Looking at the toy giant today, it’s hard to believe that the company struggled and were on the brink of bankruptcy in the mid-90’s. By 1998 it posted its first ever loss, at a staggering £23 million. In that same year the company laid off over 1,000 employees.
However LEGO managed to turn everything around by the new millennium thanks to licensing - introducing sets from other franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter and even Winnie the Pooh. Since that time, LEGO have never looked back. In fact, in recent years the coloured brick toy range has exploded to cover nearly every pop-culture reference from Marvel and DC Comics through to Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings.
The other area where the toy giant has evolved dramatically is in the digital world. LEGO have added numerous, highly acclaimed video games over the past decade. Amazingly, and possibly alarmingly, LEGO have announced five titles for 2015 alone. The motherload of which, LEGO Dimensions, lands this spring, accompanied by dozens of add-on packs.
The latest addition to the LEGO ranks is Jurassic World, obviously to coincide with the blockbuster movie currently doing the rounds. Although there is a part of me that wonders if this unmovable deadline is responsible for how buggy the game is - which is an unusual statement considering the past quality from Traveller’s Tales.
Firstly though, let’s deal with what is bricktastic about the game. LEGO Jurassic World covers all four of the franchises movies, going right back to the original Jurassic Park. For me it was like a nostalgic magic carpet ride, combining my childhood love of LEGO with the 90’s awesomeness of Spielberg’s classic.
All of your favourite characters have been minifig’d, from Jeff Goldblum’s greasy hair and Richard Attenborough’s wispy white beard, through to Chris Pratt’s chiselled jaw. Which in LEGO terms means a slightly curved cube-like head. Newman from Seinfeld is also a lot slimmer than I remember him. Let’s face it, LEGO just don’t do fat.
The human cast are all there, but they would’ve been pretty boring (and highly confusing) movies without the real stars - the dinosaurs. Again, recreated in charming LEGO form, there are raptors, stegosaurus, triceratops, that one with the face-flaps who spits at people, brachiosaurus, and more. Even the Tyrannosaurus Rex is cute, a feat only Traveller's Tales could pull off so effortlessly. And what’s better is that many of them are playable characters.
If only real-life problems could be solved by smashing everything in sight.
Unfortunately though, this is where the bugs start to kick in. As a concept, it’s a feature that adds a whole new dimension to the standard LEGO formula. Each dino has special attributes, such as the clever velociraptor that can activate levers and help locate treasures via scent tracking; that flappy-face one lets you spit venom as a ranged attack; and stomping around smashing bricks as a gargantuan beast is a lot of fun.
The problem is, the dinosaurs are often a little bit too gargantuan. More often than not, you’ll get your giant hide stuck in parts of the map, leaving you circling around and around as if you had a brain the size of a grapefruit. It’s even worse with flying creatures, where levels don’t seem to be quite designed to allow you to soar majestically around without hitting invisible barriers. It’s a big deal breaker as the whole point of being a dino is so you can just charge around and run rampant... instead you’re holding your breath incase you break the game.
It’s not always dinos that seem to fall into a technical abyss either, as often vehicles will get stuck or just plain disappear for no reason. Other times, climbable ledges or vines to swing from occasionally decide to randomly malfunction, leaving you to pitifully fall to your doom and spill your hard-earned plastic moola. It’s a shame as otherwise, the environments are engaging and larger than you might think for a LEGO game, bringing in plenty of recognisable scenes from the quadrilogy of films.
There’s plenty of fanfare in the game, one particularly sweet touch was Mr DNA being your guide and giving you tips throughout the game (and yes, he’s playable!); or the raptor riding a motorcycle as a possible nod to the eye-rolling plot in Jurassic World. You can even use the genome sequencer to create your very own dinosaurs, and then customise them from the colour of their skin through to their attacks, or special skills.
On top of the collision detection glitches, there are other little annoyances in the game - like the soundtrack. I haven’t met a man alive who doesn’t love John Williams’ epic theme song for Jurassic Park (I bet you’re humming it right now), but it gets very old when you’ve heard it on repeat for hours on end. It’s pretty much in the background from start to finish.
Also following recent LEGO titles, Jurassic World includes dialogue with memorable lines from the film - but they sound muffled and poorly recorded a lot of the time. Maybe I’m just biased, as I’m a fan of the earlier games which used ‘silent mime’ to convey the action, but this is definitely not their best work in the audio department.
At the end of the day though, LEGO Jurassic World is still a charming game. It’s perfectly on par with what makes the LEGO games so good - it’s highly accessible, packed full of humour and is a great co-op game with a friend. It’s true that the game is a tad boring as a single-player game, mainly because of the number of character relevant puzzles that you need to solve. Manually having to swap characters over and over is a bit tedious, but with a helpful friend by your side, it’s a perfect family-friendly game. There isn’t any blood, or even death. Instead you just explode into cute little brick-like pieces.
It’s a shame about the bugs, which could be the product of meeting the movie deadlines rather than oversights from the developers; or maybe the fact that it had to sit alongside four other LEGO titles this year alone. But if you can look past randomly flying triceratops or temperamental vines - LEGO Jurassic World is still fun, full of charisma, and with enough unlockables and customisation to keep your attention.