Like many, I spent a plethora of my childhood hours living in fantasy lands populated by action figures and uniquely crafted LEGO contraptions. Lots of my parents’ hard-earned dough went towards such things, and it was money well spent. In fact, I sometimes look back and wonder how I entertained myself for so long with only my imagination and memories of beloved television shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, but do so fondly because I miss those days. What I do know, though, is that those toys were a big part of my formation and deserve the soft spots that they hold within my heart.
When Traveller’s Tales debuted LEGO Star Wars, with its genius mixture of childhood innocence, science fiction and pop culture royalty, it started a new obsession within the video game industry. Acclaim came in droves, and from all angles, kickstarting the yellow behemoth that has since taken the industry by storm. Some lament this fact nowadays, because it seems like there’s a new LEGO game every couple of months, but it’s not as if the success isn’t warranted. These titles sell well because their developer has caught onto something, via its unique brand of humour.
Although the series debuted years after I’d grown out of playing with blocks, I gave it a chance and came away relatively impressed. Since then, I’ve had interest in the games, though more-so at a casual level than anything else. It’s been great to see some of my favourite characters represented in such humorous experiences, but the gameplay that has surrounded them has never completely hooked me. The reason for this is its simplicity and overload of puzzles. Still, though those cons mar my experiences with the titles — and lead to boredom from time to time — they haven’t kept me from giving newer titles a chance.
These days, LEGO is the talk of the town, and it’s not because of the games. That is, for the most part. It’s predominantly due to The LEGO Movie, Warner’s fantastic-looking laugh riot, which centres upon a yellow construction worker named Emmet, who’s thrust into a perilous situation after being told that he’s the only one who can put an end to an uncanny evil. It’s a familiar trope, which has been used countless times in fiction, but the people behind this particular variation seem to have struck gold through a colourful and comedic approach.
Of course, the big screen romp featuring the tiny yellow blocks released alongside a complementary video game. Appropriately titled The LEGO Movie Videogame, the multi-platform money printing machine follows the same plot line as its big brother and utilizes some of its computer-generated scenes in order to do so. The result is a game that jumps between gameplay, in-engine cutscenes and movie clips – a technique that works relatively well, but isn’t handled perfectly this time around. It can sometimes be a bit much.
Since I don’t want to spoil the movie or the game for you, I’m hesitant to divulge many details about the plot. I will, however, let you know that the general storyline deals with an evil man named Lord Business, who’s taken his intelligence, greed and arrogance to new heights by not only building odd-looking stilts of some sort, but also attempting to reshape the world in his own warped way. He must be stopped, and it seems as if Emmet is the right man for the job.
As it turns out, the LEGO-based world in which this fiction resides is organized by dimension, including places like the metropolis of Bricksburg and the Wild West, to name a couple. Continuing on, these realms are looked over by a faction of Master Builders, who have incredible artistic talents that let them combine a few different items into one massive contraption. At least, that’s what I gathered.
Since the Master Builders pose a threat to evildoer Lord Business, he’s gone to great lengths in an attempt to wipe them out, including sending throngs of robots after them. The result is a world in chaos, which must be saved by you, the player.
Though it’s occasionally cheesy and isn’t the most original thing ever created, the storyline that propels The LEGO Movie Videogame and its big brother is both charming and hilarious. The writing is quite sharp, the world is rich and Batman steals the show like he always should. Furthermore, the events of the film lend themselves relatively well to video game form. I’ll only say relatively, though, because perfection is not achieved. The same is true of greatness, to be honest, as The LEGO Movie Videogame is merely above average when all is said and done.
Coming in at eight hours (or a bit less) in length, the fifteen mission campaign feels shorter than its recent predecessors even though it offers a similar amount of missions. Perhaps it’s because there isn’t a vast open world to explore, due to the developers’ decision to stick to a select number of smaller-scale hubs, which aren’t interesting to explore. I tried to keep myself occupied within those free roam realms, but grew bored very, very quickly, which pushed me back to the missions.
What’s good — for fans of the series who can’t get enough of these all ages-friendly affairs — is that things haven’t changed much in the gameplay department. You’re put in charge of several of the film’s main characters — including blind but daring Vitruvius, every-man Emmet, agile Wyldestlye and geeky Benny — and must use their unique skills to your advantage as you navigate through block and puzzle-filled stages. Things are quite straightforward for the most part, so it’s tough to get stuck. Hints also regularly appear, even though they’re usually redundant and unnecessary, especially given the fact that visible icons appear to show you which skill is required for which object (ie. Emmet’s hammer for broken machines and Benny’s hacking skills for computer terminals).
With the above being said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that a couple of changes were introduced in order to alter the way that major builds are handled. The first is the aforementioned Master Builds, which require the player to uncover and combine at least three items (or enemies) into one thing that will help them progress. They’re joined by Instructional Builds that force you to find a certain amount of instruction pages, then make you pick the right item for each ghosted slot. It’s pretty simple stuff, really.
Going in, I hoped for a solid and thoroughly entertaining LEGO game that would provide fun from start to finish. However, like a lot of its peers, The LEGO Movie Videogame delivered a mix of both hits and misses throughout its brief run time. I laughed and had my heart strings tugged upon a couple of times, but I also found myself bored and uninterested at others. The characters themselves were endearing, but the gameplay they were a part of quickly became repetitive because it lacked unique variety.
On next-generation hardware (the Xbox One to be exact), The LEGO Movie Videogame runs well. Outside of a couple of NPC AI glitches I didn’t have any issues with the game, and found it to be pretty good-looking. The One version features vibrant colours, but is also marred by an abundance of bloom within its Wild West location. On top of that, it also displays some compressed cutscenes and utilizes slightly compressed movie clips, which mar the experience a bit. Granted, it’s a multi-platform release, which means that it wasn’t developed solely for next-gen hardware and must be judged accordingly.
The true downside of the game’s presentation is its sound, which is problematic. There is an orchestral soundtrack, but you’ll probably get annoyed by how obnoxious and overbearing it can be. Unfortunately, there were even occasions where the booming soundtrack made the on-screen characters’ lines of dialogue impossible to hear. Thankfully, though, the voice acting is quite good, and seems to feature at least some of the actors from the movie.
If you really liked The LEGO Movie and want to interact within its extremely vibrant worlds, then The LEGO Movie Videogame may be a worthwhile investment for you. However, it truly depends on how much you like this type of game, or if you have a young friend or loved one who would enjoy playing it with you. These games are better-served for children than they are for adults, which is probably why I don’t enjoy them as much as I wish I did.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. The images we’ve utilized in this review are from the Xbox 360 version, due to a lack of availability.