When the folks at Pixelkin suggested I review LEGO Jurassic World this month, I was surprised. How do you combine scary, blood-thirsty dinosaurs with LEGOs? In all of the Jurassic movies I had seen (which was one—the first one), all those dinosaurs did was try to murder people. I couldn’t see how a video game where the primary objective was “don’t get murdered,” could be attractive to children. In preparation, I rented Jurassic World so that I’d have an idea of what I was walking into. Here’s what I came away from that movie with:

1) Dinosaurs are still pretty murder-y
2) I am in love with Chris Pratt

As usual, my kids played the game for a few weeks before I played with them for the first time. They’ve never seen any of the Jurassic movies because they are 7 years old and scare easily, so for them this was just a dinosaur game. Not having the background made no difference for them; they still loved it. And for me it was fun getting to see the movies—practically scene for scene—in LEGO form.

I played LEGO: Jurassic World with my daughter. It goes to split screen when your characters aren’t close together and then combines into one when you are. I understand the reasoning behind it, and it’s fun to be able to take your character exploring, but I don’t know that I will ever get comfortable with it. More than once I said to my daughter, “Wait…where are you? Here? No? Which direction do I go? But I thought that’s where I was!”

lego jurassic world

Different characters have different abilities.

The game is a lot of wandering around the area your scene is in and beating the crud out of stuff so that it explodes and you either get coins or pieces to build with. Destroying trees, outhouses, and what might be important pieces of electrical equipment is immensely satisfying, and I appreciate that if you break enough things, you’ll eventually get what you need to move on to the next scene.

Also helpful are the voiceovers from characters that sometimes give you hints. The hints are wonderfully leading; for example: “Aw, heck. When that tree went down, it took out the gate control panel. Guess we’ll have to find another way out.”

The game also helps you figure out how to complete tasks by putting a red circle above the head of whichever character can solve a particular problem—different characters have different abilities, and you can switch between them as you like during the game. In this regard, Ellie gets completely hosed. She is the only one, for example, who is gifted with the ability to dive head first into a pile of dinosaur poop. And when a digging task needed to be completed, I had the following exchange with my daughter:

Me: Wait, why did you change characters there?
D: Because Alan Grant can dig.
Me: How did you know that?
D: Because remember at the beginning he was digging up dinosaurs?
Me: So then Ellie must have that ability too, right?
D: No, she has a watering can.
Me: Oh.

It should be noted that the game does, of course, tone down the murdering quite a bit. In the scene where a worker falls into the raptor pit and gets eaten, in the game he comes back out again in his underwear because the dinosaurs ate his clothes. Also, there are scenes where the player gets to become one of the dinosaurs, which is a lot of fun. You can destroy things more efficiently as a triceratops, as it turns out.

lego jurassic world

You can even play as dinosaurs in LEGO Jurassic World.

LEGO Jurassic World is a blast. In fact, it’s the first game that I have gotten so into that I lost track of time while playing and before I knew it it was past my kids’ bedtime. The best part, though, was having my daughter calmly guide me through the game. In the beginning, she would get frustrated because she would tell me to press a button and I wouldn’t be able to find it, but pretty soon she relaxed (and I found all the buttons). Later, she apologized for losing her temper, and we talked about how to handle frustration and what it’s like when you’re learning new things. It was a fantastic discussion, and it came while she was teaching me how to ride a cow. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup.

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Meredith Bland is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Brain, Mother; Narratively; Blogher; Time; and Parentmap among others. She also writes at her humor blog, Pile of Babies.