Gamer Diary: Lego Dimensions

Who do you think is the biggest Lego nerd on Talk Amongst Yourselves? Zarnyz? Please. Giant Boy Detective? He wishes. Nope, it’s me, The Geek Empress. While most women have a shoe closet, I have a Lego closet. I have tons of sets from the early 90s to now, plus free style blocks and snagging up any loose blocks I find. I am a fully fledged Lego Maniac, and have been since I was a kid, when I was an actual member of the Lego club. I own the original Harry Potter castle, as well as some of the first Lego Star Wars sets. And in spite of the seeming glut of Toy to Life games that have come out in the past few years, Lego Dimensions was probably the one I was most excited about. Problem was, the base set was ninety dollars. Considering I don’t typically spend more than 20 bucks for my games, that just seemed too far out of my reach. I would sigh with resignation every time I’d pass the toy or video game aisle where the sets were held, and hope maybe when the inevitable Lego Dimensions 2.0 came out, I’d be able to find the original game for cheaper.

The Lego Closet. There are actually even more sets than this at this point.
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Then recently I moseyed through Target’s gaming section and went through the clearance games and holy dfjaslkfjslkajfdslkfjdsd Lego Dimensions on clearance!!!!111!!1!!!

I don’t know how this happened, or why, since the game was in perfect shape. Even the box only had a slight rip on it, but the game was marked ‘as is’ for less than half price of the regular retail copy. And it was the last PS3 copy in the store. This was even cheaper than I had seen on sale at Game Stop a few months ago. While this violates my 20 dollar game rule, this however, does not violate my half priced Lego set rule.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Lego Dimensions has jumped into my list of ‘favorite games of all time’. It’s a fun, clever puzzle game, and the most interactive Toy to Life game to date. When Robin, Frodo and Metalbeard are abducted by mysterious portals, Batman, Gandalf and Wildstyle go after them and end up in a mysterious world with a dimension hopping gate. There, they eventually learn their friends were kidnapped by Lord Vortech, a powerful villain collecting the ‘foundation elements’, items unique to their reality, so he can collapse all realities together into a ‘perfect dimension’ that he will rule. The three hop from dimension to dimension to fix the gate that got damaged and gather the foundation elements before Vortech can. The various dimensions are based off of various game, movie and cartoon properties. It’s not unlike Lego’s version of Kingdom Hearts.

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The gameplay is great. The controls are simple enough for a kid to be able to play (or a very clumsy adult, such as myself) but the puzzles are challenging enough that you don’t just breeze through the missions. The puzzles involved the innate abilities that Wildstyle, Gandalf and Batman can use, like magic, stealth and Master Building, as well as the abilities of the dimension gate such as shifting, color changing and finding hidden rifts in reality. While there is a bit of mook smashing to get from point A to B, the boss fights always involve puzzle solving, and thankfully most of the fights favor problem solving over quick reflexes. The game also requires you to interact with the physical set to solve puzzles and fight bosses, where you have to move characters from various spots on the base to unlock abilities or stop attacks. Also, unlike other toy to life games that force you to get more figures so survival becomes more plausible, it’s totally possible to get through the entire game with just the figures that are included. Additional characters have more abilities for finding the gold and red blocks, and hidden characters that unlock mini kits and bonus missions, as well as new expansions with the level packs, but there isn’t an unfair difficulty barrier that makes any additional content necessary. In fact, the only reason you need to invest in more content is because the game is so damn fun and charming you never want it to end.

The story itself is what pulls you back in. While the premise is pretty standard gaming fair: gather the magic McGuffins to save kidnapped characters from all-powerful jerk, the game’s writing takes the bare bones and runs with it. There are funny slapstick moments, great gaming and movie references and a lot of fourth wall breaking humor. If you like goofy, no sacred cows humor, you’ll love it. If you don’t, you have no soul and might want to check if you’re not a robot. The interaction between the characters from various worlds are exactly what you would hope for. The Wicked Witch of the West calls Batman a giant dog, Gandalf gets confused by robots, and killer AI GlaDos gets annoyed when Wildstyle, Batman and Gandalf ‘cheat’ to get through Aperture Labs. This game was clearly made with a lot of love, since it’s the little details that bring you back in. And the game selects a lot of wonderful franchises to use, and a lot of little Easter gets for the franchises it couldn’t get because they are owned by Disney (there are no Marvel or Star Wars characters or worlds in the game, but there are a few pieces and sets that make a cameo). My favorites worlds would have to be the Scooby Doo and Portal levels. Not only do they have some of the best puzzles, but also some of the best details. The Scooby Doo world not only is styled to look like a cartoon, the various rooms have the cartoon’s famous background music. And the way the characters defeat GlaDos is one of the funniest, cleverest references I’ve ever seen (semi-spoiler, GlaDos gets into a Turing test with another famous killer AI.) The final boss fight is really exciting and I really hope Lego will make a Tri and Lord Vortech set to purchase separately.

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What stops this game from being my favorite of all time though, is that it is pretty damn buggy. I had to create an entirely new save because my first time through I couldn’t trigger the Batmobile instructions to come up even when I restarted the game several times, and it froze my system more than once. Basically, if you see a save point, use it, because you have no idea when the game will decide to freeze on you or mangle a cut scene. Also, despite including the characters and bonus missions from Legend of Chima and Jurassic World, there aren’t any story levels taking place for either franchise. You get to fight in Metropolis, Middle Earth and the Octan tower, but the only story reference is the occasional sight of a Chima mech.

If they produce a Lego Dimensions 2.0 of some sort I hope they’ll include as many clever and varied franchises as they did for this game. I’d love to see the Nexo Knights or maybe even the Elves line for girls (a lot of the Elves sets are actually really cool looking even if they have those annoying Friends line bodies.) Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Marvel stuff is unlikely because they’re owned by Disney, but Warner Bros holds the rights to Harry Potter, and could probably license Labyrinth and a bunch of other stuff.

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