You’ll also need to build yourself some players to play with, and three of these arrive in the box: Batman, Gandalf, and The Lego Movie’s Wyldstyle. Each of these sits on a special blue token of their own, and the reason these are so special is that they are encoded with information to tell the game which character to load up when they’re sitting on the board.
Want to play with Gandalf? You have to move him to the board.
Wish to be Batman? Stick him on the board.
Keen to play as Homer Simpson? Buy an extra character and level pack, assemble him, and stick the donut-eating father of three on the board.
Lego Dimensions connects your physical minifigure characters to the game by way of this board, and with space for up to seven spots, you can have up to seven characters, though you’ll probably moreso be mixing it up with vehicles, because these can be built and put on the board, too.
Shortly into the introduction, you’ll find you’re asked to build yet another Lego toy, but this one takes much less time: the Batmobile.
Again, you don’t need to, and could probably put the token on the board without making the attempt, but that inclusion of the fun and frustration of building Lego is here, so playing without building feels like you’re only getting half of the experience, and playing with plastic discs instead of Lego. You want to go play with plastic discs, open up a box of Checkers. Seriously, you’re playing with Lego, and in the Lego world, you’re going to have to build stuff.
With the Batmobile built, you can get through the introduction and make your way to the first world: The Wizard of Oz.
It seems that The Wicked Witch is keen to steal the very items you need, and so it’s time to show her who’s boss, driving through the yellow bricked world and showing her a thing or two.
Gameplay in Dimensions is built upon team play, but you don’t need a secondary player to make your way through. Rather, you’ll find you can jump from player to player with the push of a button, with each character coming with their own special sets of traits. Batman has his Batarang to throw at far off enemies and can tether himself to objects and pull them down, while Wyldstyle can do large jumps and scan for secret entrances.
And Gandalf? He’s a magical wizard, so he can throw objects together using the power of his mind (and probably that stick he carries around).
So getting through the game as a single player isn’t terribly difficult, and the good news is that because this is a Lego game, there is no such thing as losing or dying.
As such, Lego games have always been great for kids because it doesn’t matter how often your character blinks out of existence, he or she will just return momentarily to keep fighting. Death doesn’t exist in Lego; you just break into pieces and start again.
That means fighting enemies isn’t difficult, and even if the kids are button mashing to the point where you fear they’ll break the controller, they’ll still have fun, getting lost in the anarchy happening on screen.
Two players can jump between the characters, too, and Lego Dimensions supports a maximum of two characters, with the cooperative play happening here, but you don’t have to have a friend around. We played by ourselves and it worked out just as well.
Playing Lego Dimensions will see you jumping through worlds like The Wizard of Oz, The Simpsons, Back to the Future, Portal, Doctor Who, and a whole bunch of other franchises Lego hasn’t tapped before, all trying to find ways of stopping that villain from taking over the Lego Universe.
Because these franchises are common, you’ll encounter familiar characters voiced by many of the original actors though with Lego actors.
And as you do, you might even have to arrange your Lego characters on a pad in a different way.
That’s sort of where Lego Dimensions gets a little complicated, because while it turns into a basic puzzle, it’s the sort that doesn’t give away much, asking you to guess and match your on-board players to various parts of the game world. Adults will probably be fine with this, though there were points we even felt a little frustration, almost as much as building the Lego bits and wondering why we had left over pieces (did we miss something?).
Fortunately, these bits aren’t long, and you can get back into basic button mashing, kicking the crap out of the enemy and trying to score as many Lego coins as you can in game to unlock other characters and parts of the game.
Worth noting, however, is that you kind of need to buy more Lego if you want to play as these characters.
And it’s specific Lego, by the way, with Lego Dimensions packs bringing new characters — Doctor Who, Homer Simpson, Marty McFly, Chell from Portal — as well as new vehicles for you to play with.
These cost real money and can be found in a real store, and while that’s not surprising, because other “toys to life” games like Disney Infinity and Skylanders do this, Lego’s Dimensions add-ons still require you to build things, just like the rest of the game, which means an add-on toy isn’t just a way of introducing a new character to the game (though it’s certainly that, too), but rather a potentially fun experience of building some Lego while you’re at it.
And you get a Lego minifig that Lego has never made before, which is quite cool, too.
It does need to be said that the bulk of the Dimensions game — which has quite a few hours of gameplay in it — is kind of like a demo for the rest of the add-on packs Lego is selling.
Essentially, you’re playing one long mission of each world that Dimensions sells a pack for, and while there’s a sandbox mode where you can unlock more things and find lots of secrets, you kind of need extra characters to do many of these things, such as using a Ghostbusters character to get rid of ghosts in The Wizard of Oz. It doesn’t make sense, but it does make the game more interesting, even if it means you’re probably going to spend a good $40 on a new pack every month because your child (or even your inner child) demands it.
Despite this, you don’t need to invest, you’ll just want to, and anyone can play the entirety of the game without spending on an extra level or character pack (you just get more out of the game if you do).
And regardless of if you spend, you still get a fun family oriented game that will expose you to numerous franchises that’ll have you reaching for the Blu-ray shelf (and possible the game shelf) to share with anyone who is sitting nearby to ask “who is that?”
Simply put, there is a load of fun to have in Lego Dimensions, but it seems especially made for people who play together, whether it’s family around the console or two consenting adults wanting to relive what it was like to be kids again.