Brick by brick
Lego Island is 19 years old. If that little tidbit of information doesn’t make you feel either super old or wistfully nostalgic, it’s safe to assume your childhood was deprived of true happiness.
Lego Island came along at the perfect time. It had no real objectives, outside of potentially apprehending a career criminal named ‘the Brickster.’ He was a constant pain in the ass, who spent most of his time stealing ambulances and deconstructing buildings with reckless abandon. The game never made players put an end to the Brickster’s crime spree, however, and instead encouraged them to spend their time exploring and generally just chilling out. You could build cars, ride jet skis, or spend a few hours slinging pizzas to hungry island residents.
Much like the core ethos surrounding the actual Lego brand, Lego Island gave players all the tools needed to make their own fun. It was nonlinear and mellow, the kind of game that introduced an entire generation to the idea that digital spaces could be exciting without the need for constant action.
Looking back at Lego Island today, it’s easy to see why it resonated with audiences back in 1997. There’s a certain charm to the blocky polygons and easygoing residents of the island. Before open-world games were commonplace, Lego Island served as an introduction to nonlinear games and semi-open structure.
More than anything I’ve mentioned above, however, Lego Island deserves to be remembered on its nineteenth birthday for one specific reason: it’s essentially Vaporwave: The Game.
Vaporwave’s roots can be traced back to a small sect of musicians concerned with making tunes that juxtaposed the consumerism and marketing imagery of the 80s and 90s with a sonic landscape of warped lounge music. The genre has shifted, died, and resurfaced numerous times throughout the 2010s, eventually establishing itself in niche corner of the Internet that’s concerned with weirdly relaxing music and architectural aesthetics.
Obviously, Lego Island isn’t some critique of capitalism (unless it is), but it does have a certain quality that looks peak vaporwave. I mean, check these screenshots out…
Even the exterior sights in Lego Island speak to a vaporwave sensibilities.
Combine these screenshots with the game’s soundtrack and you’ve got all the trappings of an obscure vaporwave jam.
Shine on you crazy Lego diamond. Way to nail the vaporwave A E S T H E T I C before it was even a subculture.
[Header image courtesy of Brickipedia]