Preview: LEGO Horizon Adventures 1

LEGO Horizon Adventures is a fascinating project from Studio Gobo and Guerrilla Games. As the latter developer's narrative director, James Windeler, recalls, "conversations about the game began around the same time" as the LEGO Tallneck set. Apparently, a lot of the senior staff at Guerrilla are huge LEGO fans, and a game lined up due to that as well as the "optimistic themes throughout [Horizon's] story" and the series' "inclusive fan base". However it happened, we're glad it did, because this game is fun as heck.

This more family-friendly rendition of Horizon recounts the story of Zero Dawn, but with a much lighter tone, evidenced by the jovial voice acting and LEGO Movie-like humour. It's great hearing new takes on established characters like Aloy and Rost; as fans of the series, it makes the sillier spin on the origin story that much funnier.

But something else that strikes us immediately as we get our hands on the game is its amazing visuals. Guerrilla is known for its impressive tech and hardware-pushing graphics, and while this is obviously a far cry from its usual output, this game is no less jaw-dropping at times. The entire game is made up of official LEGO pieces, and they're incredibly detailed. Windeler tells us he thinks it sets it apart from other LEGO games, which opt for more "real" environments rather than a 100 per cent plastic bricks look.

We started off by playing alone, going through the tutorial and encountering our first machine enemies. It's such a fun mix of old and new β€” revisiting locations and characters from the first game, but bringing it to a completely different gameplay style. Aloy can run, jump, and fire arrows around to attack enemies and, of course, wreck certain environmental props.

Preview: LEGO Horizon Adventures 4

There's a fixed camera perspective, and combat and stealth are simplified as you'd expect. One detail we love is that, when you're hiding in the tall grass, Aloy's character model is replaced by a few LEGO strands of grass β€” it's a really funny touch. We only got to try her usual bow, which lets you shoot charged arrows at baddies. The weak parts of machines are present and correct, and you can make light work of them if you target these spots. Additionally, barrels around each arena can be picked up and thrown to deal some explosive damage.

Horizon's RPG roots are represented but also vastly simplified. You'll level up in Adventures, but each level awards you a set upgrade rather than skill points. These upgrades include more health, more weapon damage, and other basic buffs. Different characters β€” and there are many playable characters and unlockable outfits to choose from β€” use different weapons, too; Varl is equipped with a staff rather than Aloy's bow, for instance.

Speaking of Varl, the second half of our demo had us playing in two-player local co-op. It's worth noting that the game does have online co-op too, but will not be cross-platform compatible. Still, it works perfectly well with two players running around, as all LEGO games do. "We really wanted to see Aloy with friends, you know, with people that are close to her," says Windeler. "We wanted to show a different side of her [and] have that kind of exuberance and the fact that they're having fun, and the co-op element supports that completely. But yeah, I mean, the game really comes alive when you play co-op. There is just a chaos and an energy to it that it really enlivens it."

We reached Mother's Heart, which is the game's central settlement you'll return to after venturing out into more structured levels. Again, it's a very different approach from the main games in the series, but it looks like this hub will be a space you'll grow to love over time thanks to how you'll be able to unlock new buildings and features. For example, we unlocked the wardrobe, which lets you swap out characters and outfits. We're told that everything is unlockable in-game, and there are no microtransactions at all, which we weren't worried about but it's always nice to hear.

The finale of the demo, a boss encounter against a Corruptor and some bandits, was a chaotic but fun battle. A new feature sees some pick-ups drop every so often; blue ones are available to all characters, while orange ones are only usable by certain people. For Aloy, that means more powerful, elemental bows, for example. We also found a temporary special attack that summoned a hot dog cart, from which the vendor threw explosive sausages at the enemy. So yes, you'll definitely run into the the hot dog guy from the trailer.

With the excellent presentation, lighthearted tone, and simplified take on the series' gameplay, we're confident in saying that LEGO Horizon Adventures really works. It's not a game we were expecting from Guerrilla, but Studio Gobo and Sony's developer are about to deliver a great, kid-friendly title that'll satisfy both old and new fans.

LEGO Horizon Adventures is due to launch on PS5, PC, and Nintendo Switch later in 2024. Are you looking forward to this family-friendly spin on Sony's series? Hide in the grass in the comments section below.