LEGO Dimensions could have easily slapped some toys into the base model that developer TT Games uses for every licensed tie-in to properties from Batman to the eventual reboot of Indiana Jones starring a smirking Shia LaBeouf in a few years time. A few toys here, a fancy portal there and a tried and tested gameplay formula would have easily sealed the deal on a brand new license to print money.
And in many ways LEGO Dimensions is that game. It’s familiar to anyone who has ever taken one of those titles for a spin, but it’s fortunately also aware of this reputation, leveraging its strengths to create something that makes it more than just another grab at the toys to life market that recently claimed the life of Disney Infinity.
I mean, you can still expect to pay plenty for the game and its various add-on packs. But sweet Gandalf, is it fun.
It’s also got a nifty setup: There’s a big baddie on the loose by the name of Lord Vortech, and he has designs on controlling all of time and space as the grand cheese of everything. Just your standard Tuesday in super-villainy then. That’s where you come in, and by you I mean a trinity of LEGO heroes: Batman, Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie and pass-master Gandalf the Grey from Lord of the Rings.
Evil’s afoot and it’s up to you to stop it, by going face-first into numerous portals and battling Lord Vortech’s draft picks of evil along the way across multiple dimensions. And for the most part, it’s the LEGO game that you’ve been expecting. Smash bricks, collect studs and build your way out of a tight spot. Something we’ve seen in every game so far.
LEGO Dimensions tightens the focus on the puzzles this time however, with the ace up its sleeve being its actual core philosophy in front of you: Building. That portal that you just spent the better part of an hour assembling? That’s a part of the game itself, in more than just a visual nod. Say what you like about LEGO games being repetitive, but they’re absolute masters of puzzle gameplay.
The LEGO Dimensions portal set adds to this gameplay, a tool for various puzzles as you’ll manoeuvre your three core characters around it to get past gates and bosses. It’s actually brilliant stuff, and when combined with the setup of meeting characters such as the Doctor and battling the Joker in the hometown of The Simpsons’ Springfield, adds some proper value to a formula that you’ve experienced before.
There’s also that typical attention to fan service that Traveller’s Tales brings to any LEGO project that they work on, weaving magic into a love for the source material around them and littering their levels with references. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, seeing “Bad Wolf” scribbled on a Cyberman level is just magical and a small sign of the love present here for the inspiration behind these demos.
LEGO Dimensions also has the added bonus of being a franchise that everyone loves. If you don’t dig LEGO, then you’re either dead or the owner of Mega-Bloks. But despite being smaller, the toys to life genre fits in perfectly with LEGO. While Disney Infinity and Skylanders might have bigger and better-looking action figures, they’re also pretty much inaction figures unlike what you get with LEGO.
Players are encouraged to explore, build and tinker with what they get in the box: Three figures, a portal and a batmobile. That’s all that you need to complete LEGO Dimensions, although there’ll be sly reminders and impassable sections that require you to expand your blocky arsenal. Expansions that will run you a few extra real-life studs beyond the game in the form of fun packs, team packs and level packs. And there’s a lot of it.
But seeing as how collecting LEGO is seen to be a better investment than an actual retirement fund these days, it might not be so bad. It is disconcerting if you’ve come from various other LEGO games played over the past, which allowed fans to gather together a small army to overcome certain obstacles. Now, these obstacles are essentially stuck behind on a paywall.
To be fair however, LEGO Dimensions isn’t exactly light on content. The campaign itself takes quite a few hours to marathon through, you’ve got large hub cities to explore based on Lord of the Rings, The LEGO Movie and DC Comics, riiiiiiiiight next to those worlds which are happy to remind you that you need to buy a fun pack to access them and holy crap I need that Ghostbusters content.
Where LEGO Dimensions succeeds, is that it manages to marry all the various parts of its appeal into one cohesive product. The figures look great, building LEGO will never go out of style and using puzzles in and outside of the game based on the attributes of a core cast of characters feels even fresher than the soft reboot found in this year’s tie-in to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It’s something that neither Disney Infinity or Skylanders have been able to ever fully grasp, to such a degree at least as they both relied heavily on a particular strength while another element suffered. It’ll undoubtedly appeal to the little ones in the family, but I’ve had a blast this weekend working my way through LEGO Dimensions.
It’s massive, it’s fun and I can slap Batman into a Batmobile that has add-on parts from that twenty-year yellowing jug of blocks that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. On its own as a base game that you put together from the starter set, it’s fantastic. But it won’t be long before you find yourself wanting more of what LEGO Dimensions has to offer through those pricy extensions.
Last Updated: September 5, 2016