Here’s the thing about Lego video games: if you’ve played one, you’ve played a reasonable facsimile of them all.
So your enjoyment of any given Lego game – and there have been dozens over the years, many based on juggernaut film franchises like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter – hinges on how devoted you are to the source material.
I really like Lego. I really like video games. I really like The Lego Movie. So – surprise, surprise – I really like The Lego Movie Videogame.
In case video games are somehow the only form of entertainment you consume, The Lego Movie is the new feature film directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), starring a cross-section of original and familiar Lego characters. It’s the tale of Emmet (voiced in the film and game by Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt), an ordinary construction worker who ends up on a quest to save the world from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell.)
Players take control of all of the film’s primary heroes, including happy-go-lucky Emmet, his bodyguard/love interest Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the blind wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and many more. The game roughly follows the plot of the movie, with inter-chapter cutscenes taken directly from the film. (So don’t play the game before seeing the movie if you want to remain unspoiled.)
But where a scene like a wild chase through a Lego version of the Old West might last a minute or two on screen, the game will stretch out and expand these sequences, creating an entire chunks of gameplay from something that happens quickly, or entirely behind the scenes, in the film.
The folks at U.K. development studio Traveller’s Tales have honed their craft to such a fine degree that it feels like they’re snapping these games together from a template. But Lego games are beloved because of that very formula: they feature familiar characters, adorable visuals and accessible, family-friendly gameplay.
And every aspect of the Lego game formula is covered here, including hub worlds to explore between story chapters, side missions to undertake, a dizzying number of collectibles to find and areas that remain sealed off until players return to them later with a particular character: only Vitrivius can open secret doors, only Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) can latch onto grapple points, only Unikitty (Alison Brie) can assemble rainbow-coloured bricks and so on. Pro tip: buy Wiley Fusebot as soon as you find him, as he’s a triple threat that can blow up silver blocks, activate fire blocks and hack computer terminals.
There are a handful of new gameplay mechanics, such as a shape-matching mini-game whenever Emmet assembles a large, plot-centric Lego model. And the game has the franchise’s trademark wry humour throughout, although the new in-game dialogue isn’t nearly as snappy as the stuff taken from the film.
Not every chapter is a winner – in particular, the eye-searing hues of Unikitty’s Cloud Cuckoo Land start to wear after a while (until Unikitty discovers she can morph into a rage-fuelled, spider-spewing, robot-devouring monstrosity) – but it’s nearly all fun and addictive and adorable.
And with the franchise making its next-generation debut on Xbox One and PS4, this is easily the most visually impressive of the Lego games, although I’m a bit disappointed it doesn’t adopt the same handworn, stop-motion look of The Lego Movie itself.
Clever, colourful and weirdly comforting – there’s little to dislike about The Lego Movie Videogame, even if it feels assembled from the same bricks as its predecessors. Not everything is awesome, but it comes close enough.