Lego Dimensions Review (Xbox One)
Combining the best elements of Lego (the building of fantastic sets and characters) and the Lego games from TT Games (the level and gameplay design), Lego Dimensions was a surefire hit for gamers of all ages and skill sets when it hit shelves in 2015. Now revisiting the world one year later with a wealth of new content, Lego Dimensions is poised to cement itself as the preeminent toys-to-life game. Even if the competition were as strong as it was one year ago, Lego Dimensions is still pace setter in the genre.
If you missed out on Lego Dimensions' arrival last year, it's still there in its original state. Since release the basic game has been bolstered by continued add-ons, with the latest wave arriving last month. The core adventure stars Wyldstyle (The Lego Movie universe), Gandalf (The Lego Lord of the Rings universe) and Batman (The Lego DC Comics universe, not the Lego Batman Movie universe, which will have its own separate Batman and content) as they try to chase down Lord Vortech. His evil plan is to rule all of these universes, so at least his goals are lofty. With the power to combine and bend the various Lego dimensions to his will, Vortech is a formidable foe, made even more so by the ability to recruit various other villains from other Lego dimensions. Ah, you see, it's not just a clever name for a game.
The starter set includes minifigures for Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle, and soon after starting the game, you'll build up your first vehicle, the Batmobile. It also includes the portal, which works with up to seven different figures/vehicles. That's an impressive amount of characters on screen at any one time, and mixing up the roster with an amalgamation of DC Comics, '80s TV, and cinematic heroes is part of what makes Lego Dimensions such a fun ride. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First you've got to build the portal.
Technically you could just play the game with the plain base, but the heart of Lego is in the building. The dimension gateway has printed instructions that are easy to follow, though it could be a bit of a downer to spend 45 minutes or so putting just the portal together before you play. The toyetic nature of Lego Dimensions is one of its biggest draws, but the actual building does take you out of the game experience from time to time, grinding your progress to a halt.
During certain game moments, directions will pop up on screen for you to follow when building things like vehicles. These directions aren't printed anywhere, and can only be found in the game once you've accessed that moment. It's not that things should come assembled already out of the box, it's just that players should be able to put all their toys together beforehand so they never leave the game world. If you're playing on your own, it's not so bad, but if you're taking on any of Lego Dimensions' adventures with a friend, that sudden 10-minute break can stifle your momentum.
Beyond that, Lego Dimensions' pace in the main storyline, and the additional story and level packs, is solid. In the main game, you'll be chasing down Vortech and skipping across worlds like The Simpsons, Portal, the Wizard of Oz and more. The story and level packs are a bit more focused in that you primarily stay within the bounds of the New York City from the 2016 Ghostbusters or the Land of Ooo in Adventure Time. You can bring any of these characters into any of those worlds, but Lego Dimensions proper is the only time you'll get to see everything without purchasing additional packs.
Though there are a lot or characters and levels to purchase, any of the packs with additional levels or story content are worth expanding your collection. Just in the latest wave, Mission: Impossible, Ghostbusters and Adventure Time bring plenty of variety to the existing formula. You don't have to worry about having progressed to a certain point in the main game to enjoy these add-ons either. All of them function on their own, including making use of the various keystones. These keystones are explained as you progress through the main game, and incorporate the portal pad itself into puzzles on screen. They're never difficult to figure out, but they do add another element of play with the figures that's often absent from toys-to-life contemporaries.
All of the major properties also have hub worlds you can visit from the main menu. These smaller-scale open worlds are each based in a different franchise, though you'll need at least one character from that license to actually visit any single one. If you don't have Scooby-Doo, you won't be able to go to that world at all. It makes some semblance of sense, but you also aren't missing much if you can't visit any given world. These areas are worth exploring just for a bit, but are merely filled with fetch quests, races and bricks to find. There isn't much that separates the DC Comics hub from the Lord of the Rings, save for the locale and NPC population. Only the most devoted of completionists will find much to do with these portions. The rest of the game is good enough to survive on its own without paying much attention to these worlds though.
If you're more into a party game scene, Lego Dimensions does have Battle Arenas, where up to four players can battle it out on the Quidditch grounds, the Mission: Impossible's IMF training grounds, or any number of other stages that unlock with new sets and characters in Wave 6 (and beyond). The options here, like Capture the Flag, should all feel familiar though with a Lego Dimensions twist. There are obstacles and traps you can set, and earning a victory is just as rewarding as spoiling someone else's with a well-timed power-up. These portions provide a nice change of pace, but again, it's the core game and the actual levels that shine the most. The Battle Arena isn't a throwaway addition, but it's far more enjoyable to spend hours exploring Lego Dimensions' various worlds with different characters than it is to mash buttons in the competitive multiplayer.
Lego Dimensions set a new precedent for what a toys-to-life game could be after arriving last year. That excellence continues with the second year of content (or Wave 6 if you've been on from the start), which delivers more of that Lego game charm with more characters and vehicles than ever. With the wide range of interests collected here, there's almost assuredly something for everyone, and that's one of Lego Dimensions' greatest strengths. That it's also fun to play just makes the decision to enter this world that much easier.
This review is based on a Lego Dimensions starter kit and collection of year two playsets and figures provided by the publisher for Xbox One.