Review: Lego Dimensions

Lego Dimensions

When people ask me what’s the best game they can play with their significant other/friend who’s sitting next to them I always drop whatever I’m holding, run over, and shout THE LEGO GAMES!

There’s little fear of competition, as they’re all designed as true co-op; you have to work together to get things done. And if you’re not as big of a gamer as your fellow couch sharer, it’s no big deal. All you lose is a bit of coin as your character explodes into Lego pieces, then you pop back in, ready to chuck Legolas off another cliff. What? Just me.

After seeing how much tasty tasty money Disney raked in with their Infinity series, Lego decided to finally get into the toy/game hybrid with Dimensions.

What makes Dimensions different from Infinity and Skylanders is that, rather than a little collectible figure, you get actual Lego pieces. Lego pieces you can pop off the stands to play with. I’m going to do so many things with my little Lego Chell! (If we get the Doctor Who Lego kit, she’s gonna be his companion instead of Clara, because duh). There are points with the vehicles where you can upgrade not only what they can do but how they look; the game gives you step-by-step instructions on how to rebuild the Legos. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s pop that disc in first.

While your system is downloading and installing the massive patch all games come with now, you can tear through the box, dumping Lego pieces over the floor to put together the Dimensional portal that looks like a Stargate Dentata.

It was at this point that I realized one of the most important things about these games/toys – get an end table or something to put not only the base, but all your side pieces onto. This is actually a TV tray table reserved for our Halloween display, but it’s got an out-of-season job now.

The original set only comes with Batman, Wyldstyle (at least it’s not Wyldstyleaden), Gandalf, and the Batmobile. We got the Portal one on the first day as well – which I’ll be reviewing at the end – and then picked up a few more a few days later. This quickly becomes a reason why heading into this dimension may not be a direction you want to take. They’re designed to be money sinks, though not as bad as micro-transactions in free to play games.

To the main game. You start out meeting Batman (of course you do) who’s voiced by, say it with me now, Troy Baker. Actually, Lego pulled out quite a few coups for this game. Normally their voice work is meh, but they got in not only Elizabeth Banks for Wyldstyle and Will Arnett’s for his few scenes as the Lego Movie Batman, but Elijah Wood and Sean Astin return as Frodo and Sam, along with Christopher Lloyd Great Scotting it up as Doc Brown and all the Ghostbusters. They got around the fact that Harold Ramis is gone from us for the Ghostbusters level, which I’ll explain later.

Robin (voiced by the same one who’s Robin on Teen Titans Go) gets sucked into some new portal dimension and Batman goes running after him. The Meddling Crusader finds himself in the middle of Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog. The dimension hole sucks up Frodo and the one ring, leaving poor Sam bereft and kinda bored.

Finally, the multi-world tour drops Batman and Gandalf off in Lego Movie land (full confession, I’ve never seen The Lego Movie, which can be a bit of a problem for these games) where we get our one female character of the group.

*record scratch* Rant Ahead: Lego is usually pretty bad at gender parity, but for this game, it’s just freaking awful. Out of 44 possible characters you can purchase and run around as, there are 6 female ones. That’s not even one in seven. At that ratio, just kiss the species goodbye. Jurassic World is the best example that they don’t give a shit. There are two movie characters they chose for you to be for the game. Guess who they are. Owen – Chris Pratt’s manchild character, of course. Who do you think the second would be? A random nameless guard, of course! What do you mean, Claire? That’s just silly. Girls can’t do things!

The only black character is Cyborg, who’s also DCs go-to “black friend” because they forget about Vixen. Maybe the Ninja master is supposed to be Asian, but the rest of the ninjas are all white guys, because of course they are.

The second Batman meets Wyldstyle, he demands her scanner, which he’s never seen before, to do his awesome, manly Batman shit. She at least gets to use it the rest of the game, but that’s just to find things for Batman to tow and/or whack with his batarangs.

