Every Lego game review must contain some variant on “this new entry in TT Games’ long-running franchise of action games doesn’t change the now-classic Lego game formula, but it’s still good.”
I was all prepared to type that sentence in this review, as well.
But to my shock, and initial horror, The Lego Movie 2 Videogame throws out the vast majority of the elements from this long-running hit franchise in favor of new designs.
While I was initially put off and even repulsed by the changes, I eventually got over myself… and what I found is a fun and engaging open world platformer that’s more than worthy of its legacy.
Built on top of the core engine from Lego Worlds, Lego Movie 2 has a design that’s probably a lot more sustainable and kind to the developers that have to crank these out at a breakneck pace to hit movie releases, while also providing completely refreshed systems for longtime fans.
It’s not as demonstratively “expensive-looking” as the other games in the Lego franchise, but it’s still a quality time. And if you thought the essentially-unchanged formula had gotten stale over the last fifteen years and 8 million games, your ship has finally come in.
I played 12 hours of the game on PS4 Pro, completing the story and half of the side missions, and about 3 hours of the Switch version, before writing this review.
Traditionally, Lego games are 3D action-platformers with light puzzle elements, a fixed camera angle during their main stages, and an open world hub full of mini side missions. The worlds are made of realistic landscapes with Lego pieces grafted on top that you can bash apart and reassemble into new objects that let you progress. Each character also has their own unique powers you use to solve puzzles.
The formula is so set in stone, that once you learn to play one Lego game…you can basically play them all. Each new game or movie license added some small thing, like crafting, or cover shooting, or different character customizations…but the core gameplay remained unchanged since the original Lego Star Wars.
The Lego Movie 2 Videogame discards nearly everything that came before. You still bash apart Lego items to get Studs(money), and you can collect individual brick pieces out of those objects just like you could in Lego The Hobbit and Lego City Undercover.
Everything else is new, and built on top of the freeform open world crafting and exploration gameplay behind Lego Worlds, the Minecraft-inspired Lego game from 2017. Where that game had endless procedural worlds to explore, Lego Movie 2 has 7 worlds based on locations from the new film, and 7 worlds based on locations from the larger Lego Movie universe. 3 additional planets are coming as DLC next month, for free.
These worlds are large, freely explorable areas full of main and side quests. Lego characters, many of whom are fully voiced, will give you quests to find things, fight enemies, or solve puzzles. That last element is wildly different than in past games, as it’s almost totally decoupled from your chosen playable hero.
You can change your character at any time during Lego Movie 2, and there are only about 10 moments in the whole game where you briefly need to have a specific appearance. Otherwise, you’re free to choose from over 200 characters collated from both the first and second films, along with a few other surprises. Or, you can create your own custom appearance that can easily be saved to a slot.
Every character now plays more or less the same, aside from basic movement and attack animations that fit some of the more unique heroes, and a unique super-powered bonus attack you can do after filling a meter by bashing enough enemies.
Combat is still fun and engaging, though it rarely requires more of you than mashing the attack button and pointing in the right general direction. A few enemies are a little tougher, but you’ll master the simple dodging techniques you need by the end of the tutorial video showing them to you.
Puzzles are mostly solved by using the Build menu, streamlined from its appearance in Lego Worlds. You’ll have to build the right object to progress, out of a selection that includes jump pads, sprinklers, helpful robots, and other weird Lego gadgets. About 60 percent of the puzzles in the game require you to build something in the right spot, and the rest require the use of unlockable gadgets I won’t spoil here or some skillful platforming.
This lends the whole game a different feel. It’s no longer just about bashing your way through largely linear fixed-camera levels. Now, it feels more like a simplified Mario Odyssey. Collectibles, quests, and bonus areas are out there, and you’ve got to go find them and do them. All of the tasks are short and sweet, and placed just close enough together that the whole thing has a Ubisoft-esque addictive open world pull. It’s very easy to tell yourself you’ll get “Just one more Purple Brick.”
Those Purple Bricks (really called Master Pieces but they’re totally Purple Bricks)are the new Gold Bricks, trinkets you get for completing the game’s challenges. Lego Movie 2 has 475 of these bricks to collect, and the main story only covers about a third of these. I finished the campaign in around 6 hours, and it took me another 5 hours to complete the stories on the additional bonus worlds. There’s at least 15–20 hours of playtime here if you want to get every last brick. And that’s if you sprint.
So, they’ve blown away the formula and created an interesting open world adventure. It’s a much more cohesive game than Lego Worlds ever was, using the world engine and basic controls from that game, but bringing in a much more fun and solid overall design. Sounds great, right?
Well, it stumbles in a few ways you should be aware of.
