Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Format: PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360
Released: September 27, 2015
Copy supplied by publisher
The so-called “Toys to Life” genre has become an increasingly significant (and lucrative) subset of the video game market, with franchises such as Activision’s Skylanders and Disney Infinity marrying the collectible nature of toys with video games in increasingly novel ways. Lego, one of the most popular toy brands in the world, has had tremendous success in the gaming sphere over the last decade, so bridging the company’s physical products with their virtual ones is a no-brainer. Lego Dimensions represents the first foray into the Toys to Life market by series developer Traveller’s Tales (TT Games) and publisher Warner Bros., who have pulled out all the stops by offering players a dizzying array of characters to collect and virtual worlds to explore. As easy as it is to be cynical about the economics behind having to buy additional products to unlock more content, Lego Dimensions is nonetheless a successful first attempt and comes complete with the Lego gaming fundamentals we’ve come to expect.
Right off the bat, it’s good to know what you’re getting into from a financial standpoint with Lego Dimensions. The Starter Pack retails for $99.99 ($109.99 CAD), which comes with the game; a portal platform (used for transferring Lego characters and vehicles into the game); three minifigures — Batman, Gandalf, and Wildstyle; and a miniature Batmobile that can be transformed into three different variations. It should be noted upfront that you will get a very deep experience if you just opt for the starter kit, as the entire story mode and three of the game’s free-roaming Adventure Worlds (one for each included character — DC Comics, The Lord of The Rings, and The Lego Movie Worlds, respectively) are packed in with the base game. Additional characters and accessories are used to unlock hidden areas, new levels, and more Adventure Worlds, but they come with a hefty price tag.
The list of add-ons is much too staggering to go in-depth with here (have a look at this handy guide to figure out how to best navigate it all), but they boil down to three options: Level Packs, Fun Packs, and Team Packs. Level Packs are arguably the best route if you want to get the most bang for your buck. They cost $29.99 and contain one character, two accessories, and access to a game level and Adventure World specific to that franchise. The other two options are Fun Packs ($14.99) and Team Packs ($24.99), which basically just give you more characters and accessories to round out your collection. The best recommendation for not breaking the bank too badly is to just pick the characters and franchises you enjoy and go from there.
Upon booting the game up for the first time, you will be prompted to start assembling the portal platform with a set of onscreen instructions. While you can just as easily assemble the platform before the game even begins thanks to a set of physical instructions, having a game pause and ask you to build something is definitely a feeling that is unique to Lego Dimensions and starts the game off on the right foot. Once the pieces are built though, they don’t just sit on the game portal collecting dust. The physical Lego pieces aren’t just for show; they are actually used to interact with the game in a number of interesting ways. It would be a disservice to spoil the new gameplay mechanics that the portal introduces but just know that although Lego Dimensions plays very similarly to previous Lego games, there are some new wrinkles that inject some much-needed variety into the proceedings.
As the title suggests, Lego Dimensions brings together a number of different franchises and runs wild. Scenarios such as Sauron invading Metropolis or The Joker suddenly appearing in Springfield may sound completely ridiculous but in practice, the game gets a lot of mileage out of pairing seemingly disparate characters and franchises together and seeing what happens. The actual structure of the story mode is nearly identical to other Lego games, but the level-to-level grind is alleviated considerably by the desire to see what crazy new mash-ups TT Games have dreamed up. The story itself is really just a flimsy excuse to tie all these properties together, but it’s enhanced by some clever writing and stellar voice work. Seriously, the amount of talent the developers were able to rope into this game is staggering. Most characters are voiced by the actors most associated with them, which means you have the likes of Michael J. Fox playing Marty McFly and Elizabeth Banks reprising her role of Wildstyle from The Lego Movie. Even the game’s main villain, a wholly new character called Lord Vortech, is voiced by none other than Gary Oldman! The sheer level of fan service on display in Lego Dimensions is something that few other games can top.
While Lego Dimensions is an enjoyable game made better by its liberal use of multiple beloved pop culture franchises, it still falls into the same traps that the Lego series has had for years now. Solving puzzles and punching every object in the environment to collect Lego studs is still an addictive experience, but other than the integration of physical Lego pieces this time out, this is pretty much the same Lego gaming experience TT Games have been cranking out for a decade now. The gameplay loop is still solid and Lego Dimensions introduces enough new ideas to keep things from growing too stale, but it’s not going to bring you back into the fold if you’ve long ago grown tired of this style of game. However, the biggest knock against Lego Dimensions has to be leveled against its pricing structure. There’s really no way around it; this is an expensive experience, especially if you want to start adding to the base game. Warner Bros. and TT Games should be commended for recently adding the “Hire a Hero” function so that certain sections no longer require you to purchase characters you don’t want, but if you want to experience all that Lego Dimensions has to offer, you better start saving up.
The most pleasant surprise about Lego Dimensions is that long after the monotony of the overly-familiar gameplay starts kicking in, you’ll still want to keep coming back just to admire the game’s stellar production work and attention to detail. TT Games have created a strong first foray into the Toys to Life market that offers real competition to Disney Infinity and Skylanders. The appeal of Lego Dimensions really relies on your own preference for Lego and whether or not you’re already invested in one of its competitors’ products. If you’re able to handle the upfront cost though, you’ll discover one of the best Lego games that TT Games has made to date, as well as one of the most exciting and intriguing Lego products to come along in years. Personally, I can’t wait to see what they dream up for next year’s inevitable sequel.
- Humorous writing and great use of various licenses
- You get to build actual Lego!
- Using the portal and physical toys to interact with the game
- Can get expensive very quickly
- It’s still a Lego game, for better or worse
- Lack of Marvel and Star Wars characters hurts appeal just a bit
Despite a few issues, 'Lego Dimensions' is the best use of the Toys to Life concept to hit the market and should appeal to gaming and Lego fans alike.