It can be hard to find a LEGO Dimensions review that is not slanted, simply because LEGOs may be the most fabulous toy ever created. Unless, of course, you are an unfortunate soul who has stepped on one. Practically everyone else, though, remembers them fondly from childhood. So, if someone loves LEGOs, they probably aren't going to write a LEGO Dimensions review that is impartial.
Fortunately, that isn't a problem here because I have stepped on them. And although I hold no grudge, Legos have lost their magic. As a result, I was able to play the LEGO Dimensions video game with zero expectations and what I discovered was surprising.
LEGO Dimensions Review: The Basics
If you’ve played any other LEGO game, you know how LEGO Dimensions video game works: it’s a relatively by-the-numbers beat-'em-up action-adventure.
Taking control of a given LEGO mini-figure, you navigate the virtual environment and fight whatever enemies are present until none are left. You’ll also find the occasional platforming challenge, building element, or other puzzles. None of these are so challenging that they’ll have you hurling your controller across the wall in frustration. On the other hand, it’s hard to predict precisely how challenging they’ll be. The difficulty varies wildly from area to area and feels more than a little uneven overall.
Speaking of controllers, LEGO Dimensions features a unique peripheral of its own. Essentially, it’s a stand that you put particular LEGO figures on to unlock new content. This type of peripheral is par for the course for the toys-to-life genre, but what sets LEGO Dimensions apart is that its figures are LEGO packs! You’re encouraged to build and play with the LEGOs in real life, too.
LEGO Dimensions Review: The Price Range
As any parent can tell you, LEGOs aren’t cheap. Since LEGO Dimensions comes with both a game and a LEGO set. You can usually find it less expensive, but even so, it’s a significant commitment in a world where even AAA games top out at $60. That said, LEGO Dimensions feels like $99 worth of content when you factor in the included LEGO set.
LEGO Dimensions' graphics are a little blocky, but that’s because it’s a LEGO game. As for the sound, the music and effects are just the correct mixes of dramatic and camp. Some songs are a little cloying, but others will get stuck in your head all day long. Any time you're building something in-game, you'll hear satisfying clicks as the parts come together. That is a crucial part of the LEGO experience. All in all, it’s a solid technical entry into the LEGO franchise.
LEGO Dimensions Review: The Storyline
LEGO Dimensions’ story is entertaining, if unspectacular.
The evil Lord Vortech is trying to do something terrible, and our fearless band of crossover LEGO mini-figures needs to stop him. Strong scripts have been the hallmark of LEGO games, though, and that’s true of LEGO Dimensions as well. It’s helped by the fact that Gary Oldman gives an excellent performance as Lord Vortech. Yes, THAT Gary Oldman. Alongside him are Chris Pratt, JK Simmons, Simon Pegg, Rosario Dawson, Mariah Carey, and countless more iconic stars. LEGO Dimensions goes all-out in the voice department, and the hard work pays off.
The one downside of the star-studded lineup is that there isn’t much room in LEGO Dimensions for LEGO’s original properties. Sure, it’s cool to see Batman team up with Voldemort -- don’t expect Redbeard the Pirate or the knights of LEGO Castles to show up. Ninjago is well-represented, but if you’re a fan of the classic sets from way back, you’ll find something missing.
Blessedly, this is one of the few entries where there aren’t many differences between the various platforms. The game is mostly the same on Xbox, Wii, or PS4; get whichever version matches your console at home. The LEGO sets are all cross-compatible, and there’s no platform-exclusive content to worry about with this game.
The Biggest Downside: Paywalls
And here we come to what our LEGO Dimensions review has found to be the single most significant strike against the game: the paywalls.
In addition to the $99 starter set priced above, the vast majority of the game’s content is locked behind paywalls. Like all toy-to-life games, you need the toys to unlock the content. In LEGO Dimensions’ case, however, that means another LEGO set. LEGO sets, as previously remarked, aren’t cheap. At all. The list of sets for LEGO Dimensions is staggering in length, and those are just the ones that are currently in print. Some gamers have reported spending more than $500 on this game to unlock content.
