E3 2015 – LEGO Dimensions Hands-On Preview: Redefining Play

June 20, 2015 Written by Chandler Wood

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LEGO games are a console gamer’s staple. It seems like just about everyone has played at least one LEGO game at some point in their gaming history. With the toys-to-life genre of games becoming the next evolution, it only made sense that the game based on sets of toys would become a part of this genre, and even though it’s a crowded market already, LEGO Dimensions fits right in as a shining example of how to do toys-to-life right. 

I stood at a station with D’yani so that we could play co-op, which is a core part of the LEGO games, and makes an obvious return here. Loading into the hub world, we were given a variety of physical figures and vehicles to choose from. The toy pad supports up to seven toys at once, and no spots are specifically reserved only for vehicles or only for characters. The toy pad also lights up, which is crucial to certain gameplay elements, but I will reach those in a moment. We grabbed Chell from Portal, Gandalf, Batman, and Scooby Doo and placed them in various spots on the gateway, then for good measure we threw the Batmobile and the Mystery Machine on so that we had vehicles.

Why is It Always About the Cake?

After that it was off to Portal’s testing chambers. LEGO Dimensions is hilarious and there is a massive amount of content that they can pull from for the game. As the characters warped in, Gandalf began asking GLaDOS if he could buy a cake, with her commenting “It’s always about the cake.” I was awestruck at how faithful LEGO Dimensions is to the source material. The environment and puzzles really felt like a testing chamber from Portal in LEGO form. The level was peppered with GLaDOS continuing to comment throughout, and if they didn’t get the original GLaDOS voice actress, then they sure got an incredible sound-alike. 

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This is when we were introduced to the puzzles involving the physical toy pad. In one mode, a variety of colored gateways appear around the level. The three sections of the pad light up corresponding to the different colors, and moving your character onto any one of them instantly warps them to that colored warp point. This is useful for getting into closed off rooms or high areas that you can’t reach.

Another mode had us coloring the toy pad to match a key to unlock something. If the middle section needed to be yellow, then our player character needed to be physically placed on the middle and then run through the yellow chroma pad in the game. It’s a fascinating concept that really gives the toys-to-life genre more interactivity than just setting a figure on a pad. Did I mention that Homer Simpson warped in on a wrecking ball after finishing one of these puzzles to help clear the way to the next area?

Respect for the Source Material

A short time and a few puzzles later, we were faced with freeing Wheatley (of Portal 2 fame). Again, I was fascinated hearing the authenticity in his voice and it made me want to play Portal 2 all over again. But it didn’t stop there. After finishing the Portal area — and not before getting a tease at the use of Chell’s portal gun — we were whisked off to a haunted mansion to explore a mystery Scooby Doo style and I was blown away with what we encountered. 

The entire area was cel-shaded to appear like a classic Scooby Doo cartoon! Not only that, but D’yani also pointed out that the audio was mixed in such a way that it sounded just like those old ’70s versions of Shaggy, Fred, and the rest of the gang. The attention to detail for each individual license while also allowing any character to mix and match across the worlds of these licenses is the key to what makes LEGO Dimensions tick. 

As a kid, I used to make my LEGOs cross over all the time. Harry Potter and his friends would go fight aliens on spaceships, Gandalf wouldn’t let Stormtroopers pass, and countless other bizarre stories that I would make up using all of my LEGO sets. Sadly as an adult, I no longer have those LEGO sets anymore, but LEGO Dimensions looks like it will be offering me that magic again, physical LEGO figures and all.