In its first toys-to-game release, TT Games has given us Dimensions – an eclectic mix of the classic Lego-style games we have come to know over the years and, well, everything else you can think of.
The introductory cinematic takes us into a world somewhere in between the barren surface of a yet-to-be-discovered planet and a Lego desert at night. It’s nearly completely devoid of life, and interspersed with undulating waves of white Lego bricks capable of producing random items ranging from neurons to jumbo-jets from it’s crest.
Revealed beneath the surface of the Lego-brick ground are pictures of “foundation elements” that have been scattered across the various dimensions of the Lego universe. It comes as little surprise further into the game that our task is to recover these foundation elements and keep them from the hands of Lord Vortec, who would (presumably) use them for evil.
Our first task in the game is, oddly enough, not to play the game. Instead, we devote a significant chunk of our pre-playing-a-new-game excitement to using Lego bricks to build the game’s dimension-travelling portal and characters.
It’s a time-consuming process guided by on-screen manuals, but the cool thing is that the pieces follow Lego’s classic ideal that each and every one can be combined with any other from any set. We could easily take these pieces from the Dimensions toypad and integrate them with any Lego set that has ever existed.
In classic Lego style, things are taken another step further as well. The portal we construct isn’t just used to determine which characters are in the game at any particular time. The position of figurines on it also has an effect in-game. For example, you move figurines to navigate portals, paint sections of it various colours to solve a puzzle, and even gain new powers from it.
Any initial trepidation stemming from the use of a physical-world mechanic in a virtual game is soon replaced by a series of emotions: denial that this could ever be a functional mechanic, frustration that it must be placed on a dead flat surface lest poor old Gandalf falling over (and thus fall out of the game), and finally acceptance that the mechanics with the toypad actually work pretty well.
In the hands of a company less well-known for its light-hearted approach to beloved pop culture characters, the integration of the various dimensions could have seemed jarring and odd. However, in the capable hands of TT Games, it’s like the world’s most chaotic game of Cluedo.
You can easily find yourself in the Wild West with Batman, a flaming Statue of Liberty, and enough neurotoxin gas to fill Glad-OS with glee, or in Springfield with the Joker riding a giant mechano-Joker and Gandalf free-falling through floating rings of Lego studs. The mashups appear to have been thrown together at random, but I suspect each combination was selected to ensure maximum brick-breaking chaos.
Given the Starter Pack’s shockingly high price and the inevitable prospect of having to purchase further expansions – I am after all, an obsessive completionist at heart – it is hard not to be cynical about what we expect the game’s playtime to be. Fortunately, there is a lot more available with the Starter Pack than expected, and the wealth of available expansions seem to only further enrich the experience by adding more levels, characters, and vehicles, rather provide completely essential content.
Even so, the main set-back of Lego Dimensions is the hefty pricetag. It is a lot of money to shell out at once – even for a decent-sized game that comes complete with a small set of Lego and three characters. There are some minor problems too: the odd piece of missing dialog, a disorientating moving screen-split in co-op that is simultaneously capable of making you nauseated and unable to find your character on either side of the split, and an utterly unintelligent character-switch function that has an infuriating tendency to send you to the character furthest from your intended choice.
But for those with the cash and the inclination, Dimensions is a winner. For the most part, its real-world and in-game mechanics work well, the IP-crossing story is good, and it's not stingy with its content. In short, its multi-dimensional free-wheeling fun.