LEGO Dimensions seems like a no-brainer. LEGO games are simple and addictive, and the toys-to-life genre of games is booming thanks to the likes of Skylanders and Disney Infinity. It only makes sense that LEGO enters the stage as the latest collectible toy game, but the big question is whether it would be a worthy competitor or just make for a crowded arena in an expensive, yet popular genre.
LEGO games have always offered a lighthearted and humorous spin on a variety of different properties. The simple gameplay of breaking LEGO filled environments to collect hundreds — no, thousa- nay, millions of tiny gold and silver LEGO studs is addicting. The puzzles offer hours of gameplay using a variety of different character abilities to explore levels, take alternate paths, and collect a ton of collectibles. LEGO Dimensions follows this same formula, using more than 10 properties to provide players with hilarious crossovers.
Where else do you get to see Homer Simpson driving the Batmobile in Middle-Earth? Well, not you, if you don’t purchase the Simpsons Level Pack like I did– but we’ll get to that. LEGO Dimensions’ main story is set up with 14 levels, each based on a different property like Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo, Back to the Future, and many more. Portals are opening up connecting all of the dimensions so each level features tons of hilarious and unexpected crossovers. Like a huge mixed up bucket of LEGOs, adding more properties just means that the crossovers get more and more unpredictable than before, like Lord Sauron taking over Metropolis.
Fortunately the source material is more than respected. They manage to imitate, emulate, and parody each property expertly. What begins with great voice acting by using most of the original voice actors for each character goes much further in its homage. The notable cast list is augmented impressively by each property feeling fully utilized and honored. The Scooby-Doo level is rendered in cartoon-like visuals, and the audio is filtered to sound like the original Scooby-Doo cartoon. The Portal level is filled with Ellen McLain’s GLaDOS throwing passive-aggressive threats and “testing” the player. Characters from The LEGO Movie move as if they are in stop-motion. The music rounds everything out with exciting scores, many using the original music from each property. The crossovers and respect for the properties makes it the most impressive LEGO game yet in terms of sheer content.
In addition to the story levels, each property has its own fairly large open world hub with collectibles and side quests. Each hub world can only be visited if you have a character from that property however, so although there are more than 10 hub worlds to explore, only three of them can be played from the starter pack.
The Starter Pack
The LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack includes three characters (Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle), the Batmobile, and the portal pad. Interacting with the minifigs and building the portal pad using instructions in the game is one of the most fun and immersive ways to play. One of the biggest problems with this game compared to other LEGO titles is that the entire main story only requires that you use these three characters. To play as additional characters, you’ll need to buy the physical figures. You’ll find yourself faced with silver and gold LEGO objects that can’t be broken, electrical consoles that need certain characters to use, and other impassable side paths that can’t be seen with the base starter pack characters.
Though I bought the Simpsons Level Pack to go along with the game (come on, who can say no to Homer running around with Gandalf and Batman?) I wanted to see how complete the game felt with nothing but the starter pack before relenting and throwing Homer onto the portal. I made it through the first six levels before needing just a little bit of diversity. In fact, every time you come across an obstacle that you don’t have a character for, the game is sure to remind you with a list of characters that you can buy that do have that ability. It infuriatingly fuels the collecting addiction as I made a list of all the characters that I wanted to buy.
I found myself performing the same repeated puzzles and tasks to get through the main story because the ability to finish the game has to be limited to the three characters included in the starter pack. I can’t tell you how many times I used Wyldstyle’s detect ability followed by Batman using his grappling hook, usually followed by Gandalf needing to magic something. This got really boring and predictable, but it’s the unfortunate nature of having every extra character and ability offered as physical toy packs, but still needing to get base players through the main game.
The variety of puzzles using character abilities from the previous games has now been replaced by puzzles involving the physical portal lighting up and affecting the characters depending on which section of the portal pad they are on, which is both incredibly immersive and unique to this genre of game, as well as a little bit annoying repeatedly sitting forward to move Gandalf to make him shrink, warp, or be wrapped in a fire element.
LEGO Dimensions Review - Pricey Crossover (PS4)
The Cost of Entry
At a hundred bucks for the starter pack (for those in the US), this is going to be the priciest entry in the toys-to-life genre. The worst part about having all of these great crossovers is knowing that you have to pay to play with characters from each of the worlds, and you are limited to the three minifigs that came with the starter pack. Even adding Homer wasn’t enough to curb my appetite for more characters, and I really wanted to play as Scooby, Marty McFly, or one of the Ghostbusters. I would have even been fine grabbing one of those guys from Ninjago to spice up the roster. I’ll be doing a separate review of the Simpsons Level Pack to go into more detail about what it adds to the game, but while it adds a lot, it also adds things that just require even more characters to unlock, and the cost of all those packs really adds up. Isn’t math fun?
The entire game is a web of the collection of LEGO figures that you can buy, meaning that the more you own, the more you can unlock and do. It creates an unfortunate dichotomy between an amazing game filled with great, well honored properties, and the cost of getting the most out of the game. At every turn I felt reminded of the content that I didn’t have by these gold question marks that would pop up and get in my way, which made it hard to celebrate and have fun with the content I did have.
I don’t want you to think that there’s not plenty in the base game, with a great main story, some of the most fun and unique boss battles in a LEGO game, and three hub worlds open from the start. There’s a lot there, but there needs to be an expectation going into this that you are getting only a portion of a complete collection, and the game makes sure that players know there’s more they can buy. It’s like getting that sweet huge LEGO set for your birthday as a kid and then seeing the advertisements in the instruction booklet for all of the other awesome packs you don’t have.
As LEGO’s first foray into toys-to-life games, they’ve done an impressive job utilizing the full power of their roster to create a great game that respects the properties it features, from Doctor Who to GLaDOS to Simpsons. It’s lamentable then that a great LEGO adventure is fragmented by the staccato nature of reminding you what you don’t have. There could be a little improvement on honing the marketing of additional toy-packs to not feel so in your face at every turn and not limiting the main game to contrived puzzles based on the same few abilities, but overall, LEGO Dimensions is definitely a contender in the toys-to-life market.
I’m just glad I don’t have kids who will be begging to get every new character. I mean…can you imagine? Hey, can you all hang on for one second? I’m going to be over here upping my credit card limit. That Doctor Who Level Pack is coming out later this year.
LEGO Dimensions review copy purchased by reviewer. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.