TT Games has been playing with Legos since 2005 so it's about time they entered the interactive toy market. Following the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinity, do they have what it takes to empty your bank account too?
Mostly, Lego Dimensions plays much the same as any other Lego game in the TT Games series. You run around large 3D environments where you smash up Lego pieces and build others in order to access new areas or achieve objectives. The story is quite simple at its core: the evil villain Lord Vortech has opened dimensional rifts in the homes of many beloved Lego characters, causing chaos in their worlds. Homer Simpson is seen on a wrecking ball in a Portal 2 level while Gandalf drives around Middle Earth in a modified Batmobile. Vortech's ultimate goal is to create one universe under his control where all Lego is united and it's up to you to stop the chaos (though personally I was having so much fun with the combined worlds that I didn't really want to). If you haven't been eyeing the new Lego sets that are popping up in stores, here's a complete list of the series that are represented: The Wizard of Oz, The Simpsons, DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Portal 2, Ghostbusters, The Lego Movie, Lego Ninjago, Midway Arcade, Scooby-Doo, Lego Chima and finally Jurassic World. Playing in these worlds by yourself is fun, but being able to play cooperatively with a friend is a great inclusion that can be a real hoot.
The one core piece of gameplay that sets this game apart from other interactive toy experiences is its use of the portal. Lego Dimensions comes with all of the Lego pieces and instructions to build the portal, along with three characters (Gandalf, Batman and Wyldstyle) and Batman's Batmobile. The portal is unique from other similar games in that it has 3 separate compartments. These compartments are used in an interesting way in the game. You'll come across devices in-game that allow you to use the portal in the following ways: moving the toys around to solve puzzles by mixing primary colours; placing toys on coloured sections to warp them to corresponding areas in the game; playing Marco Polo as the portal lights up green or red while you look for hidden rifts; equipping various elemental abilities depending on where you place your toy; and finally resizing your character as you move it between portal sections. This genius concept fully integrates the portal into the game. I found myself having to move my characters and Batmobile quite often while playing.
Each level looks like TT games took the worlds from their Lego game catalog, shook them up and put them back together again, ignoring the build instructions that came with each set. Lego Dimensions has the same level of detail that we've come to expect from the franchise in regards to the Lego builds. The backdrops showcase the franchises well with plenty of detail in their design while animations are as fluid as I would expect, mimicking the real life action of smashing up Lego pieces. I especially enjoyed how Wyldstyle's movement was unique from the other characters, staying true to the stop-motion style of The Lego Movie. Breaking out of the Lego universe, one part of the game even had the main characters in the home of Community's Joel McHale as he chatted to them about their quest to stop Lord Vortech. Meta moments like these are always good for a laugh.
Lego Dimensions' levels feature music from their appropriate franchises. As you walk through the different areas in the overworlds you'll hear the music slowly change to suit that given area. For example, as I walked between The Shire and Rivendell the music subtly changed from the upbeat Hobbit soundtrack to a subdued elven orchestral piece. Other than the themed music, it remains quite cinematic and matches the frenzied action that takes place in almost every level. Speaking of action, sometimes I found there was too much of it happening at once. My eyes started straining as I realised I couldn't blink if I wanted to keep up with what was going on. I feel like these parts of the story could have been paced better. Getting back to the audio, the voice cast is as solid as it gets. The developers clearly wanted to stay as true to the represented franchises as much as possible, as all of the voice actors provided authentic performances.
The story mode took me about 12 hours to complete, which is pretty standard for a Lego game (if not on the longer side). In total, there are 14 levels and an optional mystery dimension. Each level is quite long to play, rounding around 45 minutes on average if you're smashing everything that you come across like me. On top of the story levels are additional levels that can be unlocked by purchasing the appropriate Level Pack as part of a physical Lego kit that comes with the level and extra characters. Having said that, don't expect to be able to get to 100% completion on any of the levels (including the main story) without purchasing some additional toys. There are many parts of the levels that can't be completed without certain abilities that are exclusive to characters from specific dimensions. These areas aren't big pieces to miss since you can still easily enjoy the game and feel a sense of accomplishment without them.
Seeing as the story levels are a mixture of bits and pieces of different universes, it's neat to explore 11 entire worlds that represent each individual universe. These worlds are quite large and contain many objectives including races, assisting characters, re-building broken areas, and collecting red and gold bricks. If you purchase a character from any of these worlds, you unlock their world to play in game. Doing so helps justify the price tag for purchasing the smaller Lego character sets (the ones that aren't Level Packs). It's not a new level with story, but it has about the same content as one. I also enjoyed breaking and rebuilding my Batmobile into 2 different designs using the instructions that I unlocked in game. Other character sets come with extra instructions to rebuild their toys, too.
Overall I had a great time playing Lego Dimensions, though there are a couple of gripes. The fact that I can't complete the game without spending hundreds of dollars on additional toys does bug me. However, you could say that's what I signed up for when I invested in the base game. I have played almost all of the other Lego games to completion and enjoyed using my brain a little (yes, only a little) to figure out how to unlock all of the characters and abilities. The fact that buying toys is required has made me put the game down until I eventually own characters that have each ability. Then, I could actually finish the game to completion when I next pick it up instead of picking away at it bit by bit and trying to remember which bricks I already found and which areas I already investigated. One other small problem I had was trying to control the Batmobile. The only control is the analog stick and that includes going forward and backward. Too often I found my character driving the car backwards and I had to spin it around a few times to get it to recalibrate until it made sense to me. I don't remember struggling this much in other Lego games, but it bothered me to the point where I avoided using the Batmobile sometimes. Using the triggers to move forward or backward would have been a more intuitive choice.
- + A variety of different classic franchises come together in Lego form
- + Unique use of the physical portal
- + Loads of content (if you pay for it)
- - You have to purchase a lot of toys to enjoy everything the game has to offer
- - Vehicles can be difficult to control
- - Pacing can get too relentless