From the announcement of the very first Skylander, we knew the possibilities of Toys to Life games were infinite – but beyond Disney, and in a way Nintendo, no one else has really had a go. The biggest toy companies in the world – Hasbro, Mattel, Jakks; have so far kept out of the fray, but we knew sooner or later there was one who wouldn’t be able to resist – the biggest toy company of them all – LEGO.
When you describe LEGO Dimensions to most people, the only response you get is along the lines of; how is this not already a thing? It’s a concept so obvious, it’s hard to understand why LEGO would allow so many years of potential profit to roll on by without their own contender in the ring; but after some extended time with it, we think we finally know.
Just to recap; LEGO Dimensions brings together over a dozen high profile brands, then smashes them all together into one madcap adventure. You’ve got DC Comics. The Lord of the Rings. The Simpsons. The Wizard of Oz. Back to the Future. Scooby Doo. Even; if you can believe it – Portal – all together, under one umbrella, along with native LEGO brands like The LEGO Movie and LEGO Chima. Each of these is also available in LEGO toy form – real LEGO vehicles and mini figures, all fully compatible with normal LEGO sets and, as a result, endlessly customisable.
Given the popularity of LEGO with both children and adults, not to mention the sheer quality and diversity of the licences Warner Bros. has managed to acquire – developer TT Games could have gotten away with the absolute minimum, called it a day and watched the money pile up around them. Even if we never bought LEGO Dimensions, we’d be buying a LEGO Chell, and LEGO Doc Brown. That’s just academic. We’re not made of stone. And with a decade of experience in making LEGO licenced games, all massively popular and fun for all ages – TT have a template to follow that could have been totally acceptable. To a degree that’s what they’ve done – Dimensions is standard, level-based puzzle-brawling with some light platforming in between; absorbing studs and collecting other bits faster than a damn vacuum cleaner could suck up the real thing.
But where this game stands out against its competition and its predecessors is its most exciting addition, it’s Toy Pad. LEGO’s take on the Portal of Power is simply perfect. First; you have to build it – and to a point you can do this however you like. Then; you have not one, not two but SEVEN spots for either characters or vehicles to populate your game. The three zones on the surface of the pad light up during gameplay, signifying different things. In some sections, a character can grow bigger or smaller depending on where they stand. Later, different areas of the pad might correspond to different portals open in the world, meaning the solution to a puzzle will take putting the right character into just the right spot.
It’s an ingenious use of a peripheral, forcing the player to interact with their figures constantly, and encouraging them to try new things. That every character and vehicle can be used in every level of the game – unlike the brands in Disney Infinity – makes this one feel like it’s actually been designed with the limitless imaginations of children in mind. It is wonderful to see TT Games give LEGO Dimensions an effort worthy of the brand, where they so easily could have gotten away with less. Dimensions does more than bring Batman and Gandalf into the same shared universe – it seriously brings toys – and all the fun they offer – to life, or at least, to gaming.
Customisable, complicated and comprehensive – it’s the first LEGO game to offer an experience that’s actually in line with the toy – one where we imagine we’ll be spending as much time picking plastic up out of the carpet as we will staring into a screen. For that – and the promise of LEGO Ghostbusters and Doctor Who – we cannot wait…