I recently picked up LEGO (R) Dimensions for the PS4, along with all of the Wave 1 packs — yes, I’m crazy like that. So far, it has been an absolute blast.
Lego Dimensions is the latest entry in the toys-to-life genre which started with Activision’s Skylanders, then moved on to Disney’s Infinity, followed by Nintendo’s Amiibo. Dimensions has a more expensive starter pack than the others, but you also get to play with real Lego pieces. Yes, you get to build all of your playing pieces, from the characters to their vehicles to the dimensional portal itself.
Let’s say, like me, you picked up the Portal 2 expansion kit. You start by assembling Chell and placing her on the portal pad. She enters the game and you can go into the Aperture Science Lab. If you go through the main portal (which I didn’t at first), you’re introduced briefly to GLaDOS and Wheatley and then you come up to a place where you need a Companion Cube. (Portal 2 fans will be familiar will all of these references.) When you try to activate the Companion Cube, a set of building instructions appears onscreen. You have to then follow page by page to assemble the Companion Cube, then create a Toy Tag on the game’s portal, and viola! You can now bring the Companion Cube into the game to help you solve puzzles.
These construction moments do pull you out of the game temporarily but I actually enjoy it. I’m physically creating the next piece that will appear onscreen. It definitely adds a creative layer to the toys-to-life genre, and I’m happier for it.
Some kits are Level Packs, like Portal 2, the Simpsons, and Back to the Future. Others are Team Packs, like Scooby Doo and Jurassic World. Last are the Fun Packs, which include one new character and a vehicle or companion ability. It adds up to a lot of money if you’re a collector, but that’s nothing new to the toys-to-life genre.
Each character and vehicle has different properties. Benny, from the Lego Movie, can hack computers. The Wicked Witch, from the Wizard of Oz, can fly and has mind control. Chell, from Portal 2, has the unique portal gun. Some character abilities overlap, thankfully, so you don’t necessarily have to get every character in order to unlock everything — as far as I can see so far. For instance, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Gollum are all able to unlock the Bat Locks. Of course, Batman comes with the starter kit, so that helps.
I really need Unikitty. There, I said it.
A new and cool idea is that the portal has three main areas. There are specific challenges where you need to physically move a character from one glowing section of the portal to another in order to change something in the game. This again adds a layer of “realism” to the game. You can also have an unprecedented SEVEN objects on the portal at once and you can easily switch between them all onscreen. It’s a well-thought-out design.
Moving characters around the portal to one of the three zones has an immediate response in-game when it is needed. It also means that pulling a character off for a moment doesn’t remove them from the game unless you don’t quickly return them. There is no cut-away loading screen when objects are placed on the portal either. Instead, a rift opens and the character or object just appears when it has loaded and you can switch to it — or climb onto it — and use it right away. It doesn’t interrupt a second player either.
On occasion there isn’t enough instruction and you have to fiddle around to figure things out. For instance, when I first went to Aperture Science, it didn’t let me into the quest level — maybe because I didn’t use the main computer? — and so I wasn’t able to get the instructions I needed to build the Companion Cube when I needed it. Many characters placed into the portal immediately have you build their vehicle, but there are a few exceptions where they made finding the vehicle part of the game itself.
I have also experienced a couple of game crashes after about an hour of two-player gameplay. That’s a bit disappointing, but considering the expansive level we were on and the fast updating of graphics, part of me wasn’t entirely surprised. It is unfortunate today that glitches and crashes are common in software, but Lego Dimensions makes use of updates, so those should be cleaned up at some point. Today I really played for a long time, albeit single player, and it never crashed.
We haven’t finished the game by any means, so this is more of a first-impression review after about fifteen hours of gameplay. I have already preordered the Wave 2 figures that come out November 3 but I have a feeling I will lose steam and not collect the rest of the waves after that. Those release in January, March, and May. (You never know, though. I may cave in.) Thankfully, though, Lego isn’t being secretive about future release dates, unlike the other toys-to-life companies.
How does it play? Like a polished up version of the Lego games. It has been fun, a little frantic, and there is a lot of creativity. That’s what Lego is all about, right? The writing is amusing and they’ve done a good job linking the characters together. For instance, Gandalf criticizes the Wicked Witch of the West for using her magic for evil purposes. It’s another layer to the game that’s well-crafted.
And as with the Lego video games, there is a lot of stuff to destroy and collect. Fill up that stud bar! Find the gold bricks. Collect the mini kits. Snag the elusive red brick, and so on. The red bricks unlock extra powers — if you pay for them once you’ve unlocked them — and those affect gameplay. One red brick, for instance, doubles all the money you collect.
The vehicles can also be upgraded, which is neat. I went ahead and bought all the first tier upgrades for my beloved Companion Cube. I was then able to upgrade it to a Laser Cube, which will allow me to complete other challenges in the Portal world — though I’m wondering if Wonder Woman could have done the job herself… Hmm. Turning the Companion Cube into a Laser Cube prompted a new set of building instructions! I had to tear the Cube apart and build it back up again. Now some of those inner Lego pieces that were hidden inside the Cube made more sense!
If you couldn’t tell so far, I’m having a lot of fun with Lego Dimensions. If you’re looking for a new toys-to-life game, give this a try. You can complete the game with just the starter pack, so all the expansions are just for added levels, unlocks, abilities, and fun.
The only question I have right now is… Why isn’t Lego Harry Potter in Dimensions? Maybe that’ll be for next fall? I’ll admit it… I’d love to add some Hogwarts to the game!