When The Lego Movie was released, there was a fair amount of suspicion that it would be a soulless corporate effort to promote LEGO building bricks, but the film we ended up with was actually quite funny and charming, carrying with it a message that there’s nothing wrong with trying to build creatively or trying to go by the instructions, each person free to play however they pleased. Funnily enough, The Lego Movie Videogame could be said to be a representation of that idea, the game built off the typical structure of a Traveller’s Tales LEGO game while also adding some newly conceived ideas to make it a unique title.
The Lego Movie itself is the tale of a LEGO man named Emmet living in a world entirely made of LEGO. Emmet is just another cog in the big machine that is Bricksburg, a city where everything goes exactly as dictated by the conformist directions given by President Business. President Business has a desire to see everything stay perfectly pristine and harmonious, so to prevent any new disruptive ideas from harming his vision for the world, he aims to use a weapon known as the Kragle to freeze everything in place permanently. However, a group of creative individuals known as Master Builders refuse to let creativity be quashed, so they head off in search of a prophesied individual known as The Special who is foretold to have what it takes to stop the Kragle. Emmet ends up being the one identified as The Special… even though he’s seemingly just a regular guy who can’t even build without using the instructions. Still, he sets off to do his best, joined by a diverse group of characters and going to many different locations hearkening to LEGO play sets from all across the toy’s history. The Lego Movie Videogame doesn’t stray from the film’s plot, in fact, it includes actual scenes from the movie for many of its cutscenes, meaning much of the movie’s best humor is carried into the game while the play carries the action scenes. The game does leave out some moments from the film so it’s not just the whole movie with playable bits sprinkled in between cutscenes, so while you won’t get the whole tale just by playing the game, you will get one that makes sense and still has the charm of the source material present.
While many of the LEGO licensed games in the past like LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Indiana Jones chose to adapt entire movie franchises, The Lego Movie Videogame keeps its sights solely on a single film’s events, and that might just end up benefiting it. When a developer is free to pick and choose which moments from a series to adapt, they can skip over ones that might require new game mechanics, meaning it’s smarter development-wise to skip past them if they can get away with it. The Lego Movie, however, isn’t even two hours long, meaning that to make a decent length game experience out of it, they’d have to not only adapt whatever iss available, but find room for playable moments between it all as well. Fans will find expected moments adapted like the motorcycle chase in the city, the wagon chase in the Wild West World, and the escape from Cloud Cuckooland when it’s under siege, and yet, despite these all being chases, they play differently, one involving hopping from vehicle to vehicle, one about shooting down the enemies tailing you, and one about building your escape vehicle at the same time you’re escaping. The Lego Movie Videogame squeaks in play where it can find it such taking a few jokes from the film about Emmet experiencing long falls and turning those into interactive moments, adding an entirely new underwater swimming segment, and roping in the movie’s memorable “Everything is Awesome” song as a simple rhythm game with timed button presses. You’ll certainly see ideas like these given a second go, but they aren’t whipped out so often that they lose what makes them interesting on the first visit, their sometimes basic design not so bad when they’re quick and an interesting break from the core play.
Most of what you do in The Lego Movie Videogame is explore open environments, the player needing to complete some objective to open the way onward. Every playable character has some basic skills like jumping for platforming moments and attacks for the combat, neither gameplay portion really being too involved but not asking much of the player either. Besides some awkward jumps, a lot of the more complicated platforming is handled automatically after you press the proper button, and when it comes to combat, it’s portioned well to not be annoying despite its simplicity, The Lego Movie Videogame even finding ways to shift its battles up for boss fights and other special moments. Most of your more involved battles and navigation will link back to the abilities of your characters, the player able to swap between a gradually changing cast of characters as they move on through the game. Only certain characters are able to do certain tasks, with the main characters of the film making for a pretty varied bunch that allows the game to keep shifting up what challenges you face. Characters can have special skills like Master Building, where they pull up pieces of the all LEGO environment to build something new for whatever they’re facing, and while this is perhaps not as creatively implemented as such an idea could be, it does add a new layer to the typical LEGO game design of finding bricks to build up new objects with. That is still possible as well though, but in a neat touch, characters like Emmet aren’t able to do it since they only know how to build while using the instructions… which is its own skill as well, the player playing a small minigame where they need to find the missing pieces to finish a build. Other characters from the film have appropriate skills to justify their presence, such as Benny the astronaut having hacking minigames to complete, Batman able to use his grappling hook and batarangs, and the blind prophet Vitruvius able to cross precarious ledges because he’s the only one who can’t see how dangerous they really are, all while uttering lines about how he’ll do it since he’s DEFINITELY not crossing some precarious ledge or anything. The only unusual skill choice is the LEGO games continuing to insist women characters have higher jumps, although at least with Wildstyle her athleticism gives it some grounding.
While in the first run through a level you’ll use the characters the story gives you, you can replay a stage with all possible skills available later, allowing you to find secrets and collectibles. During regular play, you can smash environmental objects or do well at minigames to collect LEGO studs, the player rewarded for collecting enough of them in a stage and able to spend the studs to buy new characters as well. Being able to overcome all the ability puzzles gives the levels at least one reason to replay them, although having a character like Superman along for the ride breaks open some area designs. Incidentally, while you can expect to see some DC Superheroes and historical characters represented by LEGO here, the game didn’t go through the effort of getting certain copyrights, meaning that some faces that appear in the film are not only absent but awkwardly blurred out during the reused film cutscenes. It is certainly a shame that most of the unlockable characters are variations of the central cast or random background faces instead of characters like Shaquille O’Neal or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but gameplay variety is definitely the better outcome than having a LEGO character who wouldn’t likely be all that unique anyway. The story will sometimes put you in command of some interesting LEGO contraptions or characters like Unikitty and Metalbeard who have unique body types and attacks to ensure its not always running around as plastic humans, and save for some awkward driving controls for regular vehicles, they help the game have a greater breadth of content.
THE VERDICT: The Lego Movie Videogame manages to keep the Traveller’s Tales formula for LEGO games fresh by really plumbing the source material for all it can latch onto, major scenes from the movie faithfully adapted into action scenes and open puzzle areas, but new areas are invented or certain scenes interpreted in interesting ways to add new styles of gameplay to the experience. Ability based puzzles and minigames make the areas worth visiting, but since it carried over the standard platforming and combat found in most LEGO games, it doesn’t outshine older games like LEGO Star Wars so much as stand comfortably beside them as a good adaptation of a movie into LEGO form, it’s just this time around they had a lot more LEGO to pull on for the world’s design and borrowed story.
And so, I give The Lego Movie Videogame for Xbox One…
A GOOD rating. With Traveller’s Tales having worked on many LEGO games before this, it’s easy to see the gradual learning from the past show up in this title, but it hasn’t quite honed things to be significantly better than their usual enjoyable standard. The Lego Movie Videogame knows to hold back on throwing too many basic enemies at you so that its combat won’t get boring and knows to make its bigger battles more focused on puzzle solving, ability usage, or new mechanics. On the other hand, the platforming is sometimes trusted to carry the experience when it really shouldn’t be, although it’s usually not too much of a problem thankfully. Minigames and puzzles in the open areas let The Lego Movie Videogame shift its focus regularly to keep things from settling down, and when it comes to a video game adaptation of a movie, it does an excellent job of carrying over most every aspect it should.
Carrying on the good vibes of its movie counterpart, The Lego Movie Videogame manages to be an enjoyable game despite being a product buried beneath a few layers of adaptation. It’s a video game based on a movie based on a toy, and it came together tidily to make an enjoyable little romp that captures both the feel of the film and the potential of the LEGO brick format well.