With Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment making their own blockbuster-laden stride into the toys-to-life market, LEGO Dimensions presents a gameplay experience that thrives on the unexpected. That’s immediately felt mere minutes into the game, with players asked to set aside the Wii U GamePad to excitedly burst open packs of LEGO bricks to construct the LEGO Toy Pad. This 45-minute task is certainly no mean feat, carefully following the 28-step instructions to assemble the 269 LEGO pieces that come in the Starter Pack.
It has been 10 years since LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, time in which TT Games have been let loose to create brick-based adventures around other licensed properties such as Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings. And now, behind a lofty “Break the rules” slogan, the developer has been allowed to bring to bear an enviable concoction of franchises to deliver the crossover adventure of our dreams.
Perhaps DC Comics, LEGO Ninjago, The Lord of the Rings and The LEGO Movie were to be expected, but LEGO Dimensions stirred more excitement when it was revealed that in Back to the Future, Portal 2, The Simpsons, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo and more were to accompany them. That welcomes an impressive selection of celebrity voice actors, who bring to life one of LEGO’s most hilariously witty scripts since underappreciated Wii U exclusive LEGO City Undercover.
That breadth suitably ensures that LEGO Dimensions will attract a wider spectrum of players, but securing such licenses is only part of the battle when most have grown tired of the now well-trodden LEGO formula.
We can be thankful, then, that the LEGO Toy Pad has allowed TT Games to approach Dimension with a renewed sense of creativity. Going beyond that seen with Disney Infinity, Skylanders and amiibo, the LEGO Toy Pad becomes a central focus for the entire gameplay experience. The NFC device has room to hold a combination of up to seven characters and vehicles, with the Starter Pack alone containing Wyldstyle, Gandalf and Batman minifigures alongside parts to construct the Batmobile.
While the story that drives LEGO Dimensions isn’t particularly compelling, it grants TT Games the necessary plot device to start muddling each of the assorted franchises together to their heart’s content. That sees Lord Vortech pursue his power-hungry desire to bring all universes in the LEGO Multiverse under his control, by searching for the fabled Foundation Elements hidden within each world. He opens vortexes in his hunt, recruiting villains to do his dirty work but in turn unwittingly brings Wyldstyle, Gandalf and Batman together. This formidable team rally against his dastardly plan, and adventure to each world in an effort to stop him.
LEGO Dimensions largely relies on the same tried-and-tested LEGO design, but loops in the more unique elements introduced by each respective property. Wyldstyle can leap higher and can use her skills as a Master Builder to construct complex LEGO builds, while Batman is better at fisticuff scuffles and can use his grapple gun, batarangs and invisibility. Meanwhile, Gandalf can use his magic to conjure a protective shield, brighten dark caverns and build bricks by levitating them.
Each of the characters has their own charm, but it is the vehicles that have been spotlighted in early marketing. While players initially assemble the Batmobile, it can be taken apart and rebuilt as two alternative vehicles. As the LEGO Toy Pad only reads the blue translucent base that the vehicle sits on, this isn’t exactly a necessity but it sees LEGO Dimensions frequently encourage player interaction with the LEGO that accompanies the experience.
That more predominantly carries across to the puzzle design in LEGO Dimensions, which sees players discover solutions by physically moving the minifigures between the three sections of the LEGO Toy Pad. Progression through the game’s story will see players power up the device by collecting keystones, steadily allowing the complexity of puzzles to increase over the course of your adventure.
These powers are particularly well varied: Shift opens up three coloured rifts with characters transported to whichever they are placed on; Scale will make characters bigger or smaller, required to navigate transparent pipes and lifting connecting parts; Locate will help you locate hidden items, the LEGO Toy Pad glowing green if the player wanders in the right direction and red if not; Elemental grants characters fire, water, electric and earth-based attacks in letting you douse flames and charge coils; and Chroma sees you coat each character with a primary colour to then match them with designated sections – later having to place multiple characters together to create orange and purple.
Beyond seeing the story through to its concluding cataclysm, longevity comes in exploring Adventure Worlds based around each brand that appears in the game. The requirement to unlock them is that you have a minifigure for their respective franchise, meaning that with the Starter Pack contents alone you will have access to the DC Comics World, The LEGO Movie World and The Lord of the Rings World, each with their own Gold Bricks, Minikits and Red Brick to uncover. That leaves another 11 waiting to be unlocked, for those that want to invest more money to experience everything that LEGO Dimensions has to offer.
There’s understandable concern around doing so, a quick calculation suggesting that the Starter Pack along with every Level, Team and Fun Pack lining retailer’s shelves would set you back more than £300. But, we can take confidence that the Starter Pack alone delivers as much content as a standard LEGO adventure, so there’s more than enough to keep you occupied to pace out any other desired purchases.
Away from the witty script, it is the imaginative ways in which the LEGO Toy Pad is used that make LEGO Dimensions stand apart from its toys-to-life competitors. A successful foundation in which to build, Activision and Disney Interactive have much to learn from the creative vision displayed by TT Games.