Buy LEGO Dimensions
There are few toys as wonderful as LEGOs because they're only limited by your imagination. The LEGO video games have captured some of that spirit, but unlike the toys, games do have a limitation. Following in the path of other figurine-controlled games like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, LEGO Dimensions seeks to create the ultimate playground for players of all ages. In many ways, it succeeds, though with a hefty cost.
LEGO Dimensions tells the story of the evil Lord Vortech, who seeks the Founding Elements, which are the cornerstones of the universe, to take over the world. He begins to travel the LEGO multiverse to find the artifacts, but unfortunately for him, his antics attract the attention of a trio of heroes: Batman, Gandalf the Grey and Wyldstyle (from "The LEGO Movie") form an unlikely alliance to rescue their lost friends (and Wyldstyle's dance trophy) from the clutches for Vortech.
LEGO Dimensions is perhaps the most hilarious of the LEGO games on the market. The relatively limited cast works in its favor, since the primary trio can develop jokes that play off the absurd situations. The game won my heart with the opening area, in which the trio is thrown into the "Wizard of Oz." Poor Batman acts as if he's been thrown into hell, bemoaning the amount of color in the brightly lit world and panicking that the Scarecrow has trapped him in a hallucination. It's such a simple and straightforward joke but works so well. There are some duds, as the Simpsons world is dull as dishwater and makes poor use of the setting. By and large, though, the game is creative, clever and delightfully funny. The LEGO franchise has always been good at this, but Dimensions is the high point.
The core LEGO gameplay hasn't changed much from other games in the series. Using your three (or more) characters, you travel through worlds, fighting enemies and solving basic puzzles. Your three characters from the starter pack have a good variety of moves. Gandalf has magical blasts, personal shields and can use his powers to create and destroy all sorts of things. Batman has grappling hooks, Batarangs and kung-fu prowess. Wyldstyle has Master Builder powers, acrobatic prowess and a special scanner to detect hidden things. Swapping between the three to solve puzzles is a big part of the game. You also have the Batmobile, which can be upgraded and customized and is almost a character in its own right. You place the characters on the included physical portal to use them, and more characters are available in expansion packs, which are sold separately and include everything from Dr. Who to The Simpsons.
The puzzles are simple, though later ones can be quite complex. They're engaging enough to be fun for adults but not too stressful for younger kids. Combat is straightforward and simplistic, mostly relying on button-mashing and simple dodging. Death is a minor danger, so you'll lose some LEGO Studs if you die, but otherwise, you're right back in the game. Parents shouldn't worry about their young ones having a rough time, and the classic LEGO co-op gameplay is great for parents to play with kids.
Dimensions includes a significant new gameplay mechanic in the inclusion of the portal that registers the characters in the game world. The platform actually has three slots that you'll move characters between, based on the puzzles in the environment. For example, to use Wyldstyle's scanner ability, you need to move her figurine around the three slots to locate the source before it appears in-world. Enemy encounters and puzzles also utilize it. The Wicked Witch of the West, one of the first bosses, freezes all characters on a specific slot until you manually pick them up and move them. This might sound annoying, but it's a great use of the portal. Rather than just placing a toy on the portal and forgetting about them, you're constantly moving them, which really helps the physical toy aspect feel like part of the game.
Speaking of which, LEGO Dimensions makes more use of the physical aspect with the inclusion of LEGO bricks. Occasionally, the game pauses and brings up an instruction manual that shows you how to build something with those bricks. This portion is completely optional, and the game has no way of telling if you've followed the instructions, but it's a fun break from gaming, especially if a parent and child are playing together. It feels like a LEGO game when you see the LEGO stargate you created resting atop the portal; it's a sense of satisfaction that building in-game just doesn't match. You have to be cautious about losing parts, so it would be a good idea to have a small plastic bucket or cup nearby to keep the spare LEGO pieces.
There's a good chunk of content in the main game. You go through a set of worlds based on various franchises, from classics like Ghostbusters to a new level based on Portal. There are also special adventure areas that can only be accessed if you have at least one character from that setting, and they add extra content to the game. (As such, the game comes with DC Heroes, "The LEGO Movie," and Lord of the Rings.) You can probably finish the main game in about eight hours, with extra time dedicated to finding hidden collectibles that you can use to customize vehicles.
While you can finish LEGO Dimensions with only Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle, there is one major problem: You're going to be constantly bombarded with encouragement to buy other figures to access other gameplay areas. It might sound minor, but it's quite frustrating, especially when compared to other LEGO titles on the market. In those games, you can access new characters through gameplay, but in Dimensions, you need to shell out real-world cash. Considering the packs can range from $15 to $30 on top of the base game's $100 price tag, it starts to feel excessive really quickly. One of the big advantages of LEGO games is that you can play as anyone from Scabbers to Squirrel Girl, so the limitations of this entry really stand out. Parents should expect to hear begging and pleading for at least a handful of expansion packs. (A tip for parents: Wonder Woman is a great buy, since she has a boatload of powers and her Invisible Jet provides even more.)
It's a frustrating problem because it goes against one of the LEGO franchise's strengths. In other games, if you couldn't access a certain area, you needed to unlock a character who could, but in Dimensions, that fun has been replaced by encouragement to spend money. Although the core game is quite packed, these omnipresent reminders of inaccessible areas make it feel emptier than it should. It is the one thing that makes it difficult to recommend LEGO Dimensions. You can buy the $100 starter pack and another $60 of add-ons, but for the same cost, you could get three or more of the classic LEGO games, and the only thing you're missing is the crossover element.
LEGO Dimensions is a visual delight. The characters have a ton of personality, and different characters from different settings move differently. Wyldstyle has the more energetic stop-motion movement from "The LEGO Movie" while Batman is more akin to his LEGO Batman counterpart. There are a lot of great touches in the environment, and every world has been painstakingly re-created. The only visuals I disliked were in the Simpsons section, which clashed heavily with the overall design and looked odd. This isn't the fault of the developers as that is how the Simpsons LEGO toys look, but it's definitely one of the weaker parts of the game. The voice acting is fantastic, and the voice work is brimming with life, which helps to deliver some of the great jokes. The soundtrack is top-notch and includes many classic tunes from all of the involved franchises.
One area where LEGO Dimensionsis head and shoulders above its competition is in the actual toys. Unlike the Amiibo and Skylanders games, LEGO Dimensions comes with LEGO bricks. The game encourages the building and rebuilding of LEGO sets, but that does leave parents with the risk of their kids easily losing the toys. It's trivially easy for the tiny disc that represents Batman to go missing forever, even if you still have the figure, which renders the toys useless. The game includes instructions to build your own LEGO creations with the included bricks, so Dimensions provides a lot of fun without even touching a controller.
For someone with infinite money, LEGO Dimensions is one of the best LEGO games on the market and is a great example of how to make figurine-based games fun both in and out of the game. It's funny, it's creative, it plays well, and it's everything a LEGO game should be. The only mark against it is the fact that it focuses on real-world toys and expansion packs instead of in-game content, which drives up the price and lessens the core game content. If you're a parent who's willing to invest money in extra play sets or if you're an adult with expendable income, Dimensions is the ultimate LEGO experience. The core game is plenty of fun if you're not bothered by missing content, but the additional hidden cost should be a concern for parents.
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