Lego Dimensions is the year’s best toys-to-life game, injecting the
buildable fun of Lego toys into a hilarious adventure that sees Batman
fighting side-by-side with Gandalf, Doctor Who, Homer Simpson, Scooby
Doo, Portal’s Chell, the Ghostbusters, and dozens of other well-known
characters. Developer TT Games has been making great Lego games for a
decade, and this is one of the studio’s finest adventures yet – but it
costs an arm and a leg if you want to see it all.
One of Lego Dimensions’ earliest missions asks the player to put the controller down, open up a box of Lego bricks, dump them onto the ground, and follow an onscreen instruction manual to build a play set consisting of more than 250 pieces. This is an odd request for a game to make, since the process takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes to complete, but it represents Lego Dimensions’ hallmark feature: a functional toy component that is both fun and an integral part of the experience.
Rival toys-to-life games, Skylanders and Disney Infinity, look great on shelves and are highly collectible, but don’t offer much in terms of real-world playability outside of the rare set of spinning wheels. Lego Dimensions’ toys are meant to be played with, and like any Lego set, make the imagination run wild with building possibilities.
Dimensions' portal works remarkably well. It supports up to seven
characters at once, and lights up with different colors for
puzzle-solving purposes. It also loads character data quickly, adding
and subtracting characters from the field of play within seconds
Throughout Lego Dimensions’ entire adventure, TT Games keeps the toys’ appeal in the forefront, pushing players to take a break from pressing buttons to assemble a new Lego contraption, tear apart a vehicle to rebuild it in a different way, or move a minifigure to different places on the portal to trigger something within the game. Players don’t have to build anything if they don’t want to (the game only reads the base, not the arrangement of pieces on top), but I thoroughly enjoyed all of the building challenges and found many of the designs to be ingenious, especially given how few pieces are used for the builds.
The game itself fits nicely into the lineage of Lego titles created by TT Games. If you’ve played any of these Lego titles, you know exactly what to expect from Lego Dimensions: plenty of fist-swinging to smash a Lego object into a sea of bricks, followed by holding down a button to rapidly reassemble the pieces into a different form. Puzzle solving is heavily sewn into all levels, and most characters play a different role in how these riddles are completed. Minikits and secret studs are hidden in every stage.
Players can complete Lego Dimensions’ campaign using the core set’s three figures (Wyldstyle, Gandalf, and Batman). This means you don’t need to purchase any additional sets. If characters die in a level, you don’t have to hastily search on the floor other minifigures to take their place. Those characters instantly respawn, with the only penalty being a slight loss of studs, just like in any other Lego game. I finished a few levels using only the tiny assortment of core figures, and had a great time switching between them for various challenges.
However, as Batman tosses Batarangs, Gandalf illuminates darkened caverns, and Wyldstyle shows off her building skills, TT Games is constantly reminding the player that other characters are available for purchase. Unlike other Lego games, new characters are not unlocked through play. If you see a shiny metal object, a pile of dirt, or anything that looks a little suspicious in the world, you likely need a new character to interact with it – and these character-specific moments are numerous. You need to purchase a good portion of the characters and sets to be able to secure all 480 of the game’s Gold Bricks. Yes, you read that correctly; there are 480 Bricks to hunt down in the campaign, expansion sets, and variety of open hub worlds. The game is massive. For context, after finishing the campaign in roughly eight hours, I had collected just 25 Bricks and just enough studs to upgrade my Batmobile to the next level.
Completionists may feel the need to buy every set and figure, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy and finish the game. Of course, like any toys-to-life game, having an expanded roster makes Dimensions better. I didn't find a character that wasn't fun to play as. TT Games did a fantastic job making each one contribute in unique ways. Opening Portals to track down minikits as Chell is an absolute riot, Scooby Doo is faster than other characters and speeds up the hunt for mandatory hidden objects in levels, Justice League’s Cyborg is a one-man wrecking crew, and playing as the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz is a real trip.
If you don’t purchase any additional sets, that doesn’t mean you won’t get your Portal or Doctor Who fix. The campaign thoroughly explores every world and mashes them together in goofy ways, where you see The Lego Movie intersecting with The Simpsons, and find yourself hunting down Riddler trophies in Middle-earth’s Minas Tirith. Just seeing how the worlds will collide next is part of the fun. I giggled most of the way through the campaign, which is as funny as it is clever.
Players won't be able to see everything Lego Dimensions has to offer until future sets (like Ghostbusters) hit retail shelves in the months following release
Most of the voice actors from each brand reprise their roles. It’s a nice touch, as is the authentic music for each world. Hearing GLaDOS struggle to comprehend why her Test Chambers are being destroyed is wildly amusing, as is the bad ‘80s music in the Ghostbusters world.
The unique bonus levels that come packaged with the Portal, Back to the Future, and The Simpsons sets are not as good as the campaign’s stages, and each only lasts for an hour or less. The best Portal and Simpsons moments are in the campaign. The open worlds for each brand don’t offer much story content and mostly consist of fetch or escort missions. These worlds are entirely optional, and aren’t great for anything other than mindless exploration and Brick collecting.
Despite the extraneous content, Lego Dimensions is a hit. I haven't laughed this much playing a video game in a long time. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next, and my wife even sat in to watch the story unfold in crazy ways. Whether you just purchase the core set or go bonkers purchasing figures, Lego Dimensions delivers big thrills and fun playability both in the game and on your living-room floor.
Lego Dimensions is the year’s best toys-to-life game.