LEGO Dimensions does let you use in-game currency to “rent” individual characters for a short time, but that doesn’t unlock their equipment or associated levels. Also, the cost of doing this increases every time you take the option. All in all, LEGO Dimensions is just about as far from free-to-play as you can get. It has a $99 buy-in and a ton of extras to get the complete experience. Unless you have money to burn, don’t expect to collect all of the content in this one
A Big Plus: LEGO Sets
The LEGO sets themselves are a ton of fun and come with dozens of unique pieces for your collection. That is especially true of the various expansion packs, many of which contain characters that have never appeared in LEGO form before. Want a LEGO Mr. T for your collection? LEGO Dimensions has it. How about Chell and an Aperture Science turret? LEGO Dimensions has got you covered. Scooby-Doo? Gremlins? Marceline from Adventure Time? All present and accounted for with the sets.
To make this wide range of figures work, LEGO has added tons of new molds. Marceline (as well as Marty McFly) even comes with an electric guitar piece!
If you are reading this LEGO Dimensions review and wondering if there are other games like this one, don't worry, there are, Skylanders and amiibos that are a lot like LEGO Dimensions that you may like.
It's impossible to mention toys-to-life games without mentioning the current leader in the field. Skylanders is, in fact, the game that invented the genre and is still going strong today. In many ways, LEGO Dimensions follows Skylanders' formula. Skylanders is a beat-'em-up action game with great graphics, a fantastic cast of voice actors, and a strong script. As seen above, that's also all true of LEGO Dimensions.
LEGO Dimensions has two edges over Skylanders, though.
Skylanders is, with a few exceptions, mostly a story about original characters. The universe is a very rough reboot of the old Spyro the Dragon games, but the vast majority of characters are new. Only four come from outside the Spyro/Skylanders canon. While the original characters themselves are charming, the Skylanders world doesn't have the same nostalgic appeal as some of the offerings in LEGO Dimensions.
Dimensions, on the other hand, offers characters you know and love from dozens of franchises. The ability to mix and match different themes is a huge part of the appeal of LEGO, and being able to do so benefits LEGO Dimensions tremendously.
The second advantage LEGO Dimensions has over Skylanders are the toys themselves. If you're going to buy a product that is both a toy and a video game, you probably want it to be both a good toy and a good video game. The Skylanders models look nice, but they don't offer the same play potential as a LEGO set. You certainly can't mix and match them with other toys the way LEGO Dimensions sets can go right into your LEGO bin.
With all that said, however, the two games are in many ways quite similar. If you like one, you'll probably like the other.
Nintendo's amiibo collection is the other major player in the toys-to-life field. On the surface, LEGO Dimensions sets and amiibos have a lot in common. Both represent a way to bring characters from a diverse set of themes together on the video game screen. There's a significant difference that sets them apart, however, and that's how each interacts with its video game counterpart.
LEGO Dimensions sets are all designed to be used together in one single, shared universe.
Amiibos, by contrast, are used in dozens of games. Each game has a set of amiibos it works with, and most aren't compatible with the majority of amiibo-compatible games. Many of the games only take amiibos from their game lines. The big exception is Super Smash Bros., of course, but even it doesn't use the majority of amiibos available. When crossovers do occur, they tend to feel somewhat forced and unnatural.
That is one of the most significant advantages of having the LEGO name behind LEGO Dimensions. Crossing over between themes, franchises, and worlds is a natural part of LEGO play. Kids have been having Batman visit the middle ages in their imaginations for years, and now it can happen on a video game screen. The crossover aspect of LEGO Dimensions feels far less forced than it does with amiibos.
Possibly due to their separate-franchise nature, amiibos have lately become more of a collectible than a game piece. If you like the crossover potential of amiibos and feel it was never thoroughly explored, however, then LEGO Dimensions is the game you want to buy.
Pros and Cons
- Tons of LEGO themes represented
- Great technical specs
- Story is good
- Voice acting
- Comes with physical LEGO sets
- Uneven difficulty
- Lack of classic LEGO themes
The Lego Dimensions starter packs have high reviews across all platforms on Amazon. Xbox One players have given it 4.4 out of 5 stars, and Xbox 360 players have given it 4.2 out of 5 stars. Playstation 4 and Playstation 3 players also enjoyed the game giving it 4 and 4.3 out of 5 stars respectively. Finally, the WiiU players had their own Lego Dimensions review and gave the game 4.3 out of 5 stars.
LEGO Dimensions Review: Final Verdict
Ultimately, LEGO Dimensions is a great game trapped behind a massive paywall. If you don’t mind shelling out for the physical sets, though, there’s a ton to do and to see. And hey, it’s not like having more LEGO sets isn’t fun enough on its own!
Featured image via Amazon.com with text, banner and logo added.