The LEGO Movie Videogame – Review

Title   The Lego Movie Videogame
Developer  TT Games
Publisher  Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform  Windows PC, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (reviewed), Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre  Action-adventure
Release Date  February 14, 2014

There’s a word thrown around a lot these days: meta.  It’s overused, misunderstood, and one of those annoyances that one has to put up with in order to live in modern society without smacking someone in the face repeatedly, quite simply because very few things described as such ever actually are ‘meta’.  There is, however, an extreme exception: The LEGO Movie Videogame (TLMV).  It’s a game, based on a movie, which centres around the video game, which only came about because George Lucas actually liked that some guys made a LEGO version of Star Wars years ago and greenlit the first game.  Meta as fuck.

If you’re familiar with LEGO games on console or PC and have yet to experience the stud-fest in the portable format, you’ll notice a few less-than-subtle differences.  For starters, the top-down isometric viewpoint is used in lieu of the traditional over-the-shoulder third person of the ‘big box’ version, so you’re immediately removed from the action to some degree.  This may be down to processing power, but I imagine it’s more to do with fitting as much on screen as possible at any given time rather than have your eyes dart all over the place trying to keep up with what’s going on.  The next thing you’ll come to realise, as time goes on, is that this a more concentrated offering, with a considerable amount removed from the console/PC release, but perhaps that’s to be expected.

Regardless, TT have again tried to remain true to the source material and each of the levels are followed by a cutscene which walks you through the main storyline of the movie.  For those who haven’t yet seen the movie and perhaps assumed that this would be one of those ‘based on’ licensed games that actually has very little to do with the origin, it may come as a surprise when the gameplay involves you moving through the story from beginning to end.  Those with no interest in attempting to watch a movie in the cinema while umpteen idiots text (or call) their friends the entire time, and who don’t relish the thought of having to wrestle dialogue into their ears above arguing or shenanigans can happily fill in the blanks and soak up the movie as they go – albeit through brief snippets. In order to avoid spoiling it, there’ll be no mention of the storyline whatsoever.

One of the things that I’d found off-putting with LEGO games in the past was the lack of variety, where each level was more or less the same as the previous with one or two minor aesthetic changes to reinforce the fact that this wasn’t actually the level you’d just played.  The Vita version of TLMV, however, turns this on its head very quickly as each level has an entirely different theme from the last.  While this does help to keep things fresh and offers a bit of variety for the senses, it can also be somewhat jarring as there’s no explanation as to why you’ve just gone from a builder’s yard to the old west and then to some bizarre futuristic industrial plant.  Perhaps the movie manages to bridge these transitions seamlessly but, sadly, the Vita game did leave me wondering what the hell was going on and that was with me actually paying attention to the cut scenes.  For a change.

All that aside, the gameplay itself is typical LEGO fare – collect as many studs as you possibly can, smash shit up all over the place, beat the crap out of anyone who stands in your way, uncover specials such as golden bricks and schematics, and survive if you possibly can.  Those horrible mini-games rear their vile demonic heads from time to time too, where you have to guide Emmet as he falls through a collectible-laden abyss here, is dragged kicking and screaming through a cactus-lined gulch there, or trundles through caverns in an Indy-esque mine cart adventure.  They may exist simply to break up the monotony of the stud-em-up nature of the game, but they have no real place and, if anything, their inclusion is (again) jarring.

What I will say for these bizarre interludes, however, is that they aren’t easy.  They may look simple, but they’re far from it and you can’t actually progress to the next level until you complete these hell-spawned mini-games so if, like me, you’re not au fait with playing LEGO games on the Vita, you may find yourself replaying these levels a dozen times in order to reach the goal.  While that may be the entire point of games such as Trials HD where your greatest competition is yourself and the urge to better your previous score/time is what drives you on, with these mission side-steps the desire is primarily for them to just piss off.

