The latest Lego video game finally sees a change in the usual formula, but change is not necessarily always for the better…
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. For years the Lego games have been almost the only family friendly multiformat games of any quality. They’ve been better or worse depending on which property they’re based on but, generally speaking, if you want a co-op game to play with your kids, or non-gaming friends, then Lego has been almost the only option. But then toys to life and Lego Dimensions happened, and after that brief but expensive fad ended suddenly nobody wanted to pay for standalone Lego games anymore.
Even when they released a good one, like 2017’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, it never seemed to sell as well as before. Last year’s Lego DC Super-Villains not only fared the same but was so over-egged with features and unnecessary complications it became a chore to play. Clearly change was needed and the release of The Lego Movie 2 seemed to provide the perfect opportunity. But while this is different from most of the other games it barely feels like even a step in the right direction.
The Lego Movie 2 video game does not work in the same way as the usual Lego games, but it is not an entirely new concept. It’s more of an amalgam of everything that’s come before, with basic gameplay similar to the regular titles but combined with the hub worlds of Lego Dimensions and the customisation of Lego Worlds. Which sounds fine in theory but in practice is one of the most boring and badly-made games we’ve played all year.
We were great fans of the original Lego Movie, with its unusually intelligent mix of comedy and social message, and while the second inevitably loses something in novelty value we still found it a very thoughtful and enjoyable experience. Even though it starts off as a simple rescue mission it’s admittedly not the easiest plot to translate into a video game, although this barely even tires – as it desperately tries to hide the fact there’s almost no movie footage and that the only returning voiceover actor is Elizabeth Banks as Lucy.
The basic gameplay vaguely tries to replicate that of the regular Lego games, but in as boring a way as possible. Each environment, including some from the first movie, has its own open world hub area where you and a friend can explore and punch random parts of the background to reveal studs. You can also scan pre-build objects to gain new blueprints and mine resources to build them in your own customisable hub, that works like a simplified version of the Minecraft-esque Lego Worlds.
There are lots of different characters to play as but rather than having their own unique abilities everything is dependent on items which you collect and unlock in a specific order. You can go back with different tools afterwards but ploughing through the story involves no thought or experimentation at all, while also removing all the fun of collecting and exploring.
That’s an understatement though. The game doesn’t just remove the fun it puts it in a rocket and fires it into the sun. Collecting objects now happens primarily through the medium of what are essentially loot boxes, as you discover relics that can be redeemed as random characters, vehicles, buildings, and items. There’s thankfully no microtransactions but the relics have to be taken back to an in-game shop to be opened and sitting through that process for every single one is tortuously dull – especially once you realise most of them are going to be duplicates anyway.
The excuse is presumably that this game, more than any of the others, is aimed at kids but considering how lacking it is in action or excitement that makes no sense. Even the always-terrible vehicles have a hit a new low, with traversal taking forever whether you’re on foot or not.
The game has many problems but the most serious is that it’s just so relentless dull and slow-paced; as if someone took everything that was fun and imaginative about the previous Lego games, purposefully removed it and served up only what was left behind as underheated leftovers.
Part of the problem is that the game is clearly a victim of a tiny budget and very short turnaround, issues which have plagued the franchise since its inception. The Lego games are always full of bugs and glitches, with the hapless developers never given enough time to polish their work to a properly finished state.
Some of the bugs have been recurring from one game to the next for years but here the camera and general performance are the worst they’ve ever been. There’s constant screen-tearing, frame rate problems, texture and object pop-in, and peculiarly unresponsive button inputs.
It’s shameful that the game was released at all, especially given the primary audience are kids and adults who are unlikely to read reviews or know what the game is like in advance (although that didn’t stop Warner Bros. from refusing to send out review copies anyway, just to be sure everyone was kept in the dark). Lego is all about creativity and imagination, but we’ve rarely played a video game that shows less of either.
The Lego Movie 2 Videogame
In Short: A cheap and nasty film tie-in that reaches a new low for Lego games and stands in stark contrast to the creativity of the movie and the toys.
Pros: The co-op ensures you can still have fun with a friend or family member, and customising your own town is mildly diverting.
Cons: Horribly dull and repetitive gameplay that seems specifically designed to subvert the simple fun of the previous games. Mountains of bugs and generally poor performance. Loot boxes.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: TT Fusion
Release Date: 1st March 2019 (NS physical release – 15/3)
Age Rating: 7