The LEGO Movie Videogame is cut straight from the mold of TT Games’ already hugely successful LEGO videogame franchise, which puts it in pretty good running to escape the crushing mediocrity usually associated with movie tie-ins.
Unfortunately, while the established formula certainly elevates this head and shoulders above most half-baked, low budget, movie cash-cows, The LEGO Movie Videogame does suffer some inevitable setbacks as a result of its direct transfer from the big screen.
In LEGO conversions such as Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Batman, there is a huge amount of charm and humour to be found in the minifigure versions of our beloved franchise heroes and villains. By reimagining these iconic characters into toy form, we gain delight in seeing them forced into ridiculous situations, slapstick nonsense and comic interactions that would be entirely out of character for their more sensible flesh-and-blood counterparts. Therein lies perhaps the greatest failing in LMV. The fact that the game portrays LEGO version of LEGO characters removes a large degree of novelty from the entire affair.
The exception to this, of course, is Batman - who in this game is a LEGO version, of the LEGO version, from The LEGO Movie; as opposed to a LEGO version of the non-LEGO version from the comics and/or movies. Within a dream. Inside the Matrix.
Also consider that the previous LEGO games focus on movies and franchises that are established, iconic and loved. The Lego Movie is great, for sure, but it’s brand new; certainly not a classic franchise. It’s not something the audience is fully invested in yet, so its impact is lessened.
The newness of source material also impacts on the depth in another way: lack of content. Batman has decades of material to draw from. Lord of the Rings has a trilogy of three-hour long movies. By comparison, The Lego Movie is 90-minutes long. Rather than being a compilation of the best bits of a huge franchise, LMV is the majority of the movie with added filler.
It also feels rushed in some minor areas: most notable is the sound. For the most part everything is well done, but it is the omissions that seem odd and out of place. Engine noise in a driving section is inaudible, there are no gunfire noises in a scene where projectiles are exploding all around you, things like that. A cynic might think certain elements were pushed aside in order to keep to a release date that coincided with a film-launch.
And one last point here: make sure you watch the movie before you play the game. It is great fun, for adults as much as kids, but the game’s liberal use of (not entirely in context) cinematics drawn straight from the movie will spoil some of the best moments.
While the setting may suffer as a result of the direct conversion from the silver screen, the classic LEGO gameplay does at least go a long way towards saving the day. Once again, TT have delivered an experience that is fun to play both in co-op and in single player, and that is equally enjoyable by older and younger players alike.
There are some differences introduced, again primarily due to the source material. There is a greater emphasis on puzzle-solving in this adventure, and less focus placed on combat. It’s an understandable move, the movie isn’t a particularly violent one and the characters themselves, with the exception of Batman, are not particular combat-orientated in terms of weapons and abilities.
The puzzles themselves aren’t particularly challenging for older players; in fact, the whole game features a rather reduced difficulty level from its predecessors. Not that this impacts on the fun in any way; LEGO games are rarely enjoyed for their challenging gameplay, and it’s still good fun to smash and build your way from start to end.
Building forms a larger part of proceedings than before, and rather than simple objects such as ladders and platforms, players will be involved in the assembly of far more dramatic constructs, such as cars, wrecking balls and submarines. These large projects are the result of either following building plans, or making spontaneous creations with ‘master builders’.
In practice, there is no creativity involved. First there are building ‘plans’, which require you to collect the multiple parts of the plan and bring them to a predefined location, with your only part in the construction being to occasionally select a missing part. Secondly, ‘master builder’ constructions require you to simply drag your view over the three obviously highlighted component parts, which are then automatically assembled into whatever is needed to progress to the next part of the level.
As with older LEGO games, it’s level progression is tightly scripted and it’s difficult to imagine what else could be done; but when the premise of the movie is that creativity and imagination will triumph over rigidness and conformity, it feels a little ironic that you have no input whatsoever and are just following the motions when it comes to the construction elements.
One element that has maintained its impressiveness, without a doubt, is the capacity to entertain completionists. There are dozens and dozens of characters to unlock using the studs earned as you progress. In order to grab the more elusive secrets and hit that 100% completion rating, you must revisit the story levels (and open world hub) in free mode with these characters and use their special abilities to reach areas previously unexplorable.
The LEGO Movie Videogame is not the best example of a LEGO videogame, and will never be hailed as a highlight of the franchise, but it retains enough of the charm to make it an enjoyable enough experience for fans of the series.