How many movies can say they’ve had a video game based on them that was actually any good? I’d argue not many, and despite the best efforts of the teams developing the Arkham and South Park games to turn the tide of such poor conversion rates there’s always other games like Rambo to keep the theory alive. But Lego games have always been slightly immune to the rule, partly due to the fact they’re clearly blessed with an artistic license allowing them to twist films to suit their own requirements, but also because they’ve been unwaveringly awesome. Turning everything into Lego removes the need to faithfully reproduce films in a way that “proper” games might be under pressure to do, but what happens when the film in question is already done in Lego? With that license effectively nullified, does The Lego Movie Videogame stand up to the previous entries in the series’ ever growing roster?
The answer to that depends on a couple of things. The majority of this game runs alongside the storyline of the film itself which means there’s plenty of cut-scenes from the film, plenty of references to goings on and loads of characters that you’ll have seen cropping up while you were sat in the cinema laughing your butt off. There’s no doubt that those of you who have already had a dose of Emmet will get more enjoyment out of the game than those who are going in blind.
Another side effect of following the film so closely is the reduction in open world events knocking about between levels. There’s quite a bit to do so don’t think it’s just the storyline and nothing else, but after the incredible amount of content in the recent Lego Marvel title this is a definite step down, presumably a result of not straying too far from the film and having to get it released in time for a joint release. The main storyline itself is an enjoyable ride though, so picture it more akin to the likes of Lego Lord of the Rings than Lego Marvel and you’ll be on the right lines.
What remains on the typical Lego game trail is the number of characters available to use. Alongside the obvious inclusion of Emmet, the star of the film, are others who appear in various quantities throughout. Over 100 characters are on offer (101 if we’re being picky) including Batman, Gandalf, William Shakespeare and Wonderwoman and while many of these simply offer special tricks to access difficult areas or just allow you to make progress through a level, some of them are great fun to control as well. Collecting all of the characters is just as addictive as in previous outings, and the usual array of special bricks scattered through the levels give you ample chance to go back in freeplay mode and try out some newer characters in the completed levels.
Aside from all of these things, the standard Lego joys and frustrations remain in place, and they work hard to cancel each other out in a way that’s so seamless it could almost have been planned. Local co-op with a friend or family member is the ideal way to enjoy the game, and certainly reduces the need to switch characters so often or wait for the AI to catch up and realise what’s going on. It’s so much fun you’d want to do it online too, except you can’t. For reasons which I’m entirely unaware of, the Lego titles remain offline so if you want to play through this with someone else, you’ll need to reserve a spot on the sofa. In a similar double-edged theme, moving characters round and building stuff is generally good fun, more so because of the new mini-games that pop up when building a larger model in the game. You’ll see it being built piece by piece, until it stops and asks you to figure out which bit needs to go on next. It’s quite a cool feature, and one which Lego lovers will definitely welcome. But there are the other moments which take the shine off, moments where you need to make a certain jump made almost impossible by a stupid camera angle, or trying to find something in an area that the camera doesn’t want to show you, instead spinning around like some overexcited kid. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s enough to drive you a bit crazy.
And this idea of the good being dented by the bad sums the game up quite nicely. If you’ve enjoyed the film then you’ll still enjoy this – it contains all the Lego the charm that you’d expect from one of these games, and the frequent comedy moments are still in place, but it relies too heavily on the movie without breaking out and being more flexible, and as such has given itself a pretty niche audience. If you’re in that group of people, then you’ll love it. Otherwise this is a game that you’ll enjoy without ever being blown away.
Reviewed on PS3