The voice actor trap

#article #legodimensions

Over the weekend I've been playing the LEGO Batman Movie story pack for LEGO Dimensions. I'll be writing a review shortly but one of the things that has absolutely killed it for me is a problem that has been plaguing this genre for a while; voice acting.

When the first year of LEGO Dimensions launched, they did an excellent job of either re-using archive audio or getting actors to come in and record all new lines. For an example of both, look no further than the Doctor Who level pack which had new lines recorded by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman yet used audio from the TV shows for every other Doctor all the way back to William Hartnell. This extended to other franchises with new audio recorded by Michael J. Fox and Christopher LLoyd for Back to the Future and Ellen McLain reprising her role as GLaDOS for Portal 2 not to mention audio from Gary Coleman and Joel McHale for the main LEGO Dimensions story.

This was in stark contrast to the other big player at the time, Disney Infinity, which rarely used the correct voices instead plumping for poor voice actors. I found this particularly egregious given Disney's budget as it was their grand vision that new characters and levels for Disney Infinity would replace the usual token game that accompanied a new film release and so they already had most of the actors in the recording studio at the right time. Some voices weren't too bad such as Woody from Toy Story which was actually performed by Tom Hanks' brother Jim Hanks but others (looking at you Captain Jack Sparrow) were so bad as to make the game unplayable to me.

I mention this as LEGO Dimensions is now following this pattern with a number of the big name voices conspicuously missing from recent releases. I first noticed it in the Ghostbusters story pack which had the correct voices for everyone apart from one of my favourite actresses, Melissa McCarthy. This was then repeated with B. A. Baracus (A Team), Michael Knight and K.I.T.T. (Knight Rider), and Robin (The LEGO Batman Movie). I appreciate that actors like McCarthy, Hasslehoff, and Michael Cera are expensive but it is just horrible to have these major franchises and characters with the wrong voices. They could have used archive audio but they don't as they want the characters to have new lines so they can say things like "try that button over there", etc.

I personally would much prefer them shoe-horning lines from the films into the game rather than having new audio recorded by voice actors and this is a problem LEGO have already solved; if you look at the Mission: Impossible pack or at some of the other games such as Lord of the Rings or Jurassic World, they use the audio from the movies and just slice it to fit the situation. Many people wish that LEGO would go back to how the original games like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean worked and just have the characters making Sim-like voices and conveying everything with expressions, gestures, and props but I think that would be a mistake. A bigger mistake though is probably the long running issue with Bart Simpson in LEGO Dimensions being completely mute...

Bad voice acting can absolutely kill a game and it is a real shame to see LEGO Dimensions fall into the voice actor trap after they had such a strong start. Not every new release has had these issues with the Fantastic Beasts story pack having new lines from Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston but the lack of Michael Cera in the LEGO Batman Movie pack really threw me back to the Disney Infinity games that I just couldn't enjoy. Hopefully we'll see more archive audio being used over incorrect voice actors in future, especially if they somehow manage to get the rights to Star Wars and Disney now that Disney Infinity is no more.