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I think at this point every human being on the planet has heard of or played with Lego’s and if you haven’t well then I feel sorry for you. I can remember visiting my grandma as a toddler and she would pull out Lego’s for me to keep me occupied otherwise I would be running and screaming around the house. I still do that to this day and now I can detect when someone is trying to distract me but fortunately for them, I enjoy playing with Lego’s. I never really built anything memorable and I was better at losing pieces than I was at building but the creative freedom and fun that Lego’s offer is truly unmatched, at least in the toy market. Lego video games have been on a roll over the past several years with multiple successful titles including Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars, and even Lego City for the Wii U which is actually the first Lego game I ever played. Sadly, from what I understand about these Lego games, including Lego dimensions, is that they do not really offer the same type of creative freedom you would get from actual Lego’s. That’s being left to the Lego Worlds video game which is supposed to be a competitor to Minecraft. But that’s a topic for another discussion. Developed by TT Games, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Lego Dimensions was released in September, 2015. Like Skylanders and the several Nintendo games released over the past several years, Lego Dimensions uses the “toys come to life” model which means the developers are making a shit-ton of money because this game is immensely popular. So the question becomes is it actually a good game or just a cash cow?
First, I want to talk about how the “toys coming to life” model works in this game because it plays a major element in the gameplay and is both the game’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness. When you buy the starter pack you not only get the game but you also get the Toy Pad, Lego bricks, instructions on how to build the Gateway, the three main characters, and one vehicle. The three characters include Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle, and the vehicle is the Batmobile. As of right now you can buy the starter pack for PS4 which comes with Supergirl and is currently the only way to obtain her. Green Arrow is another special character that was only available for a limited time last year. You can build the Gateway on top of the Toy Pad and the Lego characters are to be placed on their respective stands or what the game calls “Toy Tags”. You don’t actually need to physically build anything for the characters, vehicles, and gadgets to show up in-game, you just need to place the Toy Tags on the Toy Pad. You can place a max of seven Toy Tags on the Pad and once placed they will appear in-game for you to play or interact with. All vehicle Toy Tags are blank until you save them to the Tag in-game.
Here’s how the game works. You’ve got your typical story mode where you play through a series of levels. But each character has their own world you can visit and explore. Every character is associated with a world but some have their own level and story packs as well. Each character has a unique ability that can be utilized to solve puzzles. The three main characters that come with the game are all that’s needed to beat the story mode and each character active in-game will enable you to visit their respective world. If you haven’t realized it already well then here’s the catch. Without buying more characters you’re going to seriously be missing out on a huge chunk of the game. Lego Dimensions is updated whenever a new character or pack is released and you can easily invest hundreds of dollars into the game. It really boils down to one question – how much do you enjoy Lego’s?
You may be wondering what I mean when I say “packs”. Well the physical content for Lego Dimensions includes characters, vehicles, and gadgets and they are all released in packs. Story packs, level packs, team packs, and fun packs and the only common thing about the packs is that they come with a character and vehicle or gadget which I’ll call “items”. If it’s a character you don’t own and represents a new franchise for your game, it will enable you to play through a new world. Story packs include one or multiple characters and items and enable you to play through six new levels associated with the character’s represented franchise. Level packs come with a character and two items and enable you to play through one new level. Team Packs and Fun Packs are very similar. Team Packs include two characters and two items and Fun Packs contain only one of each. Since launch, all of the packs are released in waves and new packs are planned for this year.
Now I tolerate Amiibos because I love Nintendo and I never played Skylanders but Lego Dimensions takes this “toys coming to life” model to all new levels. And it’s not like it’s just simple DLC you can download nor can you unlock these characters in-game just by playing. No, you cannot play a majority of what Lego Dimensions offers without placing these Toy Tags on the Toy Pad so you’re pretty much forced into buying new packs to get the most out of the gameplay. And if you’re a fan of the Lego video games, this either sucks but is still cool because you love Lego’s or it just sucks in general. If you’re a fan of Lego’s, it is pretty cool to own all of these characters and items since they all represent something famous like movies, television shows, and video games. These are actual Lego minifigures and are compatible with regular Lego sets so you if you’re a Lego collector in general you may want to buy these just to have them in your collection whether you own the game or not. But needless to say, when talking about all of this as it relates to the video game, I’m going to tell you right now I cannot recommend Lego Dimensions unless you love Lego’s or have money because without buying additional packs, the game will just feel shallow in the end.