I’m so fucking tired of Batman. About his only fun moment is upon meeting Will Arnett’s Batman and getting into a slap fight with him, otherwise he’s every god damn Troy Baker protagonist who broods and is super serious and dark. THIS IS SO BORING, YOU’RE NOT EVEN PARODYING IT! Gandalf’s played like he’s a bumbling old guy, sweet but kind of absentminded.

All I got out of Wyldstyle’s personality is that she has wacky hair and is not a DJ – which she said about 30,000 times. She seemed kinda entertained with what was going on, but also detached and sorry, I built more of an attachment to the beleaguered, mute Chell than her. This was, after all, Batman’s show…again.

Okay, enough bad stuff. Let’s get to the fun stuff. Whether you purchase the various packs of characters or not, the main storyline itself is composed of you visiting each world (save Jurassic Park and whatever that Chima thing is). I figured I’d list every world and give my pluses and minuses on it while avoiding any real story spoilers.

The first stop over is in Wizard of Oz, which – despite me never having seen the movie (I’m really bad at this) – I rather enjoyed. The witch is entertaining as hell. We got her not only because she can fly and blow up silver bricks, but I wanted an awesome witch character to play as. And for some reason, she’s super into everything we’re doing when you take her through the story. Just 100% optimistic, loves life, and — for some reason — really wants to go into business with everyone. Was that a major plot point in the Wizard of Oz? Did she have a shoe business with Glinda that went belly up?

Anyway, Wizard of Oz is fun; the way it’s built is very reminiscent of older Lego games. There’s a few secret areas to explore and tons of plants to run over for studs, thereby destroying the Munchkins’ harvest and dooming them to starvation. MWHAHAHAHAHAHA!

After that, we hit the Simpsons, and it’s not good. It fits in well with later seasons of the Simpsons in terms of its banality and forgettableness. For the love of God, Traveler’s Tales, you had so much to pick from, nearly my lifespan’s worth! It starts rather promising with a couch gag, and then you get to smash up some of the Simpsons’ house before running around in the backyard. Good. Then we’re sucked into the Nuclear Power Plant for a level that looks more like one off the cutting room floor of a Lego Batman game. The only voice is Homer’s, and they couldn’t even be bothered to bring in Dan Castellaneta. Instead, all the dialogue is swiped from two Simpsons episodes — the one when Homer saves the plant by playing Eenie, meenie, minie, moe, and the other when he gains weight to get on disability. There are a few extra “D’ohs” and “My thingies!” but that’s it. Nothing new, and the seams really show from the plot threads slapped together using tape and pinking shears.

After leaving Springfield, you get transported to the Lego world of Ninjago, which — I’m sorry to admit — I have seen the show. (Lloyd is a stupid name for a Ninja!) It was decent. There was a fun maze portion and, due to the dimensions all folding in on themselves, random villains like Lex Luthor and Saruman pop up. In some ways, that’s the real selling point of Dimensions. This feels like the video game version of dumping all your Legos together and making your own stories. Plus, you can do crazy shit like have Chell about to take Denethor’s leap of faith (though with her longfall boots, she stands a better chance).

This was a much shorter level in general and wasn’t super flushed out, but I can understand why. Basing it upon their one season of a show that Lego had on the Cartoon Network, it’s unlikely that many people are going to know it or have any attachment to it.

But, hold onto your bowties and celery, because our next stop over is with The Doctor. Somehow Capaldi’s Doctor seems less like a dick when not written by Moffat, or perhaps it’s because he’s only being a major ass to Batman, who deserves it.

This level, if you are in any way a Who fan, is amazingballs. There are Cybermen, Daleks, and — most terrifying of all — Weeping Angels. Yes, Lego made Weeping Angels scary again. It was watching a video of the Weeping Angel scene that pushed us to get the game, so I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s worth letting the Angels kill you at least once. And even the Daleks have some adorable moments.

You can tell the developers relished the opportunity to run around in the world of Doctor Who. Sadly, those sets don’t drop until November, so we won’t know what the Who open world looks like, or how the campaign goes. But this level gets all the jelly babies.