That said, they are just a small part of a much bigger whole… and the overall game is a dainty little jaunt.  It’s inoffensive, funny at times, colourful as hell, and is in no way taxing so if you find yourself with twenty minutes to spare and you just fancy kicking the shit out of some yellow folk then it’s very easy to pick up and play without having to concern yourself with a full evening’s worth of commitment.  Collecting the studs is the primary goal, and picking up the golden bricks and other special parts certainly does make for the odd fist-in-the-air moment, but the challenges are by far the main reason to replay any level.  Whether that’s destroying a dozen gas canisters, avoiding all damage – which I haven’t yet managed – or completing the level as quickly as possible, there are many reasons to learn each level inside out for your next attempt(s).

As with all other LEGO games, progression is awarded with personnel, and TLMV is no different.  Whether it’s Batman, Gandalf, or Abraham Lincoln, each character has their own little quirks and foibles that make it very easy to decide on a go-to character if they’re available during the story campaign, but unlocking all 96 involves completing each level in story mode to make them playable in freeplay mode.  If you’re planning on going back through in freeplay after completing the campaign then I imagine it’s worth the trudge but when you get to the point that you’re seeing studs in your sleep (and I don’t mean in the ‘naked oiled guy’ sense), I suspect that freeplay would be the last thing on your mind when the end credits roll.

The Vita-specific controls are, to be honest, pointless.  Having to take your hands away from the natural controller position to furiously swipe at the screen to get anyone to build a structure is devoid of any purpose and a quick fumble with the pad showed that it could be done without any gimmickry, even though this information was never offered up.  By the time I’d got thirty minutes into the game, the only time my hands ever left the controls was to drag individual LEGO pieces around in one of the other pointless mini-games where you build from instructions and have to place the correct part from your component list on to whatever you’re building.  If there was a way to do this without touch controls, I never discovered it, but I’d go as far as to say that TT may have been better to ignore the touch-screen functionality and stick to creating a portable version without any gimmicks.

In terms of overall playability, however, it’s easy to see why the LEGO franchise is the hit that it is with gamers – the games are very accessible, easy to understand, aesthetically pleasing, and are genuinely enjoyable.. save for those aforementioned mini-games, and TLMV is no different.  Flitting between characters to solve puzzles, unlock areas, and generally destroy the environment as much as possible while studs float into the ether is a great way to waste time and it’s one of the better ‘big name’ games that I’ve played on the Vita.  Given the choice of returning to Mortal Kombat, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, or even Uncharted: Golden Abyss over The LEGO Movie Videogame, I’d go for the little brick folk every time.  It may not be as emotionally rewarding as Uncharted, frenetic as Most Wanted, or brutal as Mortal Kombat, but it has so much more going for it when it comes to enjoyment and sometimes that’s what games is all about – enjoyment, and nothing more.

  • So much fun
  • Very easy to pick up and play, without worrying about needing to dedicate hours
  • More than decent in terms of graphics and handling
  • Varied environments
  • Good characters
  • Seriously good replayability if you're into it enough
  • Makes you think at times, but not too much
  • Mini games are tedious and out of place
  • 'THAT' song that plays at the end of every level
  • Some of the Vita touch elements are a tad shoe-horned

This is one of those games where, if you're not actually a fan of the LEGO franchise, you may end up with a pleasant surprise. It carries the trademark humour, the story is told well, and it's ridiculous enough at times to make you question why you're even playing it... but in a good way. For those who want to kick back and play something that doesn't tax the grey matter too much, and is just bucket loads of fun, The LEGO Movie Videogame is right up there with the best of them and is one of the most enjoyable Vita experiences yet. But in a very basic sense.

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One Comment

  1. old school gamer says:

    wish ALL games were fun and simply exciting again. compare to investors greed and illuminati control over weak minded military open world gamers. simple fun is dieing if Nintendo dont do anything with wii-U …..PLEASE!!!! Nintendo open up your SNES portfolio and save video game industry. open world gaming is killing the industry HELP!!!!!!!

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