|Box Art N/A|
|Platform 360, PS3, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One|
|Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Developer TT Games|
|Release Date Sep 27, 2015|
I'd like to say that the realization that Lego Dimensions was something wonderful hit as I guided The Wicked Witch of the West through a ghost-streaked Lego Manhattan to the music of Ghostbusters, with Batman, Scooby-Doo and Gandalf in tow.
But that would be a lie.
I made that discovery within minutes of starting Lego Dimensions, when the game asked my son and I to put down our controllers and build a toy out of Lego.
When Lego Dimensions was initially announced, well after the launch of both Skylanders and Disney Infinity, it couldn't help but come off as an also ran. At best, I figured, the game would be a solid adaptation of either of those two predecessors, only with bricks. Worst case, it would shoot for the moon and fail spectacularly.
Instead, developers TT Games have managed to eke a third, entirely different way to play with toys and video games out of the toys-to-life genre. Lego Dimensions doesn't lean on your imagination to fuel its connection to the real world, it requires you to pick up and play with its toys and somehow, that makes everything a bit better.
Dimensions' portal starts as a sizable rectangle you build from there
My understanding of how Lego Dimensions works came well before I started playing the game. Waiting for my son to get home from school, I sat down with boxes of Lego Dimension sets with plans to build them all ahead of time so we could get to playing straight away.
But after piecing together the three "minifigs" (Batman, Lord of the Rings' Gandalf and The Lego Movie's Wyldstyle), the instruction booklet directed me to continue building by using the in-game building instructions.
The game's required portal starts as a sizeable rectangle of plastic that plugs into your console. Shortly into the game, you're asked to build a Lego portal on top of this plastic base. That portal matches the one you see in-game and in fact, gets modified by you as you play through Lego Dimensions. Much more importantly, though, the portal lights up in different ways and is used as a way to solve puzzles, power-up your minifigs and even hurt them.
Shortly after starting the game and watching the story-setting cut-scenes, the game popped open a digital version of the instructions to build the portal. Turns out that aside from building minifigs with paper instructions, the game has you building every Lego thing you'll need as part of the game. That sounds a bit annoying, but it was a neat way of transitioning my son and I back and forth between the game and the toys.
The portal itself also does that throughout the game.
Where other toy-to-life games use their portal as a sort of transitional metaphor, the glowing thing that transports your toys into the game, Lego Dimensions' portal is a toy itself and a huge part of how you play the game.
Initially, it simply serves as a way to drop your characters and vehicles into the game. While you can only actively control a single player at a time, two if you have a co-op partner using split-screen, the portal can hold an astounding seven minifigs (or almost any mix of minifig and vehicle) at any given time. That means if you've paid for any of the various expansion packs — all of which come with minifigs — you can use those figures in the campaign.
Despite this embarrassment of character selection, I was a little concerned with Lego Dimensions early on. Those initial levels are so basic, so much a throw-back to the traditional TT Games' library of Lego titles that I thought this was going to be essentially more of the same.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Because the game has so much to introduce to players — the variety of brands' different settings and characters, the implementation of toys-to-life, the story, the way the portal works — those first few sections feel almost disjointed. By the time Doctor Who arrives things are clicking together nicely, though, and the game starts to show how cleverly the story and writing make use of the abundance of beloved brands.
The overarching story of Lego Dimensions is that a mysterious minifig has found a way to rend the Lego Multiverse apart and reshape it at whim, but to do so he needs to snatch away some important things from all of the different universes. This, in turn, attracts the attention of a lot of different heroes determined to stop him.
In retrospect, it was a very smart decision to start the game in a single setting with such familiar mechanics. By the end of Lego Dimensions, players are doing so much and the worlds have so blended that the game becomes a dazzling mash-up of pop culture and frenetic game and toy play.
Initially, we learned that the portal base can light up to show a variety of colors. Later, we learned how to move characters between the portal's three sections to change their size, hop through dimensional holes, change colors to solve puzzles, give them elemental powers and even find hidden rifts. The portal also occasional glows to show that everyone standing on the section is being harmed and needs to be moved to a different area.
All of this means that my son and I spent a lot of time moving the little Lego minifigs and vehicles around on the real world portal, essentially playing with them as we would any real world toys.
These new physical play features blend perfectly with the digital ones that the developers have long shown mastery of in their early Lego-fueled games. It also makes you feel much more like you're playing something apart from the routine video games you might be used to.
While the game does an apt job of hopping you through pretty much every brand announced for the title — Jurassic World being the one odd exception — that doesn't mean they're all fantastic levels.
The Simpsons section in particular stood out as a misfire. Everything about it, down to the character design just didn't seem to gel with the rest of the experience.
Among the best were the enemy-packed Doctor Who section, the Scooby-Doo mystery that had a grin on my face the entire time, Ghostbusters, Midway Arcade and Portal.
But all of those levels did nothing to prepare my son and I for the game's brilliant final chapters.
Pulling from everything the players learned, all of the dimensions they visited and the characters they met, the final protracted conclusion of the game is a wondrous marrying of everything we came to love of the different experiences, gameplay and challenges found in Lego Dimensions.
And all of that is just the campaign, a 10+ hour experience packed to the lid with side trips, studs to collect and golden bricks to discover. There's plenty more play built into the game. Co-op still exists and is well crafted, this time even including the option to switch between a set split-screen and a dynamic one.
Lego Dimensions also has an array of minifigs you can buy and add to your game to play through the campaign in different ways. Those minifigs also provide new environments to explore: open Lego worlds that feature tiny side quests, plenty of places to wander and, yes, studs.
While roaming around in Jurassic World or Oz or DC Universe with any number of minifigs is fun, it doesn't offer the same sort of over-the-top enjoyment delivered with the main campaign.
That's where the expansion Level Packs come in. These box sets include one character, two items and a story-based level to play.
While you can't build anything in Lego Dimensions and the post-game play is mostly unstructured, it's still the sort of game that makes we want to return and pick at its play.
However, like all the Lego games that came before it, Lego Dimensions does suffer from occasional camera angle problems. This is most noticeable when a lack of perspective causes you to miss jumps plummeting over and over and over again to your death in a splash of studs.
Lego Dimensions comes together as something much better than its interlocking parts
Much has been made about the astounding array of voice talent featured in Lego Dimensions, the vast stockpile of Lego and Warner Bros. creative works the game draws from and the proven track record of its well-established development team. But what really sets Lego Dimensions apart from the rest, is that it removes the line between toy and video game and has you play in both the real world and virtual one. All of these things come together to create something much better than its interlocking parts. Where the game's innovative designs push forward what it means to blend toys and games into a single experience, the writing and both companies' willingness to dig deep into their vaults, pull the whole game together.
Lego Dimensions was reviewed using retail PlayStation 4 and Xbox One copies and sets provided by Warner Bros Interactive. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.About Polygon's Reviews