Remember how much fun Lego was as a kid? Now you can relive that fun while playing a video game. Just don’t do it while your wife is around, otherwise she’ll look at you wish a puzzled grin as you assemble pieces in both the real and virtual world.
Back when many of us were kids, video games weren’t nearly as common as they are now. Systems were expensive, and the games on them, while fun, weren’t nearly as immersive or long. In fact, this reviewer has been playing games longer than he should probably admit, and while there have been quite a few long games out there — Apogee’s Secret Agent, anyone? Or anything made by LucasArts? — they weren’t nearly as accessible.
Basically, the rules have changed, and we have it easy these days, kids especially so.
There are multiple ways to play games these days, and companies are making them better than before, no longer just investing heaps on improving the graphics, but going so far as to make them have more immersive stories, known voice actors, and unusual game mechanics that make them more interesting, not to mention extra content that the game doesn’t come with initially but can be added to the title later on, because, you know, it’ll be a longer title because of it.
Lego Dimensions epitomises those game changing efforts.
Back when we were kids, there was more to do than just play games. There was no internet, no social media, and chances are if you were connecting to anything like the internet, it was a bulletin board system where you could talk to others by text, and play games built using the same concept, possibly one built by Seth Robinson.
You had other physical toys to play with, and these took up most of your time. If you were into action, you had action figures. If you lived for solving things, there were puzzles. And if you were driven to build and engage that imagination of yours, there was Lego.
We’re not going to talk up the awesomeness that is Lego; we could write pages of why building stuff out of blocks is awesome, and every child has probably experienced this at least once. If you haven’t, go out and buy some and see why bringing to life an imagination through blocks is awesome. Hey, there’s even Lego for adults, with the advanced Lego Technics for building mechanical objects, the robotic Lego Mindstorms stuff with programmable systems, and classy Lego made to resemble famous architectural icons.
So we’re not here to talk about the excellence of Lego. What we are here to talk about, however, is what happens when a video game doesn’t just take the idea of Lego and digitises it, but rather finds a way for physical toy to coexist with the digital interpretation.
For that, we have Lego Dimensions, a game that sits in the “toys to life” category of the market whereby you end up buying physical figurines that let you play digital characters inside the game. Think of this as the new way for parents to spend money on their kids, or even for parents to spend on themselves.
But rather than just employ a figurine that can load up a character — which is how all of the other “toys to life” titles work — Warner Bros and TT Games have brought together the fun and the frustration that is building a Lego item together with the digital experience.
We need to say that at this point, Lego video games aren’t new. They first popped up in 1998, but the ones that have actually made a dent for the company have been based on popular franchises, starting with Lego Harry Potter back in 2001. These editions of Lego games have always been quirky, playful, and usually quite funny, and have gone across several universes, including Star Wars, Batman, Jurassic Park, and Lord of the Rings, and are probably one of the main reasons we saw “The Lego Movie” last year.
Developer TT Games has been responsible for most (if not all) of the popular Lego video games, and in Lego Dimensions, the company is trying to bring together all of its Lego digital worlds plus a few new ones to meet at a precipice where digital and physical connect.
You’ll find that very quickly, actually, because the first thing you realise when you pick up the Lego Dimensions box is just how big it is: seriously, it’s a bigger box than you’ve come to expect from the basic open-close DVD case boxes video games have been coming with for years, and inside this box is a special gamepad that reads NFC tags in controllers, the video game, a poster, and a bunch of Lego.
Yes, you get real Lego inside Lego Dimensions, and you even get an instruction manual, but you don’t have to worry so much about that in the beginning, just pop the game in and start there.
Once you’ve gone through the intro and discovered that Gary Oldman has been turned into some evil Lego villain hell bent on taking over the universe, it’s time to actually get to work and build your Lego for your character and vehicle gamepad, the very thing controlling the portal connecting you to Lego’s various dimensions where you’ll be travelling to stop that villain in his quest.
When you first get the gamepad out of the box, you’ll see the Lego placement bricks and assume you need to build on it, and once you get up to the section of the game (in the intro) that asks for it, you can either follow a paper manual found in the box, or one on the screen.
Here starts the physical Lego building fun, and truth be told, there’s a good hour of Lego building here, what with the emptying of Lego packets on the table, finding the right pieces, and then building the thing, which is actually a physical interpretation of the portal Lego Dimensions uses in-game to send you to destinations.
We do need to note that you don’t actually have to build it if you don’t want to, and you could easily play the game without so much as a portal on your game pad, but it’s fun, and is part and parcel of the Lego experience.