The Lego Movie Videogame is a game based on a film based on a set of toys, making it just a hair away from being as conceptually ridiculous as Street Fighter: The Movie the game, which of course was a game based on a movie based on a game. Normally, movie-based games do not inspire much confidence, but Lego established itself as a strong brand in videogames long before it made its much-acclaimed jump to the silver screen, so I expected it to be enjoyable nonetheless. The PlayStation Vita version of the game is fun and well put together but missing a lot of the bells and whistles of its consoles brethren.
The story centers on Emmett, an ordinary Lego figure living in the city of Bricksburg. One day he gets caught up in a plot involving a prophecy about a Master Builder known as The Special who will be able to thwart the evil President Business in his attempt to stifle all creativity in the Lego Universe. The narrative is intentionally simplistic and childish for good reason. The story satirizes and mocks many movie clichés in an uplifting and joyous manner, so it’s hard not to get caught up in the infectiousness of it all even for a more mature player. It helps too that a lot famous characters from pop culture make an appearance in Lego form, the most prominent being Batman.
During gameplay the player has a top-down and angled view on the action. I am tempted to call The Lego Movie Videogame a platformer in the vein of most of its predecessors but that is complicated by the fact that the game actually features no jumping. It is a full bodied action game/beat-em-up that pares the gameplay down to its most essential and exciting bits. Levels range from a few seconds to a few minutes in length. Normally I would deem such a set-up as poor and demeaning, but it has a great sense of pacing and feels considerably less padded than most licensed games feel inclined to be. You are moved from one epic set piece to the next with a pluck and daring that makes the game feel considerably more epic than you would think it has any right to be, based on its source material. I can say with confidence that I was rarely bored.
Combat is a simple button mashing affair with melee attacks assigned to the square button by default. You will also smash and grab everything in your sight that appears destructible to reap valuable studs or re-purpose into something useful for your progression. You can also cycle through a group of three predetermined characters, each with their own special abilities that come in handy at different points throughout the level.
Thrown into the mix are vehicle segments where you must avoid enemies and obstacles, levels where you all you do is fall from the sky, and the occasional rail-shooter stage. The game is divided into 15 chapters, each featuring 3 stages for a grand total of 45 levels to play through. The settings are varied, including showdowns set in the Old West, romps through the Lord of the Rings-inspired Middle Zealand, and the wacky environment of Cloud Cuckoo Land. Five to six hours is a reasonable amount of time to complete the story mode.
The game makes the most of the touchscreen, which can be used to move your character throughout the level by simply dragging your finger to where you want to go. This input method works but is neither practical nor comfortable to use throughout the game. The touchscreen is also used to build things, interact with objects in the environment, and aim projectiles.
The Lego Movie Videogame is actually more difficult than most Lego games because the penalty for dying is to restart the level from scratch rather than just lose a few studs and respawn instantly. Some segments can be tricky to get right the first time or discover just what you are supposed to do. Meanwhile, the environmental puzzles are as easy as they have always been for a Lego game. I found the challenge enjoyable and reasonable for the intended audience of tots. For an added challenge you can try to complete the 10 additional objectives accompanying each level. These challenges range from completing the stage under a certain time limit, to finding special items, to not incurring any damage, and other such trials specific to level.
The PlayStation Vita version is a completely single player affair, lacking the drop-in and out cooperative multiplayer component of its console counterparts. The trade-off is that at only $30 retail, the Vita version of The Lego Movie Videogame is a budget title and noticeably cheaper than those other versions. Once you complete a chapter, you unlock all of its stages in Free Play, meaning you can return using any combination of unlocked characters to complete the remaining challenges from your first playthrough. Using the studs collected while playing as currency you can pay to unlock new characters and special in-game abilities to use in Free Play.
Visually, The Lego Movie Videogame falls in line with the aesthetics of past Lego videogames. There are no performance issues to speak of and the graphics are both crisp and colorful. Cut scenes are clips cut directly from the film, making this one of the few games to feature voiceovers from luminary talents such as Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, and Will Ferrell. The game’s soundtrack is enjoyable, anchored by the cheery anthem “Everything is Awesome” that plays at the end of every level or whenever you press the pause button.
Ultimately, The Lego Movie Videogame suffers a bit from not having the added appeal of another IP such as The Lego Star Wars series, or having the freedom and scope of an original game like Lego City Undercover. It is a game of simple pleasures that undeniably makes a lot out of what it has to work with. It is an excellent introduction to action game tropes for very young players and an enjoyable if undemanding tread for more experienced gamers. The Lego Movie is a grand piece of entertainment in its own right and this videogame companion satisfyingly serves its purpose at extending the fun for a while after you have left the theater.
This review is based on a retail copy of The Lego Movie Videogame for the PSV, provided by the publisher.