It’s been a long wait for LEGO™ Dimensions to reach South African shores, but it’s finally here. I wrote an overview of the game a few days ago, but I’ll summarise it briefly here. LEGO Dimensions is another entry into the toys-to-life video game genre, similar to Skylanders or Disney Infinity. However, for most of these games, the term ‘toy’ should probably be replaced with ‘figurine that will look cool on your shelf when you’re done with the game’. That’s why I was surprised when I opened my LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack and found that it contained actual LEGO bricks. LEGO Dimensions mixes several different franchises (there are currently 14, with more on the way) into one crazy LEGO adventure.
The Starter Pack contains the game and its toy pad, the LEGO bricks and instructions needed to build the portal and a Batmobile, plus minifigures of Batman, Gandalf the Grey and Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie. The fact that the game comes with real LEGO bricks and minifigures makes it extra appealing to LEGO collectors and builders, especially since the minifigures can be removed from their ‘toy tag’ bases. All you actually need for them to function in-game is the toy tag part.
The Starter Pack has everything you need to play through the main story of the game. However, there is tons of extra content, from puzzles requiring specific character powers (you can read more about which characters have which abilities here) to Adventure Worlds that can only be unlocked with characters from those worlds. This means a sizable financial investment if you want to unlock and collect everything in the game, but this is a factor with all games in the toys-to-life genre.
Blurring franchise lines
The video game part is similar to other LEGO video games, such as LEGO Avengers or LEGO Force Awakens. You play through various levels (which are quite varied in design and style thanks to the variety of franchises involved), solving puzzles, saving citizens, and collecting LEGO studs, gold bricks and other collectibles. As you might expect, the toy pad introduces some new elements.
First up, the only additional characters you unlock in LEGO Dimensions are the ones that you have purchased in a Fun Pack, Team Pack or Level Pack (for more information on the types of packs, check out this post). This is a huge departure from previous LEGO games, where you unlocked new characters by playing through the game. While it is really cool to build new characters in the real world, place them on the toy pad and see them appear in-game, I did miss unlocking characters, both heroes and villains, as I played.
[pullquote_left]The classic LEGO humour we’ve come to expect is in fine form in LEGO Dimensions.[/pullquote_left]There is a lot of interaction with the toy pad in this game, compared to something like Disney Infinity (where you simply place a figure on the pad and leave it there until you want a new character). The toy pad is an integral part of the gameplay, and as such, should be placed within easy reach of the players. There are three lit sections of the toy pad, and you’ll often need to physically interact with the toy pad to place characters or vehicles on different sections, depending on the situation. The toy pad accommodates up to 7 figures or vehicles at once, something else that is different from other games in this genre.
As you play through the story, you’ll unlock various ‘portal powers’, such as the ability to locate hidden items, grow characters larger or smaller, or teleport to otherwise inaccessible areas. These powers are used in many puzzles throughout the story, and usually require several interactions with the toy pad. One of the more complicated puzzles towards the end of the story involved 13 interactions with the toy pad. This got a little tedious as the game wore on, and we ended up having one person play using the controller, and another moving figures around on the toy pad. Kids might enjoy this frequent interaction with the LEGO toys, but it lost its charm for me quite quickly. There’s also the added inconvenience of having the toy pad’s cable stretching from your console to wherever you’re sitting, and I found the constant bright glow of the toy pad to be a little distracting.
With the removal of character unlocks through gameplay, all the story levels are designed to be completed with just Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle. While this does mean that you can complete the story without buying additional packs, it also makes a lot of the puzzles feel similar because they all utilise the same selection of character abilities. Though there was nothing wrong with the puzzles or level design, this limitation was something we started to notice later on in the game. What was also disappointing was the puzzles involving the toy pad (besides the need to constantly interact with it) didn’t feel like they fully utilised the potential combinations of the portal powers. A handful of puzzles required us to mix and match portal powers, but the vast majority simply used one portal power, or one after another with no interaction between them.
The story of LEGO Dimensions is quite a lot of fun. It begins with Robin, Frodo and Metalbeard getting sucked into portals that appear out of nowhere. Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle jump through the portals to save their friends, and end up getting whisked off on a journey that takes them to many different worlds, from Oz to Springfield to Middle-earth. Some of these look how you might expect, while others have combined to form bizarre new locations as the portals start blurring the lines between LEGO dimensions. The story will take you around 12 hours to play through, and that’s without going back to look for collectibles!
The classic LEGO humour we’ve come to expect in LEGO video games is in fine form in LEGO Dimensions. The game mixes genres and franchises in a way Disney Infinity never achieved – you can drop any character or vehicle you own onto the toy pad at any time and they’ll appear in-game. With 14 franchises already in the game, expect to encounter some of your favourite characters, from the Doctor, to Homer Simpson, to the Scooby Gang, to Doc Brown, to GLaDOS, and many, many more. Many of the original actors of these characters reprise their roles, joining the likes of Gary Oldman and Troy Baker to make up an amazing voice cast. My only wish would have been for a few more emotes from the main trio of characters. Hearing Wyldstyle say ‘When Master Builds go wrong’ whenever a boss appears became a bit much.
Beyond the story, you can also explore Adventure Worlds, which are similar to the hub areas in other LEGO games, where you’ll solve puzzles and complete tasks for other characters, as well as unlocking red bricks for those little extras. You’ll need a character from each Adventure World to unlock their respective worlds, and there doesn’t seem to be any way around that. You’ll also need various characters or vehicles with specific abilities to complete some puzzles. The game does allow you to spend in-game currency (studs) to temporarily purchase some characters in order to complete a given puzzle, so you don’t necessarily need access to every single character ability. You can also upgrade the vehicles that come in the packs. Each one has three forms, each with improved or different abilities.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. The crazy interactions between different worlds was highly entertaining, as each story level tended to have a specific theme. I particularly enjoyed levels based on franchises I already like, so the Doctor Who and Portal levels were a blast, while I found some of the levels based on franchises I didn’t know or like less fun. The physical toys are great too, though I’m a big LEGO fan and a minifig collector, so I’m certainly biased!
So, is it worth the potentially huge financial investment? That depends on you. For me, as a fan of both physical LEGO and LEGO video games, LEGO Dimensions is the perfect combo, and I’m looking forward to all the new content that will be released in the future.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack for review purposes, however, my opinions are my own and are based on my experience playing the game.