Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U
We played on: PlayStation 4
LEGO Dimensions is LEGO’s first foray into the toys-to-life market. The game stars Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle, who are on a mission to rescue their friends from the evil Vortech. Along the way, they encounter characters from dozens of different famous games, movies, and TV shows, from The Wizard of Oz to Doctor Who.
Overall, LEGO Dimensions is a lot like other LEGO games, but with cross-franchise interaction and clever physical puzzles (via the Toy Pad, which is similar to the Portal of Power in Skylanders or the Infinity Base in Disney Infinity). It is hardly perfect, but I had a good time smashing bricks and watching characters from some of my favorite universes interact with one another.
In LEGO Dimensions’s main story mode, we learn that Lord Vortech is a super-powerful inter-dimensional being who wants nothing more than to collect the legendary “Foundational Elements.” Whoever holds these elements has supreme power over the LEGO multiverse. This multiverse includes 14 different film, comic, and TV universes:
- Lord of the Rings
- DC Comics
- The LEGO Movie
- Wizard of Oz
- The Simpsons
- Portal 2
- Doctor Who
- Back to the Future
- Midway Arcade
- Jurassic World (not featured in the main campaign)
- Legends of CHIMA (not featured in the main campaign)
Vortech recruits villains from each universe (including Saruman, The Joker, and Lord Business) to help him find these Foundational Elements. During all this, Robin, Frodo, and Metalbeard get swept into some of Vortech’s vortexes. Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle each leap into the portals after their friends, and pretty quickly wind up working together to foil Vortech’s plot.
As a longtime fan of many of the franchises represented in this story, I will admit it was very fun to watch characters from different universes interact with one another. The best of these moments is when HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” makes a surprise appearance in GLaDOS’s boss chamber. It’s priceless. This game is full of fan pandering. Less nerdy folks probably won’t have as much fun as I did. After all, this is probably the only official Portal/Lord of the Rings/Ghostbusters crossover that will ever exist.
If you haven’t heard already, this game has a ridiculously cool voice cast. Seriously. So many people came on board for this project. Gary Oldman, Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Chris Pratt, Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, John Barrowman, Elizabeth Banks, Dan Aykroyd, John Rhys-Davies, Joel McHale, Nick Offerman—ok I’ll stop. But it’s quite a cast.
It was also a treat to get the original music from the various franchises. Watching the comedic LEGO remake of the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, complete with the original score (which I’ve probably listened to 3,000 times) was awesome. And listening to the jazzy radios inside the Aperture Science test chambers definitely completed the atmosphere.
There are two main ways to play LEGO Dimensions: the main campaign and the Adventure Worlds. Let’s start with the main campaign.
Almost all of the gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a LEGO game. There’s lots of exploring and smashing and collecting, plus a handful of puzzles and boss battles. There are a few new elements in this game, though. Namely, the Keystones. There are five in all, and each one does something cool with the Toy Pad.
The Chroma Keystone is my favorite. It creates red, yellow, and blue paint blobs in the level. When your character walks through a blob, whichever part of the Toy Pad their corresponding figure is placed on will turn that color. So, if your Batman figure is in the left section of the Toy Pad, and Batman in the game walks through blue paint, then the left part of the Toy Pad will glow blue. You can move characters around on the Toy Pad to create secondary colors, too (green, orange, and purple).
All five of the Keystones use a different mechanic with the Toy Pad. Each mechanic is really clever, and each made me appreciate the physical aspect of the game. I do wish that more of puzzles relied on testing my logic skills, though. To even call them “puzzles” is a bit of a stretch—they’re more like obstacles. I got the most bored with the Scale Keystone, which allows you to grow or shrink your character’s size—not because changing size wasn’t cool, but because I found the associated obstacles to be annoying. I also have to say that going back and forth between lounging on my sofa to leaning over my Toy Pad was a little uncomfortable, especially when I had to do it in a hurry. But overall, it was better than any other toys-to-life gameplay I’ve seen.
In addition to the Keystones, LEGO Dimensions uses the various strengths of the three main characters (Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle) in the design of its puzzles. You will frequently need to swap back and forth between characters in order to finish a level. I wish that more of the puzzles had multiple solutions, or that the character select wheel (which isn’t new to LEGO games) was less awkward. But it was good to try out each character and get a feel for their abilities.
I got to play a good chunk of the game in multiplayer mode, and I think I preferred the single-player mode (partly because the moving split-screen function had a knack for making me dizzy). However, it was nice that my partner could drop in and out whenever they liked. And I am really glad that this game has the co-op mode because I know many families out there will appreciate it a lot.
The Adventure Worlds use similar game mechanics to the main campaign, but instead of working through a linear story, you’re wandering through a LEGO world that’s based on one of the 14 franchises listed above. The Starter Pack gives you access to the DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, and LEGO Movie worlds. These worlds each have a few random quests, but they’re mostly about exploring and collecting. Don’t expect any good storytelling—they’re more like theme parks where you might occasionally bump into an actor dressed up as a movie character. I found them kind of boring, to be honest, but I somehow managed to waste a lot of time in Lord of the Rings world nonetheless.
I have yet to talk about the elephant in the room, which is that LEGO Dimensions is expensive—$99 without counting the many optional Level Packs, Team Packs, or Fun Packs. I played the entire game with just the Starter Pack, and I felt satisfied. However, there are a lot of collectibles in the main campaign that I will never access, and most of the Adventure Worlds are closed to me. There are also a few campaign-style levels that are accessible only via Level Packs.
Since I am more interested in playing extra levels than I am in finding extra collectibles or in opening more Adventure Worlds, I personally would only consider buying Level Packs. But these extra toys get expensive quickly. Each Level Pack is $29.99, Team Packs are $25.99, and Fun Packs are $14.99. Luckily, every LEGO figure can be taken off of its base and used just like a regular ol’ LEGO toy. Just don’t lose the base.
LEGO Dimensions is rated E10+ for Crude Humor and Cartoon Violence. There is lots of fighting and smashing, but since everyone looks like they’re made out of LEGO toys, there is virtually no gore. There is a pretty creepy scene with the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who, but the lack of time limits helped cut back on stress in general.
LEGO Dimensions is a LEGO game. If you enjoy the other LEGO titles, you’ll probably have a good time playing this one, especially if you are fan of any of the 14 franchises that this game pulls together. It is occasionally awkward and very expensive, but I had a great time smashing bricks, fighting with Gary Oldman, and laughing at the dated references. I just hope Harry Potter makes it into the sequel.