Adult fans of LEGO sometimes have skills that go beyond building masterpieces with bricks. Once in a while, we discover great gems that showcase a different talent combined with the love for LEGO, like the amazing handcrafted wooden LEGO we recently featured. Not too long ago, while scouring the web for great creations to feature here at The Brothers Brick, I came across something that didn’t strike me as worth exploring at first glance. But something compelled me to take a closer look, and I’m glad I did! The effort behind the creation of what I uncovered is astounding! Over 400 pages of programming and 2 years in the making, LEGO enthusiast Johan Alexanderson coded a full-blown game in honor of the LEGO Classic Space theme in retro-classic gaming styles from the 80s.
Johan Alexanderson (who also goes by the online handle LegoJalex) will be familiar to readers of The Brothers Brick — we’ve showcased more than a few of his excellent builds in the past (including his E.T Phone Home movie classic), and we featured an exclusive interview with him about his his LEGO creations. This article continues from where our last interview ended, when Johan mentioned a programming project to be revealed later. Before we speak to him again on his 2-year journey creating “Classic Space Adventures,” let’s take a quick look at the game itself.
Gameplay & navigation
“Classic Space Adventure” is a 2D side-scrolling game just like the old days. You advance to new areas by heading right or left. Navigation to take you to and from different rooms is controlled by the “Up” and “Down” keys via door entrances. The world you can explore in Chapter 1 isn’t large, but just large enough to get you to bump into characters and events that will trigger a tutorial on control keys and to set up the main storyline. Three major action keys are the fire button, a jump action button and hitting Enter will let you interact with objects around you.
The Adventure Begins – Chapter 1 walkthrough
You start your day at work late (as usual) as the Red Spaceman. For obvious reasons, the Classic Space theme is blue and the Red Spaceman stands out a little more amongst the backgrounds and themes. You soon learn that your mundane daily job is to drill in the caves below, looking for new lifeforms. Random chat at the office will include some humor on responses from the Non-Playable Characters (NPCs). You grab your drilling equipment and keycard to start your vehicle.
Your adventure begins as you go underground and your space colleagues find a deactivated Alien Robot during their drilling. You’re tasked to go look at the location where the Alien was found. Eventually, you find a hidden passage and fall into a chasm…Chapter 2 begins. We’d rather you discover what happens from here and not let us spoil all the fun that Johan intended. All I can say is that things are not what they seem…
The Red Spaceman can get injured and you lose your life energy when you bump into enemies or get shot by random bullets. Your life meter is indicated by red 1×1 plates on the top left of the screen. On the upper right-hand side of the screen, you have green studs for each gem that you collect. Both red and green elements are strewn across the various levels in the game and will assist in keeping you alive throughout the levels – or in this case 11 Chapters in total. Collecting 6 green studs will gain you an extra red plate. What I do like about this is that falling from a high platform or ladder does not injure you. However, there are instances where falling into a dead zone will end the game instantly. It simplifies the gameplay but still forces you to get the keystrokes for jumps to get where you need to.
To ensure you maintain progress in the game, there’s basically nothing to do as games are auto-saved in sub-sections within a Chapter, and if you happen to lose your life, it’s automatically reloaded at the beginning of each subsection. However, closing your browser and starting your game another day will always bring you back to the beginning of the chapter where you last left off. You can only proceed to the next chapter if you’ve completed the previous one successfully if you come back a day later.
In the style of a true LEGO Classic Space fan, Johan openly used references to actual LEGO sets in the game. If you’re really hardcore about Classic Space, this will probably make you pee a little in your pants.
And there’s a lot more. You can jump right to the website to have a peek, or you can play the game to enjoy the discoveries on your own. (Trust us, you’ll want to read all the way to the end of this article — we’ll make it worth your time before you actually start the game.)
We decided to speak to Johan himself, as we had some burning questions after a couple of hours of non-stop gameplay.
How long did it take you to code the whole game, and when did you begin?
It is hard to say exactly how long since I wasn’t coding constantly on it, but it was about 2 years ago I started working on the game. I made everything myself so that involved coding, designing and making the graphics and composing all the music and sounds. I’m not a trained musician/composer, so there was a lot of trial and error when composing it. I used Famitracker for it (which is a program that can create NES music). But it was really fun to come up with music and try to make it fit into the environment in the game. For scale, the code is on about 400 pages in total.
