I’ve been entertained by Lego games for a very long time. Most of the entries have combined funny antics and jokes with slight puzzle solving involving famous film properties and references to pop culture. They’ve never been overly deep or required split-second reaction times – making them perfect for younger gamers and even those who casually pick up a controller a couple times a year. It’s no secret that the various games haven’t been all that ambitious in taking chances and they almost all play in a similar fashion. No doubt this was called out in numerous reviews over the years and so the developers decided to try something new with The Lego Movie 2 Videogame. Some of the changes will no doubt excite longtime fans, but most of the come up short and left me wishing for a more traditional Lego game instead.
In previous Lego games players would go around the world smashing everything to gather studs. These would add up throughout the level and if enough were found and collected the player would be rewarded at the end of the stage. Generally each section of the game would be played through in the story mode and then only after unlocking all of the various characters would players go back in Free Play mode to use their special powers to collect previously unreachable collectibles, like Red and Gold Bricks, minikits, and more. To 100% the game usually required playing through the levels several times to solve all of the puzzles and locate all of the secret items. This was always a fun process and felt a tad bit like a Metroidvania game because your first run you’d always see stuff that you couldn’t quite access, but later on you could. This tried-and-true formula has been a staple of the series since the very beginning, and by changing some of the fundamentals The Lego Movie 2 Videogame misses the mark.
I get that open world video games are the latest trend that everyone seems to be embracing. Even prior Lego games often have dabbled in this, with Lego City Undercover being a fantastic example of merging a huge open world with smaller linear mission stages. It was the best of both worlds, so to speak, and even other titles in the franchise used hub worlds to great effect. The problem with this title is that they really lean into the open area concept with the various worlds you’ll explore, and the game loses some of its momentum because of that. Each new world you open up looks different from the prior, but the grind sets in quicker than ever before. You’ll find yourself doing the same exact things over and over again to collect special sparkly purple blocks. Once you’ve found enough of them you can open a portal and move onto the next area. Because of the open world concept there’s way less opportunity for refined level design and funny storytelling. There are hints of this scattered throughout, but it’s so scattershot that most of it never landed with me.
Some gameplay elements remain the same. You’ll still punch and kick all sorts of things made out of Legos. You’ll still pick up studs, but you’ll also find different colored Lego bricks that you must collect. You’ll need these pieces to build new items and tools. Building is a much bigger deal this time around and you’ll often be pulling up a menu to select which object you want to place to proceed further in the stage. For example, one of the first builds is a trampoline, which requires pink blocks to create and allows your character to bounce high up in the air to reach previously inaccessible areas. You’ll also find blueprints for Megabuilds, which let you place huge buildings down in various spots. There’s an entire world where you can create your own town with various places to explore. In concept this sounds like something that should have been incorporated into earlier Lego games, but it’s just not all that fun in reality.
One of my favorite aspects of prior Lego titles was completing quests and unlocking new playable characters. The main set of protagonists each had special powers that would need to be used to blow up specific obstacles, grapple to new areas, or fly around to find secrets. In this game everyone pretty much has the same moves and there’s really little incentive to change between the characters. It’s almost like they’re just different skins with only cosmetic differences. Instead of focusing on individual skills, everyone has access to the build menu where they can lay down whatever’s necessary to proceed. In most cases what would normally have been a puzzle-solving moment is spoiled by the fact that the objects around the build spot are usually the exact ones you need to destroy to get the correct colored pieces to build the thing. So, if you see a bunch of pink colored objects around a build point you pretty much know you’re going to need to build the trampoline before even looking at your build menu, which sort of ruins some of the fun.
Another slightly disappointing aspect of the game is its lack of storytelling. Wyldstyle narrates most of the game’s plot and it’s not compelling at all. The characters in the game don’t really talk that much and there’s a shocking lack of humor that’s usually present in these titles. The best parts of the game revolve around the bosses, who do require some thought to figure out and are visually compelling, often towering several screens high.
Speaking of visuals, older Lego games often meshed traditional graphics with Lego blocks to create a sort of unique aesthetic. In other words, it was easy to tell which objects could probably be destroyed and which ones were permanent parts of the environment. I know some people criticized this graphic choice in the past and wondered why the entire game couldn’t be constructed out of Lego blocks. I’ll point them to this game as a reason why that’s a bad idea. First up, the entire game looks underwhelming. There are no detailed backgrounds or exciting vistas to look at because everything is just a bunch of blocks plopped on top of another. Second, it can be difficult to know exactly what can be destroyed and what’s part of the background. I just wasn’t that impressed with any of the worlds and I hope they reconsider this graphic choice for future games.
In the end, The Lego Movie 2 Videogame still retains some of the same co-op fun gameplay loops that exist in prior games. It’s just unfortunate that the story is dull, the graphics are boring, and the lack of special powers for each character is missing. I get what the developers were trying to do, but sometimes change is a good thing and other times not so much. Younger gamers should still find plenty of entertaining moments, but veterans of the series will probably be let down. This one’s not quite as awesome as I had hoped it would be.
The Lego Movie 2 Videogame Review
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
I give the developers credit for trying some new gameplay ideas, but they mostly failed at creating a funny narrative and worlds that are fun to explore. I was never wowed by anything in the game, and that’s a shame. Still, the co-op can be fun and the game did release at a reasonable $39.99, making it worth considering for younger gamers.