LEGO has been a popular children's toy for many years, and we'll happily admit that we still play with it on the odd occasion because, ahem, we have younger relatives. Obvs. Anyway, it's no surprise that LEGO was transformed into a video game blockbuster [Like it! - Ed], using many major franchises to expand the plaything's reach far and wide. The most recent entry, LEGO Dimensions, plots the property's first progression into the lucrative toys-to-life category – and brings together all of the abovementioned universes using portals.
Long-time developer Traveller's Tales has implemented technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) which allows a small computer chip embedded in the toys to be read wirelessly at a very short range. It's the same sort of magic employed in the Skylanders games, but rather than using pre-made models, you'll be faffing with LEGO building kits, instructions booklets, and other gubbins. This is apparent from the instant that you unseal the box, as you're presented with bags of bricks and mini-figures that need assembling before you even pop the disc into its rightful slot.
In the Starter Pack are three mini-figures (WyldStyle, Batman, and Gandalf), one vehicle (the Batmobile), the Dimensions Portal, the NFC pad (which is connected to the PlayStation 4 via USB), and a copy of the game – all of which will set you back more than the average price of a game. It took us about an hour to assemble all of the parts, which is as much a part of the experience as any, as we were actually disappointed when we'd completed the construction.
Fortunately, although the manuals have a set design in mind, as you play through the game's story you'll be presented with instructions on how to alter some of your models to upgrade them or even make a secret robot character to aid you with the portal. Also, if you really want to, you can always build your models a different way or even use your own LEGO pieces from your collection at home. It's really up to you.
The game itself begins with a very well-crafted, humorous opening cut scene showing the three amigos from the Starter Pack getting sucked into each other's worlds by the dastardly fiend and all-new villain, Lord Vortech. He is in search of special elements that exist within the LEGO universe. These are dimension specific items and there is one located in each of the different worlds; for instance, in the Portal world, a cake is the special element – that's no lie. Ultimately, Lord Vortech is trying to become the almighty ruler of the LEGO-verse as each special element collected will allow him to have control over its home world and your very obvious task is to stop him.
The gameplay itself is familiar, with LEGO games being known for having puzzles that are based around different characters' abilities. This is still a big part of the title, but the new addition of the NFC pad makes it very interesting. The pad plays a big role in solving conundrums now as it also has special abilities of its own. For instance, you can teleport by placing the figures in different positions, or even paint your protagonists different colours by moving them around. This, when coupled with each hero's unique ability, makes some of the challenges a lot more gratifying to overcome.
As with previous LEGO games, you can play the entirety of Dimensions either solo or with a friend. We would suggest taking a pal on this journey as some of the new puzzles are a lot easier with a buddy controlling another character. Plus, many of the levels last at least 45 minutes, so it can be a long lonely time without a chum. Of course, there are checkpoints along the way where you have the ability to save and quit and return at a later date.
In addition to the main campaign, the game has a hub area from which you can access all of the other hub worlds through portals, but you can only enter a portal if you have a character from that dimension, meaning that only three worlds are unlocked when you start the game: Lord of the Rings, The LEGO Movie, and DC Comics. These are primarily just toy box-esque areas for you to free roam and explore, complete side-quests, pick up collectibles, and try out some vehicles.
Of course, the game doesn't end there, as the developer wants this title to be more like a gaming service where constant updates and loads of DLC packs are added periodically for the coming years. This is already apparent from the sets that are available for purchase: The Simpsons, Dr. Who, Scooby Doo, Back to the Future, and The Wizard of Oz to name a few. There are Level Packs, which give you access to a new stage, hub, character, vehicle, and gadget. There are also Team Packs, which give you access to a new gadget, two characters, and a vehicle. And finally there are Fun Packs which include one character and either one vehicle or gadget. Of course, if you want to experience everything that the title currently has to offer, you're going to be spending an enormous amount of money, which is worth keeping in mind before you take the plunge.
LEGO Dimensions has made a confident first step into the toys-to-life category, with its real-world models incorporated imaginatively during gameplay. It doesn't stray massively from the series' established formula, but it's a lot of fun as long as you know what you're getting into. And this is the biggest downside: the game's going to cost you a lot of money to get the most out of it. As such, you may want to check the price tag before passing through this particular portal.