Because we can’t have a game without bringing up DC, there’s a level in Metropolis. Don’t worry, Superman’s there for all of two seconds before getting sucked into the hole, letting Batman continue to be his lone, brooding self. It’s a fine level – nowhere near as disappointing as Springfield. We’ve already seen Metropolis a couple times over, so they don’t really pull out any of the stops as they did with Doctor Who – which is where another problem arises. Traveler’s Tales has already done more than a few of these franchises, leaving them with only crispy bits to pick over and nothing interesting or new to add. Luckily, it’s pretty short.

Back to the Future – I wish I could say this one rocked it out of the park. Hearing the music again was wonderful, and Christopher Lloyd voicing Doc Brown hit all the nostalgia pangs. But God, was this one phoned in. It’s only set in the Wild West, the most boring setting for the Back to the Future series, and aside from a brief Doc Brown cameo, has next to nothing to do with the movie. It felt more like they wanted to do an Old West level and threw on a few BttF set dressings to fancy it up. But don’t worry, we’re coming up on something great.

GLaDOS is back, and just as spiteful as ever. She’s particularly pissed that Batman and company are somehow getting through the testing chambers despite not having an Aperture Portal Device. But it’s okay, Wheatley’s there to help you…sort of. I don’t want to say too much, but if you love anything about Aperture Science, this will make you bounce up and down in your seat giggling. Out of all the levels, this most made me want to run back to the source materials, pick back up the old Portal games, and run around as Chell. Luckily, I can do that later in the Portal campaign (which is at the end, I swear).

Middle Earth is again fine. They already did Lego LotR (and Lego Hobbit, which I didn’t play because Lord of the Rings is freaking enough Jackson! Let it go!). The great parts come from the bleed over. As the game goes on, dimensions become more and more corrupted, so we get Orcs running around wearing cores from Aperture Science as helmets.

Core helmets on Orcs really would have spiced up The Hobbit better than elf surfing, Jackson. I’m just saying.

Like The Simpsons, they got all the dialogue for the Ghostbusters level from the movies, but I’m happy to say they tried much harder. There are little touches here and there – like the dancing toaster – that show the developers actually enjoyed this franchise, unlike some others (like, say, Back to the Future that got the fuzzy end of the dev lolly). But perhaps the best part is the music. I would often stop and have Chell dance along to “Ghostbusters Are Back in Town” while ghosts poured through the streets of Lego New York. It’s a punch to all those nostalgia muscles the jaded Millennials aren’t supposed to have.

There’s an old 8-bit arcade level in here, but all I remember is the massive headache I got. Taking 3D games and turning them 2D is always a bit hokey. It’s cute, but if it goes on for more than a couple minutes, I want to smash the controller through the TV. Add in a bunch of manic music and flashing lights, and I was with brooding Batman there. Break everything and run!

Despite Lego being a couch co-op, there are things in this game that do not work together, and this level is the worst of it. There’s a racing challenge because you thought you could get away from it, eh? Except the starter pack only comes with the Batmobile. You can’t have your second player do anything but stand on the track watching the car run three laps of three races. And don’t go thinking fun things like a Portal turret or flying monkey are options. It has to be a car. Even one of the most friendly co-op games on the market still doesn’t give that much of a shit, or thinks people are really playing it together in the same room

I am not a Scooby-Doo fan. All of the Hanna Barbera cartoons felt like a punishment until Looney Tunes came on. But I liked this level. Their decision to posterize and increase the lines was adorable (and far better than the freaky 3D rounding effect in the Simpsons world)

It’s classic Scooby-Doo: the gang splits up, there’s ghosts, a mummy’s curse, and an awesome haunted house. It made me lust for Lego to make a Universal Monster set, because I’d totally run around as the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He could hang out with Aquaman talking shit about the surfacers.

