LEGO Dimensions burst onto the scene just over a year ago, combining an already well-respected line-up of LEGO videogames, with the ever-growing toys-to-life genre occupied by Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Sadly the later franchise has been shut down, but LEGO Dimensions are celebrating their one year anniversary with an impressive line-up of season two packs.
The good news? The series is going from strength to strength, adding in more elaborate franchises, playable sets, and even adding in new gameplay experiences. The bad news of course is, leading up to Christmas, there is no limit to the amount of money people can be throwing at LEGO Dimensions right now.
This year alone, we’ve seen over a dozen new packs featuring characters and scenarios from a crazy assortment of franchises - many of which are from the 80’s - indicating that LEGO Dimensions really does transcend generations with their audience. We’re talking The A-Team, Beetlejuice, The Goonies, Gremlins, Knight Rider, Sonic The Hedgehog, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. It’s nostalgia overload and while kids today will probably have no idea what these are, it’s a joy for older gamers to introduce a new generation to some of their favourite childhood memories.
The Season Two sets, which are scheduled to continue into early 2017, include other more recent pop culture icons such as the new Ghostbusters movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Adventure Time, Teen Titans Go!, and Powerpuff Girls if you count the reboot. Each one, depending on whether it’s a Fun Pack, Team Pack, Level Pack, or Story Pack, can cost anywhere between $25 - $90 each.
It’s enough to make your wallet curl up and die.
However after an hour of play you can see the value in your investment. In a forgiving gesture by the publisher, LEGO Dimensions (even now in Season Two) still only requires the original Starter Pack that was released back in September 2015 to play. This includes the toy pad, or portal base, that plugs into your console (Wii U, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, or Xbox One) and provides the near-field communication (NFC) reader which works with all of the LEGO Dimension add-on packs.
They start with the cheaper Fun packs, which contain a character from a certain franchise and a gadget or vehicle to play with; next is the Team packs which are similar, but include two characters and two gadgets or vehicles; then Level packs which include two characters or gadgets but also a playable level themed to that pack; and then finally the Story pack - which is the most expensive, but they include a buildable platform for your portal and six new levels to the game based on the represented franchise.
Story packs essentially provide a whole new game - and there are currently two new Story packs available; Ghostbusters, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - both themed off this year’s movies. They have also announced a new one for February 2017, which will follow the upcoming LEGO Batman Movie.
I was supplied with the Ghostbusters Story Pack, and after building an adorable little Chinese restaurant storefront for my portal and a pint-sized Ecto-1 car, I got to relive the latest movie in LEGO minifig form. While the Story Pack only includes a quarter of the key cast in minifig form, all of the four Ghostbusters are still in the game as playable characters - allowing you to switch between them as you progress.
Taking the key moments from the film and crafting six, action-packed levels around them, the Ghostbusters Story Pack is the most substantial add-on to the Dimensions platform yet. While it’s a shame that the budget didn’t extend to getting all the voice-acting from the movie’s cast, it sticks close to the plot of the film but adds in plenty of surprises that add up to hours of platforming fun with light puzzle solving along the way. Anyone who’s played a LEGO videogame before will be familiar with the mechanics, consisting of a gentle learning curve, infinite lives, and bucket loads of unlockable content.
Season Two also welcomes some new gameplay enhancements, such as Battle Arenas, which allow up to four players to battle competitively via split-screen. Each Battle Arena has four different gameplay modes; Capture the Flag, Base Bash!, Objective, and Tick, Tag, Boom! Most of them all all pretty self-explanatory, except for Base Bash! which I’m still yet to understand the rules fully. But watching four completely different characters (depending on your collection of sets, you could have Bart Simpson vs. Jake the Dog vs. the Wicked Witch vs. Marty McFly) all charging around in a casual deathmatch arena is definitely a blast. It’s great to see local spiltscreen multiplayer games like this, and LEGO Dimensions provides the perfect formula for fun family get togethers.
I also got my hands on the new Sonic The Hedgehog level pack, which was released last month. It was odd seeing Sonic in LEGO form, but there is no denying the loving care the developers have put into recreating such an iconic franchise in the new medium. The opening logo screen with a grinning Sonic above a SEGA logo is exactly how you remember it from the Mega Drive, except there is a now a LEGO brick rendition of the once pixelated rolling hills scrolling behind him.
Once you’re in the game, LEGO Dimensions takes on more of a fast-paced side-scrolling approach too, with environments lifted straight from the original Sonic game. Ironically, this LEGO rendition of Sonic is probably the best Sonic game we’ve seen in years - but the downside is, it has also lost a lot of that “LEGO feel” due to the overly smooth, rounded textures and few destructible environments. What impressed me though was it illustrated the flexibility of LEGO Dimensions and how it provided a completely different gameplay experience to the Ghostbusters or Portal packs before it.
It’s a nostalgic dream being able to mix up characters from different packs, for example chucking in Michael Knight from Knight Rider into Ghostbusters and drive around in an Ecto-1 is almost worth the price of admission alone. LEGO Dimensions really captures that sense of creative play and imagination-gone-wild that made the plastic toy so successful in the first place. Being able to combine so many different things, and smash together entirely new universes into a whole new world is a powerful concept that LEGO have captured for decades.
Unlike other toys-to-life titles like Skylanders or Disney Infinity, where the toys are static statues, you can also take comfort in your investment by the fact that the LEGO pieces included with each pack are completely reusable. If you or your children have LEGO, you’ll be able to add some truly unique minifigs and pieces to your collection - some of which will most likely never appear in a standard LEGO set, such as Lumpy Space Princess from Adventure Time, or B.A. Baracus from the A-Team. Thanks to the A-Team pack, I now have a four year old who walks around saying “I pity da fool!” - which could be either a good or a bad thing, I’m not sure.
I mentioned in my first review of LEGO Dimensions that there were a number of franchises that already exist in the LEGO space - such as Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Marvel Comics - that are strangely yet to appear in LEGO Dimensions. At the time I assumed that it was because they were already licensed with Disney Infinity - and if that’s the case, then there really is no stopping Dimensions now that Infinity is out of the picture. Judging by what I’ve seen so far with LEGO Dimensions, I’ll certainly be buying them (once my bank approves another loan, that is).
Angus received LEGO Dimensions Season 2 packs from Warner Bros. for review.