of the movies have religious themes, or plot points, but they aren’t overly religious. I will answer any questions she has about my faith, but that being said, I don’t show her movies that are heavily steeped in religion. Dipper has expressed his intent to help guide her in that path as he sees fit, and I willingly agreed to leave it to him.
  • Race: Children aren’t born racists. I’m trying to find content that includes different nationalities, rather than highlights their differences. I in no way deny that racism exists, but I think that going out of my way to point it out is a form of racism. She’s going to see it in action at some point in her life, and that will be a teachable moment.

Priority Content: 

  • Badass women: When I was growing up, you had to kind of pick and choose to find your strong women. Phoebe needs to grow up seeing Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) kick xenomorph ass in Alien, Alice battle hordes of zombies, Marian refused to be Indiana Jones’ damsel in distress (in Raiders of the Lost Ark), and so many others. The occasional damsel in distress is fine. But, she needs to grow up knowing she can be her own superhero, and that being a girl doesn’t mean you are a plot device in someone else’s story. (Not to mention, the behind-the-scenes, such as Milla Jovovich¬†designing most of her Resident Evil gear, which is probably why she gets progressively more badass as the movies go forward. Oh, and her stunts? Most of the time they’re really her.) Not to mention, the Resident Evil franchise is loaded with strong women. There are main characters Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Even female characters who have supporting roles in one or two films are just as strong. There’s Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), Nurse Betty (Ashanti), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Crystal Waters (Kacey Clarke), Becky (Aryana Engineer), and Angie (Sophie Vavasseur). Not to mention, there’s representation in the franchise. There are strong women of Asian, Hispanic, and African heritage. Not just Caucasian.
  • Healthy male/female interaction: Look, I know this post sounds a little man-hatery. Rest assured, I don’t have anything against men. My best friend is a guy. But that being said, Phoebe will have to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in terms of earning respect, working together, and living in general. She has plenty of time to learn those things, but I want to combat the idea that she isn’t complete without a man. Or that she always needs a helping hand to get things done. I want her to strap on her own shitkicker boots and march confidently into situations. That’s another reason I love Ghostbusters and Alien so well. In both, the women work alongside men, but don’t rely on them. They work as a team, relying on their own smarts and teamwork. Suicide Squad comes to mind for this criteria too. When you look at the movie, it’s primarily female-driven. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together the Suicide Squad. She gets Harley Quinn and Enchantress/Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). All of whom are really capable and diverse women. The supporting cast is pretty kickass too. Diablo’s wife, Grace (Corina Calderon), casts her shadow from the grave, as the only person who could curb her husband’s gangbanger side. Similarly, little Shailyn Pierre-Dixon shines as Zoe, Deadshot’s daughter.
  • Healthy friendships: Finding a good friend is really difficult. It’s important for her to grow up seeing people take care of each other. Especially women. Most women are raised to fight each other, to compete, to constantly view other females as enemies rather than allies. Again, I look to Resident Evil. Alice and Claire Redfield come to trust each other, and rely on each other as allies throughout the rest of the series. The Ghostbusters reboot, while heavily panned by critics and “fans”, was based on the premise of four women combining their smarts and talents to stop the destruction of the world. They’re not focused on their looks, or having sex with their stupid (and stupidly handsome) secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth.

  • Healthy body image/self-worth: There are a few movies I could site for this, but Ghostbusters is my favorite. The main women are varied in size and shape. Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, are all powerhouses. They share the screen and the gags well. Not to mention, the gags aren’t about who’s fat or sexy or stupid. All women are shown with talent, capability, and once Abby and Erin settle their initial differences, they proceed with a healthy and loyal friendship.
  • Life lessons: Yes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is terrifying. But you know what else it is? A life lesson. Don’t pick up people on the side of the road, and in a larger sense, don’t get too friendly with strangers. “Stranger danger” as it was called in my day, is a real thing. Possibly moreso now with the advent of technology that allows us to remain connected 24/7 to people around the globe. Phoebe needs to know basic truths to protect herself.