Do you hate loot boxes? Then I’ve got some bad news: this game is littered with them. You can’t buy them with real money, thank goodness, but they’re the principle way you’ll unlock new characters, items, and building templates. You’ll open a loot box in the game about every 2–3 minutes, and out will pop a collection of money, bricks, and Relics, which are essentially blind bags/plastic eggs filled with goodies. You have to then take those relics to an in-game shop to unlock their secrets.
I thought I would hate this system at first, but it’s super generous. If you get a duplicate item out of a relic, it gives you some credit towards a Mega- Relic, which spit out multiple items you haven’t unlocked yet. So with a little time and a little loot chest opening, it’s easy to unlock piles of stuff. And you will get it all if you dedicate the time.
Unfortunately, there might be too much stuff in the game. It contains essentially all of the items that were in Lego Worlds, and while it’s fun to run around in Lego Movie 2 worlds with a sword that’s a knock-off of those from Lord of the Rings, outside of that novelty there’s no real point to it.
The core campaign is easy to complete without any of these blind bag items, and there’s only one planet that lets you build things to your heart’s content.
That planet is called the “Syspocalypstar,” and it’s an empty canvas with some basic quests to complete that will teach you to build. Building, however, is much more restrictive than it was in Lego Worlds, limiting you to pre-set templates and basic color customization. You can also plant some stickers around the world with a fun sticker gun.
It’s great for people that found Lego Worlds overwhelming, but it’s a little limited if you’re well-versed with the creation systems from that game. The core story campaign of main and side worlds is fun enough that it’s a little strange to see this limited building system here at all. You’ll still probably have a good time customizing this one planet, but it’s not going to look dramatically different from anyone else’s, and it doesn’t have the same malleability of the planets in Lego Worlds.
Loading times are…well, borderline atrocious. Unless you’re powering through them with a fast PC and an SSD. On the PS4 Pro and Switch, plan to spend well over a minute starring at the slightly nauseating load screen, which shows Emmet tumbling into a portal.
Once the game loads a world, you’re free to play the whole thing to your heart’s content without another load until you leave, so that’s the only thing that saves this a little bit.
Splitscreen co-op returns, so a friend or family member can jump in at any time with a second controller. The framerate takes a small hit, but the second player has access to all of the systems in the game, so that’s cool. It doesn’t do the same cool dynamic stitching thing found in other Lego Games, so you’ll always be looking at two split viewing zones.
Some of the platforming is impressively difficult for a game targeted at all ages. I died a few more times than I expected to. Timing windows are tighter and jumping distances are longer than in any other Lego game. While older gamers might appreciate this additional challenge, it probably won’t be as fun for the less experienced out there.
So, this isn’t quite perfect in terms of gameplay polish, but it’s closer than I ever expected from a $40 licensed movie game. The core gameplay is a lot of fun once you get used to how different it is from the other games, and there are even some fun and challenging boss battles and surprisingly lengthy jumping sequences.
If this is the new Lego gameplay formula going forward, I know some folks will be displeased, but I think there’s some real potential here.
This game clearly cost less than many of its predecessors.
Gone are the semi-realistic worlds from earlier titles, replaced with worlds made entirely out of Lego bricks. It fits the mythology of the movies, and is no doubt built on the back of the tools that randomly generate the areas in Lego Worlds. In fact, many of the assets are lightly-retouched versions of visuals from the previous Lego games.
That doesn’t bother me at all. And I’ll explain why.
It doesn’t have the realistic cityscapes of the Lego Marvel games, the detailed Hogwarts of Lego Harry Potter, or the vast rolling hills of Lego Lord of the Rings. But the worlds here are still large and fun to explore, and more importantly, thanks to their more procedural basis, were undeniably cheaper and easier to produce.
Although I have endless respect for the exceptional games that Traveller’s Tales is able to produce on such tight schedules, art assets cost money and time. Artists can only do so much. This game represents a fascinating way forward for large world design, if consumers don’t outright reject it. This game is just as large as many of its predecessors, yet thanks to its new visual style, was probably a lot less crazy-making to actually create.
If you’re not familiar with Lego Worlds, imagine if someone made a more standard game full of bespoke designs using Minecraft or No Man’s Sky as the underlying technology, and you’ll have an idea of what type of game worlds to expect here.
The game tries to compensate for its “simplified” visuals by throwing in as many graphical rendering effects as possible, sometimes to the detriment of its framerate. For my first playthrough I used a PS4 Pro, and the framerate is usually locked at 30…though it dips at times. It’s kind of surprising to see dips at all. But it’s clearly because the game is constantly throwing around cool lighting, shadowing, particle, and reflection effects, and still had a tight production schedule.
The materials, lighting, and reflections all sell the look of the Lego Universe better than ever. It really does look like a world made entirely out of plastic Lego bricks.
The screenspace reflections in particular are great. It’s too bad then, that you won’t see them on Nintendo’s platform.