After that it’s a few levels mashing up all the characters, worlds, and bad guys we saw before. Some of it provides for great moments – especially with GLaDOS – but others are infuriatingly insipid. Sadly, that sums up the Dimensions game.

Gameplay-wise, there’s a lot reminiscent of Traveler’s Tales other Lego games. You break things to collect studs, there are red bricks to find, mini-kits to collect, and people to rescue. Dimensions adds on a new, well, dimension with the board. Often to complete puzzles, you’ll have to move your piece from one glowing side to another. This will shrink your character, give them awesome fire powers, or save you from a weeping angel. While not the most annoying aspect, it can be a pain, especially if you don’t have the perfect set up in front of your system.

Along with the main game, there are also open worlds (one of my least favorite things about the Lego games – I tend to do a few things then leave it to my husband to stress over). Middle Earth is Middle Earth, they combined Gotham and Metropolis into one mess because I have no idea, and The Lego Movie had its world that I’m sure would mean something to people who’d seen it.

Every character you buy also unlocks their own open world. After getting the Wicked Witch, we were able to run around in Oz that included Munchkin Land, the Witch’s Castle (while my flying monkeys tried to beat me up – we’re going to have some serious HR discussions later), Oz’s place, and Kansas that’s in hues of burnt sienna and tan. For not caring about the movie, it was fun to run around in there.

Okay, I tortured you long enough. To the full Portal level!

It’s probably not giving away much to say that as Chell, you pop back into Aperture Science, much to GLaDOS’s displeasure. Without having a clue what to do with you, she puts you back to testing. And holy cow, it is a Portal game – one of the early levels with easy puzzles, but there’s the companion cube, turrets, lasers, and repulsion gel! Your little Lego figure will bounce on the blue and run on the orange goo you had to portal into the room after pushing buttons.

On top of Wheatley tagging along, Cave Johnson is there, piping in testing options for astronauts from beyond the grave! It’s a bit weird to see Chell in third person, but also fun, as it gives her a chance to have some personality, like when she shows her annoyance with this whole thing and especially Wheatley. It was a return to the golden days of pantomine in the Lego games.

Once you finish the campaign in 20-30 minutes if you’re a Portal pro, you pop out in their open world, and it’s perfect! It’s all the levels of Aperture Science, from the glass cube you wake up in in the first game, to the room full of singing turrets at the end of two!

And don’t go thinking the basement is left out. The map’s harder to navigate than the other worlds because it’s all built on top of each other. But you’ve got Chell and her longfall boots, just jump up to the side and fall. Way down at the bottom you get to fight, yup, Mantis Men!

There’s even an area if you climb the ladder out of your first room that puts you outside – all the times Chell thought she was finally free, only to get yanked back in.

This is the absolute bestest thing ever for Portal fans. There’s a lot of love and attention given here that – if it had been shown to all the other levels – would have made Lego Dimensions wonderful. Sadly, while the developers clearly adored making Portal and Doctor Who, quite a few others fell short. Simpsons is a complete waste – to the point that I don’t want to bother with their open world. Back to the Future could have been so much more, and – while I adored listening to the Ghostbusters music again – I worry how limiting relying only on patchwork dialogue from the movies will be.

Should you get the Lego Dimensions game? That’s a hard one to answer. Do you love Lego games despite their waning writing that once sparkled back in the heyday of pantomime? Do you really really want another Portal game right this second? Do you want to battle Cybermen, Daleks, and Weeping Angels? Do you still love to curl up on the floor putting together tiny pieces of plastic? Then the answer’s an easy yes.

If you were hoping for an awesome Simpsons level, aren’t prepared to pay money for the extra characters that can sniff out vines to unlock a minikit, or want to play a game without Batman for once – then no. There’s certainly some potential, and we’re waiting on our hands for the Doctor Who packs to drop in November, but some levels fall really flat and are a slog to go back through.

Those are my impressions of Lego Dimensions. Good, bad, it’s hard to say. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to send Chell to beat up on some orcs.

One thought on “Review: Lego Dimensions

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