You may be one of the millions of people who saw “The LEGO Movie” this past weekend; one of the most surprisingly critically-acclaimed family films of the last few years. Audiences and those paid to write about the movies have come to realize something that gamers have actually known for a while now – the world of LEGO allows for endless creativity. In many ways, gamers feel ahead of this cultural curve. While many movie goers, especially those over 30, seem stunned that a movie based on a toy might actually have more creative spark than the “The Transformers” or “G.I. Joe” movies, gamers who have plugged hours into the addictive worlds of “LEGO Star Wars,” “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes,” “LEGO Harry Potter,” "LEGO Batman," and “LEGO Lord of the Rings” know the limitless joy that can be found within these worlds. The LEGO revolution is just beginning (and we even offered our suggestions on future LEGO games).
However, “The LEGO Movie Videogame” is not your typical LEGO game in that it doesn’t work off well-known canon like that of J.K. Rowling, George Lucas, or J.R.R. Tolkien. It is, technically, a member of that loathed genre of video games – the movie tie-in. As someone who has played mind-numbing games based on “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Megamind,” I can tell you that games based on family movies are particularly awful. And, so, does “The LEGO Movie Videogame” belong with trash like “Up: The Videogame” or does it belong with the best of the “LEGO” games? The answer is that while it plays like “The Last of Us” when compared to most games based on kids’ movies, it’s not quite as creatively impressive as some of the best LEGO games, including the also-on-PS4 “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.”
One of the problems is that “LEGO Movie Videogame” feels a clear obligation to hew closely to the plot of the movie; more so than most LEGO games to date. While previous LEGO games built their own brand of joy on previously-created worlds, this one already has a LEGO-influenced world and the doubling-up doesn’t quite work all the time. To be blunt, the narrative here doesn’t work as well as some other LEGO games because it has to tie in so closely to the script. And some of the worlds of the movie don’t work so well in video game form. The opening stuff in Bricksburg, in which Emmet (Chris Pratt) gets sucked into the plot of the story, promises an engaging ride but future levels are surprisingly thin in terms of design. The cluttered look of Cloud Cuckoo Land is something that I could NOT wait to escape. Even my 4-year-old started to get aggravated by the non-stop color and noise explosion.
“LEGO Movie Videogame” does bring in a few new, interesting gameplay dynamics; most notably a cool mini-game that plays off Emmet’s building ability. Instructions like those found in actual, physical LEGOs (yes, kids, there are such things) flash on the screen and the player has to find the missing piece quickly to get the most studs. (Yes, again, the world of LEGO is about smashing things to collect the most studs possible. Although they can be used as currency in the hubs between levels to buy new characters; another neat gameplay addition.) There’s also a new mini-game when you unlock the character of Benny (Charlie Day), in which the astronaut can hack terminals via a “Pac-Man”-esque game. Both of these additions – the instruction and hacking games – are fun but underdeveloped. I kept waiting for them to get more challenging or intriguing.
Which gets me to a point that definitely needs emphasis – more than most recent LEGO games, “The Movie Videogame” feels aimed at kids more than teens. The fact is that “Marvel Super Heroes” can actually be a somewhat difficult puzzler in that gamers have to figure out which hero to use in which situation to progress. On other hand, “LEGO Movie Videogame” pretty much always tells you where to go and what to do. It is aimed at the little ones in that buttons flash over the head of the character you’re supposed to use and dialogue instructs you what to do. At times, I hoped for a bit more of a challenge, as in most LEGO video games, but it’s nice that the PS4 now has a LEGO game that appeals more to teenagers and one to their younger brothers.
As for graphics, the world of LEGO games make ample use of the PS4 processor; however, I ran into a few glitches in my playthrough, including one that forced me to lose a half-hour of gameplay since my last save. Save every time you can. That’s my advice. There are also a few camera hiccups in terms of depth required to hit a certain bar to swing on or platform is not helped by the generally-flat look of the game. Audio is better as most of the voice actors from the movie return here, including Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, and more. Many of the film’s key moments are even presented via cut scene. So spoilers beware if you haven’t seen the movie. Assuming there’s anyone who fits that description left.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided a copy of this game for review.