A LEGO game about building stuff. Finally!
After spending the best part of a decade complaining about LEGO games that miss the whole point of LEGO, it’s a pleasure of sorts to play one that at least has the right idea. Not that I imagine they listened to me (if they’d been paying attention they might stop sending these games to us for review). Anyway; with no movie franchise to pander to, LEGO Worlds cares a whole lot more about the toy that it’s based on.
At first glance it might appear to be business as usual. It starts with the same clunky title screen interface as all the others, before handing us control of a LEGO avatar in 3D space. Literal space to begin with, as we build our character from a small selection of astronaut body parts. From there, it’s a descent towards our first LEGO world. A procedurally generated landscape greets us in the first hint that creativity is at the heart of this game.
Obviously, the entire thing is built from LEGO bricks. If we wanted to make these worlds in real life, I dare say we could – certainly in the tutorial stages they’d probably fit on four LEGO base-plates. It’s not about scale early on, but teaching the mechanics of play. Stuff can be punched like it always could, with smashed pieces releasing LEGO studs (the game’s currency). However, the idea is to use a Portal-style device to scan objects, building a catalogue that can be bought from to build our own worlds later on.
The pieces that can be scanned are a mix of themed and generic items. Pirates, treasure chests and shipwrecks sit alongside pigs, troughs and fences. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how to play with LEGO, right? You tip over that bucket and make something with what spills out. But not yet; we have some simple objectives to clear and worlds to explore before we’re given creative freedom.
To get off this world and onto the next, we’ll need fuel for our rocket ship. Those familiar with LEGO games might guess: that means finding gold bricks. They’re handed out by NPCs in fulfilment of basic quests: a pirate asks for a throne to put in his ship; a farmer wants her pigs herded back to their pen. Once the handful bricks are acquired from a location, heavy-handed prompts repeatedly urge departure – the game is in a hurry to move you along.
Each of the early gold brick quests showcases part of LEGO Worlds’ toolkit. This does a pretty neat job of disguising a lengthy tutorial process, though the quests are not particularly fulfilling in themselves. And honestly, it feels like too much too quickly. The experience suffers from a sense that quantity counts above all, rushing you through content without presenting anything that’s particularly well formed.
Again, perhaps that’s an accurate (though unflattering) rendition of the real LEGO experience. The bricks themselves are no doubt the height of good toy design, but the way they are employed…let’s just say it’s not every young child that wants to painstakingly follow instructions and do it properly (yeah, I was one of those kids). LEGO Worlds seems more interested in serving kids that chuck it all together without planning or finesse.
It’s here that LEGO Worlds falls foul of the same old LEGO game tropes. Despite giving you the toolkit this time around to be creative, everything is so clumsy that it’s difficult to feel any tactile connection with those bricks. For a LEGO experience, that is a problem. Authentic, individual bricks can be placed one by one, but it is just too fiddly to be enjoyable. It’s more like Little Big Planet than Minecraft in the immediacy of its creative possibilities.
If you were one of those kids that didn’t follow LEGO instructions, firstly I’d have to wonder what is wrong with you. But then, I’d think: maybe LEGO Worlds offers something to you or your kids (assuming you’ve brought them up with a similar lack of discipline in play). I’m just bummed that digital LEGO is still so clunky, still so awkward. It still isn’t built for me.
LEGO Worlds was provided to us by Microsoft via a download code for Xbox One.