I have no intention on collecting every pack for this game and for two good reasons. I don’t care for some of the franchises and I don’t see myself playing Lego Dimensions religiously. For instance, Harry Potter, The A-Team, and Ninjago are not franchises I really care for so the chances of me even completing this game in its entirety are slim to none. Not that I really want to. Luckily, I bought a few packs that include characters from franchises I do love and because Jeremy has more packs than I do, I was able to use some of his characters and items and we even teamed up for some local split-screen co-op. I should mention that there are multiplayer battle arenas for local multiplayer with up to four players but we did not try these.
The entire story mode in Lego Dimensions is not really that great. Some asshole named Lord Vortech arrives on the planet Foundation Prime. He seeks twelve Foundation Elements so he can merge all universes into one and rule it because he’s a dick. The Foundation Elements are scattered throughout different universes and every universe represents a popular media franchise including The Wizard of Oz, Ghostbusters, The Simpsons, Back to the Future, and Dr. Who, among others. Lord Vortech opens vortexes to different worlds to recruit villains from all of these different franchises. Robin, Frodo, and Metalbeard are all pulled into the vortexes because they unknowingly possess one of the Elements. This leads Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle to team up on a quest to save their friends and the universe. I have no problem with the story itself. It’s silly, it’s somewhat humorous, and never takes itself too seriously. But my problem with this mode, and the game in general, is that every fucking thing you do is a puzzle. You just solve puzzles and build pre-defined things to progress. I am not a fan of puzzles and if all Lego games are like this, I guess I can say I’m not a huge fan of the Lego video games in general. Luckily, the puzzles aren’t too hard to figure out but the entire story mode just becomes tedious very early on. Another issue is that it’s not always clear what you need to do, even if you smack a help block for a hint.
The voice acting is really all over the place and it’s not because of the voice actors. You’ve actually got a great cast here that do a great job including Gary Oldman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and even Troy Baker. However, much of the dialogue is not re-recorded and instead is just ripped straight from the source material. Ghostbusters is a big offender as every single line is seemingly ripped straight from the first movie. It’s cool that the developers were allowed to incorporate all of these different franchises but a lot of it is lazily implemented. Now I love The Simpsons but the world and level pack are just terrible. Homer is a character and is fully voiced, yes by Dan Castellaneta, and of course during his level pack you’ll encounter the entire Simpsons family but none of them will utter a single word. The worst part is that Bart is also a playable character and he has absolutely no lines. He’s just a mute character. It’s like the developers couldn’t get the rights or something and it’s seriously disappointing when you see shit like this.
If you enjoy puzzles, then you may really enjoy the gameplay here. I really wasn’t a fan of the story but exploring all of the worlds and extra levels made my purchase of this game feel somewhat satisfactory. Throughout the environments are studs that can be collected to purchase things. Gold Bricks are awarded for completing levels and you can also find them in the different worlds and are also a form of currency. Red Bricks can be collected in each world to unlock various special bonuses including visual modifiers and things to aid you like a stud multiplier and drawing more studs towards your character, among others. Some levels include characters that can be rescued like Lois Lane or the Ghostbusters for example. Minikits are another form of collectibles and obtaining a full set of Minikits will unlock a statue in that area. So, yeah, I guess you can say Lego Dimensions is a collectathon.
Whether it’s vehicles or gadgets, items can be upgraded using studs and and they can also be transformed into something different at the cost of studs and gold bricks. Some puzzles require a more powerful or transformed item to complete. All of the physical Lego’s that are used to build the item can be used to build its transformation upgrade and each time you place a new item on the Toy Pad or want to transform an item, you’re always provided with the building instructions in-game. When you come across puzzles that require a specific character you don’t have to progress, you can hire a required character for a limited amount of time using studs to solve the puzzle. This is one of those things that really makes you realize how much content is locked behind physical purchases just because it happens so often.
