The Lego Movie is a magic trick, a product that acts as the greatest toy commercial ever created, and also the most joyous and raucous “think for yourself” statement since the original Matrix. Naturally, The Lego Movie Videogame was going to be right behind it, because that’s just how the Lego licensing machine works (Lego set begets video game begets new set begets video game based on sequels nobody likes), but the movie sets up an opportunity for something much more special, free-flowing, and individually creative than its licensed predecessors. Instead, the video game falls right in line with them in being a mostly linear experience, shuttling the player from scene to scene, with the slightly more open hub worlds being there for random Lego stud hunts and little else. Not that this makes The Lego Movie Videogame a bad video game so much as a mildly disappointing adaptation.
As a game, it meets the standards of the other licensed Lego video games thus far, just not rising to the often literal dizzying heights of Lego: Marvel or Lego City Undercover. It’s still running, jumping, climbing stuff, solving puzzles, and drowning in as many collectable pieces as you can find. The game’s one new gimmick is a mini-game involving the film’s main character, hapless construction worker Emmet, finding blueprint instructions scattered across the stage, and needing to select the right missing piece at random points in its construction to build a new machine. It’s very much in line with the film, but as the only new innovation, it feels perfunctory.
The film’s plot is followed pretty much to the letter, expanded to make room for more action: Emmet gets dragged out of his everyday life when he falls into a chasm, wakes up with a relic called the Piece of Resistance grafted to his back, thus branding him “The Special,” and it’s up to master builders Wildstyle and Vitruvius to keep him safe while they figure out how to use him to stop evil President Business from destroying the world. The film’s main cast all return to reprise their roles, and yes, it’s just as weird as you think it is to hear Morgan Freeman’s voice coming out of a video game. The music doesn’t make the cut, theoretically because it wasn’t finished while the game was in development, so you get a more generic, Lonely Island-less version of “Everything Is Awesome” playing during the game, and Batman’s hilarious “Untitled Self Portrait” gets swapped out for random dubstep. It’s only a minor problem that the music didn’t make the transition into the game, but it’s major that neither did Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s writing.
Again, it’s a situation of the game’s writing not being bad so much as simplistic in a way the film isn’t. There’s a certain level of high-end snark, intelligence, and self-awareness in the film that ended up being watered down for maximum palability for the younger players, seemingly without realizing that the film’s tone worked just fine for the young ones as it is. This might not be so bad if the game’s levels weren’t broken up by snippets from the film. As a result, the game’s material almost feels incongruous. We’ve seen Travellers’ Tales without the crutch of an established property do great things. This could and should have been another one. Instead, it’s the bare minimum for what we expect from the Lego video games so far, especially when there’s ripe, self-parodying fruit to be picked here about Lego licensing itself for a video game.
And yet, that baseline expectation still has its gentle charms for a few hours worth of playtime, and another dozen exploring the hub worlds for more Lego bits. What we’re left with is a game where everything settles for being pretty good instead of aiming for awesome.