I’ve played a few hours of the game on Switch, and every visual element is dialed down a notch. Draw distances, shadow resolution, and shading effects are all reduced in complexity, but the lighting still looks good.
The excellent reflections, sadly, are totally gone, and textures have taken a bit of a compression hit thanks to a download that’s just half the size (~6 gigs vs ~11), but every other effect is still here. Just like on PS4, the framerate mostly manages to stay at 30, and randomly dips here and there.
It still does manage to sell the look of the game, so if you’re playing on Switch, you’re not getting a dealbreaker visual experience. I’m halfway through Lego Marvel 2 right now on Nintendo’s system, and the framerate is quite rough in spots. Lego Movie 2 runs much better, whether you’re in handheld or docked mode.
I get it. A lot of fans like the more realistic and “beautiful” backgrounds that the series usually has. And that’s totally fine, I love those games too! They’re often rendered with a quality and attention to detail that rivals other big triple A games.
But if we expect games to keep getting bigger and better-looking, sacrifices might have to be made along the way to preserve the sanity of those folks making them. I think Lego Movie 2 is a fascinating thesis statement on how that might be done.
I’m curious to see whether TT Games returns to this idea in the future. It’s clear that this platform is robust enough to support a lot of other games.
If the new gameplay and new graphics don’t let you down, the new story might…especially if you haven’t seen the movie this is based on.
The first Lego Movie Videogame followed the plot of the film and expanded it in several fun ways. It used clips from the movie, and a mix of original movie voice clips and other talent to fill out the world.
This new game has no movie footage. It has none of the movie actors. Heck, many of the principle characters have no voice acting at all. Instead they’re reduced to the grunts and reaction noises that used to fill these games years ago.
The game recasts the movie story as a tale told by Lucy AKA Wyldstyle. It tells the same plot as the movie, but it’s been entirely rewritten so that Lucy is there the whole time and so that she’s the one telling the story. It breezily covers plot points from the film, ignoring complete swathes of it and diving deep on others with reckless abandon.
Now, I actually thought the movie had some story issues, so this new telling was really fun for me. But if you’re expecting a direct translation of the film, you’ll be disappointed. And if you haven’t seen the movie, a couple of moments might outright confuse you.
Where the game completely succeeds is in fleshing out the different planets from the film, which coincidentally I thought was the most under-served aspect of the movie. Locations that are barely used in the movie get hours of exploration in the game, and it’s all the better for it. Fans that, like me, were hoping to see more than two minutes of Planet Duplo, will totally get their wish in this game.
This game is firmly in the “Gameplay first, story second” camp, and it shows. But it doesn’t ruin the game at all. It’s just opposite to the balance that the previous game had.
Sound effects are the usual Lego-game fare, so if you miss all the old design elements at least the sounds are still here for you. It’s lots of crunchy plastic noises and dinging sounds that would be right at home in an 80’s pinball machine.
The music is a good mix of licensed tracks from the movie and original score work.
Voice acting quality is a bit mixed, with some actors giving strong impressions of their movie counterparts and others sounding nothing like the characters they’re supposed to be imitating.
About half of the songs from the movie are missing in the game, but it still features the Garfunkel and Oates rendition of “Everything is Awesome,” which is good enough that it’s been stuck in my head for weeks.
When I started this game, like some other folks I’ve seen talking online, I was let down. I expected a traditional formulaic Lego game, with linear platforming fun, an open hub, and character-based puzzles… and instead I got a weird pseudo-sequel/iteration to Lego Worlds that expected me to explore big worlds and solve basic quests.
But once I got about an hour in, I realized how long overdue this reinvention was. TT Games has been making a million copies of the same good game for the last 15 years…isn’t it time they had a chance to make a different good game?
On that front, they’ve totally succeeded. It’s got all the charm, visual splendor, and imminent playability of the older Lego games but wrapped up in a whole new package. If you loved Lego Worlds and you’re hoping for a true sequel, this is the closest thing we’ve had so far, and if you’re tired of the old Lego Games, this is so different as to be shocking.
If you were hoping for the same dependable formula to return one more time, I get it, I understand. Fortunately, there are still tons of those older games out there that go on sale all the time. Also, Lego Movie 2 has a launch price cheaper than its predecessors, so it’s not as costly to take a chance on this new type of gameplay.
The Lego Movie 2 Videogame is a well-crafted, economically-designed open world platformer with a whole lot of fun stuff going on. I’m planning to 100 percent the game on both PS4 and Switch. It’s got about 20 hours of content and it’s $40.
For the first time in a while, I’m truly excited to see where this franchise goes instead of just relying on it like a favorite dish at a restaurant.
A licensed lower-priced movie title like this was the perfect place for TT Games to experiment with something interesting and fresh, and I’m so glad they did. Recommended!