Unfortunately, the combat Lego Dimensions is super simplistic and just blows as a result. You can punch, kick, and perform other moves with some being unique to the characters, but most enemies besides bosses can be killed in only one or two hits. There’s many sequences where you need to fight off waves of enemies but they’re never challenging. If your character dies you lose some studs but that’s the only real penalty and your character will just respawn immediately. You have to fight a boss at the end of each level but the every boss battle is more puzzle solving than it is combat. All of the puzzles in this game are easy to figure out once you understand where to even begin. Because this game is terrible at even the slightest form of guidance, solving the puzzles can sometimes feel like a chore but once things get going there’s a good chance you won’t get stuck. Almost every single puzzle involves these things called Keystones that need to be activated. Once activated the puzzles involve you interacting with your character on the Toy Pad. For instance some puzzles require each section of the Toy Pad be a specific color. So you would need to change your character’s color in-game and place them on the appropriate part of the Toy Pad to change that section’s color. Another Keystone makes one section of the Toy Pad shrink your characters and the other side enlarge them for puzzles that require characters be different sizes. The puzzles are creative I guess but since all of the levels are just one puzzle after another, it makes the story just drag on. If you like puzzles then you may really get a lot out of Lego Dimensions, although they never get too challenging and it’s obvious that the gameplay appeals to all ages which really isn’t a bad thing. But if you think you’re brain will be fried by the end of the story, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s a casual game at heart and the enjoyment comes from the fact that your Lego’s are “alive” and from exploring all of the different locations.
Every world is a condensed version of their actual counterpart from the source material. All of the worlds are open so you can go anywhere and do anything you want. You can build things, destroy objects, kill enemies, and just enjoy the fact that you’re playing in a Lego version of a franchise you love. Despite the fact that Lego Dimensions is a borderline pay to play game, there is an impressive amount of content to be found and I do appreciate the fact the developers are constantly updating it. Not every world may be as big or as well represented as you might hope, and even though some implementations of content are just lazy, if you don’t mind obtaining all of these packs, you’re going to have plenty to do which I can’t say about most other games nowadays. I only played through a few additional story and level packs and sadly, they vary in quality. As I said earlier, The Simpsons content is extremely disappointing. The Sonic level pack is pretty bad, too. Navigating through it is just tedious with simple puzzles that feel more like hindrances than anything else. The Ghostbusters story involves you playing through some events from the first movie and much of the dialogue is just out of place to make up for missing scenes or to create funny moments in-game. The best thing about the Midway level pack is that you can play through classic arcade games including Robotron 2084, Defender, and even Rampage.
I can honestly say that Lego Dimensions looks and sounds pretty good on the PS4. The worlds are visually well represented, the texture work is pretty good, the depth of field effects look great, and even the music is of a cinematic quality that fits the game well. The sound effects do a great job at simulating what Lego’s would sound like, especially when characters or structures break. What’s not good is that the game is very broken. There are way too many instances where something didn’t activate when it should have and because the main focus is solving puzzles and because the game sucks at telling you what to do, if it’s your first time playing, you’ll have no clue if you’re stuck or if the game is having a problem. There’s other annoying shit like characters spawning inside of structures or help blocks not letting you hire characters when they’re supposed to. The game crashed twice for me and the frame rate will dip often enough to notice, some areas are worse than others and it makes exploring some worlds just annoying. One of the bigger annoyances is the constant swapping of characters. Ideally, you’ll want to have all of your characters, items, and the Toy Pad very close by because you’ll have to constantly move characters around or you’ll want to swap out characters and after an hour or so of doing this, I got really tired of it.
So to answer the ultimate question – is Lego Dimensions a good game or is it a cash cow? Well, it’s both. As a person who longs for the days of simply putting my disk or cartridge into the system and just playing a game for a good time, I honestly find it hard to recommend Lego Dimensions. Even though it’s broken, I can say that there’s still enjoyment to be had here. It’s certainly not a bad game, it has its share of problems, but the gameplay can be fun if you don’t take it too seriously. I, myself, don’t like solving puzzles but for those that do, or even if you just like the Lego games in general, you may be pleased with this. But because of the fact that a majority of the content is locked behind purchased physical content, it’s basically a pay to play game. The only upside to this is that unlike microtransactions, you’re actually buying things that you will physically own. And that, of course, all depends on how much you love Lego’s. If you don’t include the greedy “toys coming to life” model, the ultimate goal of Lego Dimensions is to fuse a person’s love for Lego’s with some of their favorite things from pop culture. The problem is that it doesn’t always do it well.