Anyone who’s played a movie-based Lego video game is familiar with the formula. A film’s tale is retold in a series of story missions, packed with bricks to break and characters to collect. At first, I was disappointed that The Lego Movie 2 Video Game did not follow that formula. But eventually, I came around on it.
Released on 26 February for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Switch, The Lego Movie 2 Video Game breaks from the traditional Lego movie game format, which is either tried and true or old and tired, depending on how it’s implemented (and how you feel about them after 14 years). Last year’s Lego Incredibles was rote, delivering the licensed Lego experience at its most basic—story missions, hub worlds, stuff to collect, done. A year before came The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game, which followed the format but made room for things like free movement and combo-based combat, resulting in one of the best Lego movie games ever.
One of the very best games in the series was 2014’s The Lego Movie Video Game. The source material is brilliant and charming. Unlike most Lego movie games, which feature non-brick backgrounds and scenery, The Lego Movie Video Game looks as if it’s completely built from Lego pieces. It’s a bright and colourful toybox of adventure. When I heard developer TT Fusion was making The Lego Movie 2 Video Game, I was hoping for more of that. It is not. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s bad.
The game’s story doesn’t retell the movie in linear fashion, instead allowing the main characters to wander from planet to planet, completing quests and collecting cosmic bricks. There are no lengthy story missions. There are no goals for collecting a certain amount of “bits,” Lego’s in-game currency. There are no glowing piles of bricks to smash and reassemble into new forms to solve puzzles.
It’s modelled less after the traditional movie-Lego-game and more after Lego Worlds, the Minecraft-style Lego creativity game from 2017. It’s more of an open-world game. As you explore the free-roaming planets, you’ll find main quests that progress the game’s story and unlock new worlds to explore, and also side quests in which characters ask you to construct items, erect buildings, or paint objects for them. As in Lego Worlds, players amass a growing number of tools as they play—construction booklets, item scanners that add new objects to their catalogue, paint brushes to recolour structures, power gloves to bust through scenery, and more.
There’s even a special world called Syspocalypstar, which the player can freely customise using bricks collected as they play. Shops in each world offer special items in exchange for Lego bits. One shop even sells giant letters, so players can spell out messages in the style of the Hollywood sign. For example, here is how I felt about the game upon realising it wasn’t just more of the first The Lego Movie Video Game.
My second sign had four letters. I am saving that one for a special occasion.
I did not like The Lego Movie 2 Video Game, at first. It looks rough. The framerate is choppy as hell. The draw distance sucks, especially in the world players are allowed to build freely in. There are too many tools to cycle through. Combat is very basic, just hits and kicks with the odd special quick-time input attack tossed in. The voices are hideous; most characters sound nothing at all like their movie counterparts. The camera does a lot of this:
Where am I? What am I looking at? Is the camera underground?
These are all Lego Worlds problems, and they shouldn’t be in my The Lego Movie 2 Video Game. But as I played, singing a made-up song called “Everything Is Stupid,” and generally feeling grumpy, my two seven-year-old boys were growing increasingly riveted. They like the Lego look, even if this game does weird things to the minifigures’ facial textures.
They encouraged me to talk to every character that had a mission for me and my crew. They excitedly shouted out what came from the character, construction and item capsules scattered about each world in glowing chests, essentially free loot boxes with random prizes inside. They got a little frustrated when I paused to make use of the selfie cam feature. They cheered me on as I faced off against the game’s impressively-large boss creatures.
That’s not a small fella right there.
Their enthusiasm was infectious. They went to bed at 9pm, and I continued playing until midnight, suffering ridiculously long load times (another Lego Worlds staple) in order to find one more build or finish one more quest. I get it now.
The Lego Movie 2 Video Game is not the mindless, low-stress action adventure I was hoping for. It’s more of a creative, puzzle-solving, item management sort of joint. It takes the meandering freedom of Lego Worlds and gives it focus and purpose. It’s not the game I wanted to play, but ultimately it’s a game I’m happy to play.