E3 2015: Customization and Creativity in Lego Dimensions
Thanks to the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinity, and also a little ol' thing called amiibo, the NFC figure craze can officially move into the sustainable trend category. These collectible figure-based games are no longer just a hot trend, they are a legitimate force to be reckoned with at retail. Adding more fuel to the fire this fall will be Lego Dimensions, the first NFC game to actually require your to build your adventures before you can play them.
Like Disney Infinity and Nintendo's amiibo, Lego Dimensions has a wealth of licensed characters to draw from, including heroes from DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera cartoons, films like the Lord of the Rings and Wizard of Oz, and a few video games to boot. Oh yeah, and that Lego Movie that you probably never heard of because it was not a big effing deal at all. All of those things mixed together in one giant pot might seem improbable and incomprehensible to understand, but Lego Dimensions makes it work. More than that, it adds some new twists to the NFC genre that we can't believe haven't been done yet.
The premise of Lego Dimensions revolves around a villain with his eyes set on conquering all the known worlds seizing control of a portal between universes. With it, he's able to warp around various memorable locations, seizing all he can touch for his own nefarious needs. That's where you come in, or rather, Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle, the three core heroes of this wacky adventure. You'll get that trio, the Batmobile and the portal in the starter pack, which is enough to get you through the core game with ease. What's cool is that you'll be able to use all four pieces at once in-game, and if you happen to have any other sets, you can include up to three more figures/vehicles on the portal. Seven mixed and matched characters/cars at a time is an impressive feat, and one that surprisingly doesn't make the game cluttered. Sure, it makes the portal base cluttered a bit, but there's enough room in-game for everyone to hang out and be buddies. It only starts to get tricky when Lego Dimensions throws one of its portal-based puzzles at you.
Unlike other NFC games which merely make a digital version of a figure appear in the game world, Lego Dimensions actually uses its portal to solve environmental puzzles or break characters out of spells/stuns. There are a few variations on the puzzles, but for the most part, they boil down to moving your figures to the right spot on the base. It's all queued from in-game hints, so it's not a guessing game in the least, nor is it that outstanding a premise. However, it does mix things up enough that what once was a tried and familiar formula becomes a bit more interactive. Granted, the bases were mere inches from us during the demo, and that won't likely be the case when you get the game in your house. The team on hand didn't have any concrete answers about how long the USB cable would be for the base, but if you hope to play with these while sitting on your couch, you're likely going to need at least 6-8' of cable to get the most out of Dimensions' interactivity.
In addition to the core game, there are going to be a lot of optional sets to add, including the likes of Scooby-Doo and Portal. All three characters from the main game are still crucial to the experience, but with these add-ons, you'll be able to recruit the likes of Chell and Scooby himself to aid you in your quest. It's unclear whether or not these extra characters will bring any sort of advantages to the core Dimensions game, but within their own worlds, there are plenty of specific interactive spots for Chell and Scooby, and so on.
It's also worth mentioning, when you visit different character universes, the presentation alters slightly based on the license. While the standard Lego Dimensions game boasts a similar style to recent Lego games, when you go to the Scooby-Doo world, everything takes on a cel-shaded appearance. Portal's stages appeared to be of the more standard fare, but we have yet to see what worlds like Back to the Future and The Simpsons look like in person. Again, it's not a big change to the experience, but it's a small touch that makes each location feel unique and worth exploring.
Though we were a bit hesitant to the idea of adding yet another NFC game to our rapidly expanding (and expensive) roster of figures, Lego Dimensions is offering enough new that it's hard not to be intrigued by the possibilities it presents. Coupled with the fact that Lego are awesome, Lego Dimensions can still stand out in a marketplace that's become increasingly crowded with competition. If you felt like Skylanders and Disney Infinity were too similar and didn't offer much beyond nicely sculpted figures, Lego Dimensions definitely feels like a regular Lego game. It's just got a lot more customizability involved.
Lego Dimensions is due out on Sept. 27 for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC and Wii U.