Two whole years. That’s pretty amazing! What do you do as your day job?
When I first fired up the game, it reminded me of the 80’s 2D adventure games by Sierra. Was that what inspired you?
I think I know the Sierra games. Was it games like King´s Quest? Cool! I loved those games by Sierra, and a friend and I actually started making one during high school, but it never finished. I played some of those point-and-click games on my PC, but my main inspiration has been the NES games. Games like Mega Man, Metroid, and Super Mario Bros. Those were the games I grew up with.
My first game console was an MSX but I only had two games on it. Then I got an NES. But a funny thing was that my first game Super Mario Bros. had some error in it which made the graphics completely wrong, I gave it no thought that the game should look that bad and never realized it until years later.
Regarding inspiration for making the game – I have ever since I was a kid loved to create my own games. The feeling of creating your own world and being able to then walk around in it is great! And when programming a game you often have to take part in so many creative areas such as coding, making the graphics, music, story and deciding what your world should look like. For this game, at first it started as another kind of platform game, but as a huge fan of Classic Space, I wondered how a game based on this theme would look like if it was made back in the 80s. And then I started creating some pixelated graphics based on some of the Classic Space sets and I felt that this retro game style worked well in the Classic Space theme.
Is this the first game you’ve ever created?
I made many games in a game program called Klick n Play for the PC, but they are all gone now. I also made several games in Java, during my spare time, that could be run as an applet in a web browser, but now applets are kind of banned from all browsers since they pose a security risk. So those games cannot be played anymore unless I take the time to convert them to HTML5. I also made a few smaller games in HTML5, but nothing as big and well made as this game.
Coming up with a game idea is one thing, but how did you work out the details? I believe this is where the hard work really is!
Actually a lot of the ideas for the game I got when doing something else other than creating the game, such as taking a walk, doing the dishes etc. But for the planning, some of it is just in my head, but I often use pen and paper for sketching the enemies, buildings and the level design. Also for different types of algorithms, I often sketch them first on paper. I also had to make a game editor before making the game, so in that editor, it is easy to sketch up the levels and build everything. Here’s a screenshot of the editor I built and the creative process of a level.
The enemies that you see moving across the screen exist in proper LEGO modeling before they were made 2D sprites. Here’s a few of them that you will encounter – see if you can recognize them during gameplay.
How did it evolve? Are you able to share some of your early versions of the game? Anything like sketches on a napkin over a lazy Sunday? (Ed: Johan responds with his finds after digging through a few days…)
I did manage to find some raw and uncut sketches from when I made the game! I don’t know what you think of them, but they look a hundred years old! When I make a level, I sketch them up briefly like this. And for things that need to be done, like bugs or functions, I write them down in a list. (And in case you’re wondering, I sometimes draw other stuff that’s not related to the game. That mouse is from a children’s book I wrote, authored and illustrated and was published last year.)
Tell us a bit about yourself, the LEGO side of things.
Let’s see, I have been an AFOL for about 7 years now and live in Sweden. At first, my MOC’s were really simple, but it is great when you feel you start to become better at it, much like in painting which I also enjoy doing. I have my MOCs uploaded on my Flickr
My favorite genre is probably Classic Space, but I also like Classic Town. I think though that the Classic Space sets were really cool since they all had a great design, and also often included some kind of functionality. I also love the scenes they have created of this theme that you can see in catalogs from that time. Those scenes have been an inspiration for the game I’d say.
Thanks again Johan for taking the time to speak with us and sharing the details behind what you do. I’m sure your fans are already dying to have a go at the game so we shall not hold them any longer!
By now you’re probably already screaming at the top of your lungs to give us the damned URL so we can actually play the game! Ok! Ok! All you need is a browser — Chrome is the recommended browser. My tests on Safari on MacOS gave me the full gameplay but no audio at all. As a final note, “Classic Space Adventure” was built without any profit in mind, just as a pure fan-created game. It is not sponsored nor created by LEGO.
Exclusive TBB Cheat Code (Yes, you read that right!)
And as a bonus for reading through this article all the way to the end, there’s an exclusive TBB cheat code in the game! Once you’re in Chapter 3 or above, type in TBBENERGY, and you’ll be awarded a one time 5-red studs health to get you through your adventures. Remember to tell all your friends about it!