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A funny, friendly tour through multiple TV shows, games, and movie
An astonishingly great cast of voice actors.
Unique moments during gameplay
LEGO Pad seems like a gimmick
Strange puzzle logic
Sketchy collision detection
LEGO Dimensions has a lot of potential, and it’s fun enough, but the LEGO Pad add-on detracts from gameplay.
LEGO Dimensions is a big, worlds-spanning team-up between many of the characters from the various LEGO universes so far, and quite a few more besides. At least half of the game’s considerable appeal is watching a disparate army of characters meet and interact.
However, LEGO Dimensions is also the foundation of a collectible toy bonanza. It ships with a couple of LEGO projects that you can assemble, and then use in real life to affect the action on-screen. It’s a cool idea, and it’s neat to build a LEGO Batmobile in order to make it appear in-game so Batman can drive it, but it’s a bigger headache than it needs to be.
Playing LEGO Dimensions on an Xbox One, we were hit with a surprisingly hefty 19 GB patch right out the gate when we went to install the game. It took about 25 minutes to install, then update it.
The base Dimensions pack comes with a few LEGO projects in the same box. You absolutely must build the Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle Minifigures, as well as the Batmobile accessory, in order to progress. The Minifigures won’t take more than a few minutes, but the Batmobile is a short, intricate project, and the instructions are only found in-game. Expect that to take 10 to 20 additional minutes.
Thanks to the machinations of the villainous Lord Vortech, strange portals appear on several LEGO Worlds, sent there in order to steal items of great power. In the process, he accidentally abducts Batman’s sidekick Robin, Frodo Baggins, and MetalBeard the LEGO Pirate. Their friends—Batman, Gandalf, and Wildstyle—give chase, jumping through an unstable portal and ending up in an abandoned facility on the planet of Vorton.
After they rebuild the gadget that created the portal, the trio search for a series of Keystones that are missing from the machine, finding them in various worlds throughout the LEGO Multiverse. Along the way, they meet and assist characters that range from Homer Simpson to Scooby-Doo to the Doctor, eventually recruiting an interdimensional army with which to oppose Vortech.
All the LEGO games tend to use the same basic formula: there’s a little fighting, but most of the game is built around exploration and what amount to intricate puzzles, where you build new gadgets or use your characters’ unique abilities to get past whatever problems you encounter.
The LEGO Pad doesn’t work quite right in a lot of circumstances.
You also smash every little thing in your path, in order to break it down for useful LEGO studs, which serve as both an in-game currency and a way to keep score. In co-op play, a little kid can contribute to the action, even if only by running around breaking everything they can reach.
With LEGO Dimensions, in particular, the game has an additional mechanic in the form of the LEGO Pad, a physical device that comes with the starter pack and plugs into your Xbox One via USB. You can build LEGO Minifigures of your party, as well as a LEGO Batmobile for them to ride, and place them on the LEGO Pad so the game recognizes their presence. As you progress through the game, many puzzles and bosses involve special mechanics that you use via the LEGO Pad, such as moving the Minifigures from one area on the Pad to another as it lights up in sequence.
In practice, this is an interesting new challenge, as the game frequently requires you to use the Pad when you reach new areas and new chapters in the story. However, you end up juggling your controller and the LEGO Pad in a lot of hectic situations, which makes it easy to accidentally get your characters exploded while you’re messing with their arrangement on the Pad. You also need to make sure that the LEGO Pad is somewhere you can reach it while you play. Fortunately, it does come with a surprisingly long cord, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
You end up juggling your controller and the LEGO Pad in a lot of hectic situations, which makes it easy to accidentally get your characters exploded.
The LEGO Pad doesn’t work quite right in a lot of circumstances, especially the color-matching puzzles that come to the forefront in the LEGO Ninjago stage. Many of them seemed to solve themselves without much input from us, and a couple just refused to work themselves out. It unavoidably broke the gameplay’s flow, because we found ourselves consistently having to put our controller down and reach across our desk to move a couple of Minifigures around. It made it difficult to get into any sort of groove, which was part of the fun of the other LEGO games.
With this many characters, from this many different franchises, LEGO is probably the only medium that could hope to stick them all together in a cohesive visual style. You go from high fantasy to modern cities to idyllic countryside to platforms off in the middle of outer space in LEGO Dimensions, and the visual style works without much of a hitch. With the notable exception of the Simpsons, the LEGO models make it seem like all of these very different characters actually could be from the same universe.
That said, a few shortcuts have been taken. There aren’t as many unique animations as there are in other LEGO games, like the idle background jokes or incidental facial expressions that are a highlight of games like LEGO Jurassic World, but all in all, it’s a surprisingly wide-ranging accomplishment.
The LEGO Dimensions starter pack for Xbox One is listed as US $57.99 on Amazon and $44.97 on Gamestop where it’s not in stock. It’s been discontinued, so it’s only going to get harder to find an unopened box. Since the starter pack comes with actual LEGOs inside it that are a crucial part of its gameplay, buying it digitally isn’t an option.
You can also buy a variety of add-on packs for LEGO Dimensions, which add additional characters, levels, worlds, and vehicles to the base game. While no more of the packs are being produced as of September of 2017, there are 43 packs, which all seem to retail for between $20 and $45. Fortunately, most of the packs only supply a few hours of new adventures. They’re expansions, and not necessarily collectibles, meaning you can skip them if you prefer.
The other LEGO games are arguably a stronger series, because while a few of them do have a lot of downloadable content packs—such as LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2—they’re all complete products without any out-of-game toys to use or buy. Dimensions feels like an introduction to other series. If you haven’t already played the DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, or LEGO Movie games, you might want to follow the central three characters back to their previous LEGO Adventures.
Most of the franchises involved with LEGO Dimensions do have their own video games. Back to the Future has a popular episodic adventure game from Telltale, for example, and the Simpsons have about a thousand of them going back almost 30 years.
The Portal games are a little fond of black comedy for many young kids, but both of them are very old by this point, which means they’re cheap (both of them are $9.99 on Steam) and will run on almost any modern computer. They’re arguably modern classics, and it’s worth visiting them with a kid who’s interested in puzzles.
A not-entirely-successful adventure
LEGO Dimensions has its fans, and had a couple of good years, but the LEGO Pad is more of a hindrance than a help. There’s a lot of dizzying crossover fun here, but the mechanics by which you get to it are often a pain in the neck, particularly the color-matching puzzles.
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