As a longtime fan of the LEGO games I was excited to get my hands on the newest release in the series. The first The LEGO Movie Videogame has been a favourite with my family, largely due to how well it captured the joyous feel and atmosphere of the surprisingly awesome film, and so following a generally positive reaction to the sequel in cinemas I was fully expecting to enjoy another spin-off. Unfortunately, The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame is more like a knockoff third party brick set where the instructions have been lost in translation.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the LEGO games in general is how amazingly detailed the worlds are. Levels are meticulously crafted to offer shortcuts and hidden areas for characters with different abilities, and repeated playthroughs are rewarded with puzzles and collectables. This level of detail is shared by the characters themselves, with their mix of skills making unlocking new ones meaningful. LEGO Movie 2 has little of this.
Using the LEGO Worlds engine instead of the usual one means that levels are largely empty and uninspiring, but you also find that characters are purely cosmetic with all abilities being based on items instead. The linear unlocking of these items means that there is no scope for mixing things up in interesting ways, you just work your way through the story and then go back with new tools. This approach follows the most basic outline of what makes LEGO games so fun, but contains none of the spirit or thrill of collecting.
Collecting itself has been streamlined in the worst possible way. LEGO Movie 2 is all about randomised loot. Finding and redeeming relics is the main way to unlock characters, items, vehicles, and buildings, and will have you seeking chests throughout the levels. Chests are far from hidden, with huge columns of light pinpointing their location, but this approach makes opening them boring and laborious. The relics you collect must then be taken to the shop on each level to be opened, but the tedium is compounded by the fact that relics are so numerous that you can spend upwards of ten minutes vacantly pressing the button to open these loot boxes. Even the thrill of unlocking new shinies is rendered dull.
There are some silver linings to this loot system: there’s not even a whiff of microtransactions and duplicate items (of which you will be getting hundreds) are automatically turned into shards that can be used to make up mega relics. These are guaranteed to give you new items when they are opened (although a couple of times this didn’t seem to apply), but the main result of this is doubling the already length process of unlocking things. Indeed, this system is so poorly thought out that you can easily game the system by buying lots of the cheapest item relics from the shops which offer three items each time, instead of the single reward from character and build relics. Since mega relics are made from five dupes, it’s a much quicker way of earning them. Simply removing the duplication aspect would have improved this system immeasurably and would have gone some way to redeeming the game.
Using the LEGO Worlds engine means that the levels never really feel like living worlds. Everything has the look and feel of good fan-made content rather than professionally designed environments. Without the range of details of other games there is rarely any ambiguity as to what you need to interact with to progress. Things can still be destroyed for studs and colour bricks for building, but even this destructive aspect feels slow and cumbersome.
The whole game suffers from a shockingly slow pace; traversing the empty levels takes far longer than it should, even if you construct a vehicle. My main tip would be to build the smaller flying vehicles as soon as you can as this at least removes some of the annoying movement, but it does seem like finding ways to avoid actually playing the game as it stands.
The story is told in a similarly cumbersome fashion, coming almost entirely through disembodied narration by Lucy. This is worth repeating: the game based on the movie contains almost no movie footage with the story developed through the most rudimentary ‘and then we did this’ voiceovers. I haven’t yet seen the film but assume that the ending is more climactic than the infodump monologue that we get here.
While everything is OK graphically and the frame rate holds relatively steady on a standard PS4, the slow movement makes it feel more choppy than it should. Loading times are long, but don’t interrupt levels themselves. Disappointingly, I encountered a few instances where opening up relics actually crashed on me.
It is difficult to find much to recommend about The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame. Everything that was awesome about other LEGO games seems to have been stripped away and replaced by mediocre and repetitive busywork. Characters are completely lacking in, well, character, and all that is left is the compulsive collection that the first movie was so clearly arguing against. You’re better off picking up a copy of the original and treat yourself to another trip to the cinema. Just think of how much popcorn and pick ‘n’ mix you could buy with the difference in price. The sugar rush from that will entertain you for longer than the LEGO Movie 2 game will.