The Lego Movie Videogame - Wii U Review

Lego Goes Meta with The Lego Movie Video Game

Emmett discovers the downside of being a prophesied hero. WBIE

Pros: Entertaining story, gameplay improvements, some gamepad use.
Cons: Stop-and-start narrative structure, touchscreen bug.

Once upon a time, developer Traveller’s Tales created the game Lego Star Wars. They then created more movie-based games, first with pantomimed vignettes, then with dialogue. Then they moved into original stories. With The Lego Movie Videogame, they have come full circle, making a Lego game out of a Lego movie done in the style of a Lego game. Lego, a company founded on putting pieces together, seems to be piecing together its own media empire.

Developed by: TT Games
Published by: WBIE
Genre: Action-Adventure
For ages: 10 and up
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: February 7, 2014

The Story: Construction Worker Saves World

The decidedly nonsensical story centers on a construction worker named Emmett who stumbles into a battle between good and evil, as bad guy Lord Business works on a weapon to destroy the world and a team of good guys, able to build anything out of anything (i.e. out of Legos), tries to stop him. Soon Emmett is battling robots and building machines, traveling through the wild west and a surreal cloud world, working alongside a kick-ass woman, a cutesie kitten, an ancient mage, and several superheroes.

The story is generally well told, featuring cut scenes taken from the movie (which looks to be quite funny), but as it goes on it seems to spend less and less time trying to hold together the movie’s plot threads. Characters pop up out of nowhere; an astronaut suddenly joins the party, Abraham Lincoln quietly and without explanation waits for you to repair his hovercraft, the bad guy, for some reason, seems obsessed with the oversized detritus of the human race.

There also appears to be some sort of evil corporation theme, but I only know that because at one point I was able to change an advertising billboard into a protest billboard.

Overall the story still makes sense, and even offers a genuinely surprising and unusual finale, but it’s clear a lot is missing in terms of concepts and narrative; until I see the movie I’m going to have an incomplete idea of the story.

The Gameplay: The Lego Formula with Some Cute Ideas and a Little Extra Challenge

The gameplay follows the formula that has made the series so endlessly popular. Once again, you control a number of different characters, each with specific abilities. Some can fire weapons or grappling hooks. Some can make high jumps. Emmett can break through fragile areas with his jackhammer and use blueprints to build objects. Some characters are “master builders” who can simply grab miscellaneous objects and swirl them together, tornado-like, into elaborate machines.

Once again there’s a lot of breaking things, building things, and bashing attackers. This is one of the more challenging games in the series, by which I mean, it is sometimes mildly challenging, as when you must climb up a giant robot’s back, pull off a wheel, then switch to a different character to destroy the robot before it gets up. It’s not Donkey Kong hard, but it takes a little effort.

The game also introduces a few cute mini-games. When Emmett builds something, we see it being put together piece by piece, and occasionally players have to choose the right piece from a wheel. The astronaut accesses terminals, using a vaguely Pacman-ish interface to hack into computers. There’s also a rhythm game that pops up a couple of times, done to the movie’s cheesy, catchy song, “Everything is Awesome”. None of this is terribly challenging, but it does offer variety.

Emmet travels through a several worlds, from a city to a wild west-themed town to Cuckoo Cloud, a surreal world where breaking objects cause them to explode into fireworks and where you acquire the laughably cutesy Rainbow Kitty.

The Rest: A Shoehorned Hub World and Somewhat Buggy Touchpad Options

The biggest oddity in the game is its attempt to maintain the hub world concept that is part of the Lego formula, in which missions are launched from an open environment. Since the game’s varied locales prescribe a large, coherent hub world, the developers have created mini-hubs for different worlds.

When you finish a level, instead of immediately continuing the story to the next, there is a mini-hub where you must solve some simple puzzle or wander a few steps to start up the next chapter. It gives the story a weird, halting feel, especially when one level ends in the middle of peril and you suddenly find yourself rambling around a peaceful environment. Once you’ve played through the story, these hub worlds make more sense, as they give you extra gameplay, but it is as inelegant a solution to retaining a hub world as I can think of.

The gamepad touchscreen has two useful icons, one to call up a character-switch menu, the other to instantly change to off-TV play.Unfortunately, the touchscreen is a little buggy. The character menu exits out every time there’s a cutscene or any actions outside of user control, and there’s a bug that sometimes causes both the character and off-TV icons to disappear entirely. But when it was working I preferred it to calling up the character wheel or using the hotkey to swap to whoever you are facing.

The Verdict: A Top Entry in an Excellent Series

While not quite perfect, The Lego Movie Video Game is one of the best games in the series, with a few twists in the gameplay, two-player co-op, a little extra challenge, and an engrossing and entertaining story. Built on itself, the game is a meta-Lego marvel. The game based on the novelization of the making-of-the-movie documentary can’t be far behind.