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LEGO Builder's Journey

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Light Brick
Release Date: June 22, 2021

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PC Review - 'LEGO Builder's Journey'

by Adam Pavlacka on June 22, 2021 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

LEGO Builder's Journey is a beautifully artistic, nonverbal puzzle adventure with meditative music and follows a father and son on a heartwarming journey through a LEGO world, filled with unique puzzles to be solved using LEGO bricks.

Originally released as an Apple Arcade exclusive, LEGO Builder's Journey made the jump from mobile to PC this month. More an experiential art piece than a game in the traditional sense, Builder's Journey tells the story of a parent and child as they explore some ruins near their home. It's essentially story via play, in a manner that is designed to remind adults of the simple joy in creativity.

Builder's Journey starts out with nothing more than a single brick for you to interact with. You're soon learning the basics of control and moving on to bigger and better things as you build some basic creations. Nothing in Builder's Journey is super complex; this isn't a replacement for a LEGO design program, nor is it meant to be. You're not building new models here, nor are you following instructions. Instead, your goal is simply to help the parent and child on their journey.


Each level, as it were, is a single screen. These mini builds are all lovingly crafted by the designers, with a handful of bricks available for you to use. Your selection of bricks is driven by the game, so don't expect to pick and choose from a large selection. No, this is more about creatively by using what you're given. There are guardrails to make sure you don't go too far off the path, but at the same time, Builder's Journey offers up a surprising amount of flexibility.

As you progress, more pieces are slowly made available. Initially, you might have only been able to build basic pieces, but you're soon twisting knobs and interacting with LEGO contraptions. Other levels provide you with magic duplicating LEGO pieces when you place them. Stack them, and they mutate into a new brick. The goal is to move forward, but the solution may not be entirely clear.

Yes, there are puzzles in this experience, but none are frustrating or annoying. Builder's Journey does an excellent job of teaching you new techniques and then letting you run with those skills to explore your little brick-based world. Sometimes the puzzle is more misdirection than anything else, with the game giving you something that you can repeat ad infinitum. It's up to you to realize when you're in a LEGO loop and poke around to see what you've missed.

In general, the controls map well to a mouse, but it's obvious that Builder's Journey was originally designed for touch. Turning a dial sometimes requires more movement than you'd expect, and it's all too easy to flip a piece when you mean to place it. I also occasionally found myself missing a placement, and then when trying to grab the falling piece, instead grabbing the piece I was trying to build upon. The net result was that instead of assembling a structure, I would accidentally take something apart. It's not the biggest blocker, but it's enough to be a minor annoyance.

 


Surprisingly, the bigger annoyance happened when I enabled the RTX enhancements. The extra reflections and fancy lighting do look pretty, but they don't add much to the game. More importantly, running Builder's Journey in DX12 mode with RTX on immediately pushed my 2080 Super to 100% GPU usage and kicked off the cooling fans on the card.

Cooling fans are a necessary evil when you're pushing hardware and in games where the visual enhancements really stand out (like Control). When I'm busy shooting at things in the latest action title, the fans are easy enough to ignore. Builder's Journey isn't an action game, though. It's an art piece where the ambience is an integral part of the experience. Trying to relax while the PC is revving up doesn't really mesh well. Still, I gave it the old college try and played through the first half of Builder's Journey with RTX enabled before switching to the DX11 version of the game for the latter half of my playthrough.

Stepping down to DX11 dropped my GPU usage to just over 50% and gave me a silent PC. More importantly, I didn't really notice the drop in visual quality. If you flip between two screens side by side, you can tell the difference, but when playing the game without RTX enabled, I didn't feel like I was missing anything (other than the fan noise).

Perhaps the biggest disappointment to Builder's Journey is the length. It's a relatively short experience, and when it's over, there's nothing left to do but play again. While that may have been appropriate for a mobile title, it feels a little threadbare for a PC game. Even a basic building sandbox would have been a welcome addition.

Straddling the line between art piece and puzzle game, LEGO Builder's Journey is an experience that focuses on the creativity of play above all else. Kids or adults, Builder's Journey is something that anyone can play. Everyone who does play will take away a slightly different experience.

Score: 8.0/10

Reviewed on: Intel i7-9700K, 16 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super



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