Quick confession, I have a (probably unhealthy) obsession with finding alternatives to popular M-rated games. It brings me an odd sense of joy to find T-rated shooters, bloodless hack-n-slash titles, and open world games where mass murder isn’t encouraged. More often than not, the alternative games I find are mediocre at best and nails-on-chalkboard horrible the rest of the time. I found Island Xtreme Stunts while looking for a child-friendly open world game, and while it’s nowhere near as fun as some of the more recent Lego titles, it’s certainly not the worst Lego game I’ve played.
Gameplay in Xtreme Stunts is split between completing quests and collecting Lego bricks in the hub world, and executing various stunt scenes for the movie. You see, the main character, Pepper Roni, is the lead stuntman in a new movie appropriately titled “Xtreme Stunts”. So while in the main hub, Lego Island, Pepper can interact with signs scattered around the island to begin filming a stunt sequence for the movie. Each scene is a separate mini-game involving one of the stunts, and each mini-game consists of some kind of race. Before starting any of the stunts, a quick explanation of the scene is given by the director, followed by a training room where you can practice the controls. There are five of these in all, a pathetic number, I know; but each one was well polished and came with three difficulty levels. Breaking up the monotony of the average car, boat and plane chases, the two other scenes (which I won’t spoil) bring some diversity.
In a rather ironic twist, it seems as if the story missions act better as side missions than the actual side missions. Even with beating all the difficulty levels, it only took a few hours to complete every single one. But it’s not all bad; there’re still things to do around the island in-between the story segments. The island can be explored almost straight from the start, and after earning the respective license (yes, you need licenses), a wide variety of cars, boats, and planes can be driven around the island. Or, if you prefer something more impressive, Pepper is a master skateboarder and always carries his board with him.
While roaming around the island, players will be able to help the island’s inhabitants with their random problems. Some need an item delivered within a certain amount of time and others just want to have a friendly race. Seventeen of these missions are available, once again a rather pathetic number, but this time, the small number is a big problem. The majority of the time I spent with this game, was spent in the hub, but there really wasn’t all that much to do. Because, as it is, there’s about six hours of content with all of the side and story missions combined.
I suppose a perfectionist might be able to squeeze a few extra hours out by collecting all of the Lego bricks scattered about the island. Instead of being used as currency, these blocks are used to build “brickimals”, Lego animals that will appear around the island once they’ve been built. Character cards are also hidden throughout Lego Island, and if you care to find them, you’re rewarded with information about the inhabitants of the island. Finding these collectables is completely optional, but I found most of them without even trying, and it didn’t take too long to find the others while flying around the island.
The other thing I found while flying around the island is pop-in. Entire buildings would appear and disappear depending on how far away I was. Near the end, I also began to notice that textures would do the same thing, except this was only fifteen feet in front of me. When buildings and streetlights aren’t appearing next to me though, the game actually looks pretty decent. Similar to the more recent Lego titles, the majority of the island’s landscape isn’t made out of Lego bricks, but all the buildings and vehicles are. What’s made out of Lego looks great, buildings look as if they were built right out of box, characters are common (but likeable) stereotypes, and a neat little assembling/disassembling animation occurs whenever characters enter a vehicle. The mini-games are also worth noting, with their colorful environments and steady frame rates. But all this make me wonder why the rest of the island looks so horrible. All of the geographic formations on the island are jagged, and non-Lego textures are muddy and dull.
But at least the story isn’t dull. As mention before, you play as Pepper Roni, a pizza delivery boy turned stuntman starring in an upcoming action movie. The main antagonist in this movie is the Brickster, who also happens to be the antagonist of the last two Lego Island titles. Having already been thwarted two times, the Brickester has a bit a chip on his shoulder, and is using this movie as a cover to achieve his latest evil plan. The general public is clueless, the police can’t do anything without concrete evidence, and it’s up to Pepper to save Lego Island. It feels as if it was ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon, but it works.
A rather small feature I’ve always appreciated in the GTA series is the radio. It adds an element of realism while also removing the need to go through menus to change the music. While it’s not quite as simple here, Island Xtreme Stunts does have multiple radio stations accessible through the in-game menu. Each of these stations plays a different kind of music, but are all DJ’ed by the same character. I was quite surprised when I discovered that along with the expected instrumental tracks, unique songs were made specifically for the game and many of these actually turned out to be clever product placements. Because there’s just nothing quite like playing a Lego game while a catchy song is telling you to play with/buy more Lego products plays in the background.
Another feature I’m sure kids will appreciate is the full voice acting. I’ve always appreciated when children’s games are voiced, even if it’s poorly done. While that’s definitely the case here, it’s not unbearable, and you can skip it if you wish. Or, if you prefer a quieter experience (or just hate horrible voice acting), the voices can be muted with subtitles turned on.
A common problem I face when playing budget games is overcoming poor controls. Odd button layouts, stiff movement and unresponsive controls are some of my more common complaints. But the problem comes when trying to describe exactly what these descriptions mean. I can’t explain why Call of Duty feels so natural; just like how I can’t explain exactly why Xtreme Stunts feels so unnatural. The button layout is similar to other action/platformer titles of the era, and the game responds immediately to any of my button presses, but the control sticks are too responsive. An odd complaint, but a real one I assure you. Pepper and any vehicle he happens to be in respond too quickly and with too much force whenever the control stick is moved. Ninety degree turns can be accomplished at full speed in about one second, Pepper has too much traction on the ground, and planes turn ridiculously fast. It’s not a game-breaking problem, but it’ll take time to adjust.
Despite the fact that this title has E for Everyone rating with no descriptors, I did find a few small questionable things. For starters, one of the characters, Penelope Puff, has a slightly revealing low cut shirt. Some very mild cartoon violence is also present, but barely worth noting since characters are never harmed in any way. Finally, champagne is mentioned, but it’s in the context of a winning a race.
I left Island Xtreme Stunts feeling indifferent. This isn’t the worst open-world game I’ve played; in fact, I think some younger children may even enjoy it. But it just doesn't have the same universal appeal of the more recent Lego games. It’s a slight step above mediocre, but not enough of a step to be anything other than average.