One of the most joyful things about Lego Bricktales is simply getting to look at it. Borrowing some of the contained diorama format of Captain Toad, each area and level you get to visit is a squared off little world, with everything within constructed entirely out of Lego bricks. There’s none of the fudged lines between Lego and polygonal design as found in the Telltale games, and that extends to the characters which will move and run around with the sharp, rigid movements that you’d expect.
While wandering through the areas, you’re generally quite restricted in how you can get around. There’s fixed camera angles which will only shift when needed to let you explore obscured areas, but pausing the game lets you take control of the camera and pan and zoom around, hunting down some of the many secrets tucked away in each area. It’s sublime.
The game starts as you visit your grandfather’s lab, tucked down below an amusement park. You turn up just as his grand experiment goes thoroughly wrong, but actually ends up going very right, as his old robot companion Rusty returns from an extraterrestrial journey that’s seriously upgraded its abilities, helping you to repair and get the tech working again. Hey presto! It’s a portal machine!
Naturally you’re going to go through the portal, but there’s an added imperative because your grandfather needs to fix up his amusement park before the Mayor visits, and Rusty suggests you collect happiness crystals from helping people out to transform rides one at a time. Apparently that’s how aliens power their gizmos? Whatever the case, you hop through and get adventuring, with plenty of witty repartee from Rusty that might fly over children’s heads, but can bring a wry smile to an adult’s face.
Each of the fives biomes will add to Rusty’s skill set, starting off with a ground pound that will smash nearby objects, adding an inter-dimensional scanner and more. You’ll quickly notice how the game gates collectibles behind these mysterious world items that are clearly for future abilities, and when you want to find all 20 of each species of animal or find chests with a local currency to spend on unlocking costumes and bricks in Boo’s shops, then you know you’ll be back tracking through each diorama to find every secret.
The people that you meet will throw a variety of tasks and missions at you, invariably leading to some kind of construction puzzle to complete. This really leans into the latent creativity of building with Lego. Some puzzles are prescribed, like copying a statue, but outside of those, every puzzle teases creativity out of you by giving you a studded canvas and a careful selection of bricks and pieces. Even when simply creating a bridge, I’m sure there will be subtle differences in your design. So long as you meet certain requirements, stay within bounds, ensure that everything is connected properly and then manage to survive a test, you’re fine. Considering ClockStone’s pedigree with Bridge Constructor, there’s similar physics-based tests, though nowhere near as strict as in those games.
The controls are appreciatively intuitive, and the game does a good job of figuring out your intent, when trying to place and connect bricks in a 3D space. It’s not perfect, and there will be countless times when the item you’re holding will snap to either side of where you want it, but this is generally just a minor inconvenience once you learn its quirks. The D-pad lets you snap to different height levels, which is a particularly useful tool.
You soon earn the ability to enter into a Sandbox mode in these creative puzzles, which breaks down the restrictions on bricks and parts and lets you pick from defined sets of bricks. These come in a variety of different colours and also draw from different themes you’ve unlocked at Boo’s shop. You can revisit any puzzle in the game and modify your designs, and this mode will let you really flex your creative muscles later down the line.
This game is a really natural fit for the Nintendo Switch and handheld play, and ClockStone has put in the effort to feature touchscreen controls so that you can drag and tap to make your creations. This can be a little more intuitive than the button and stick controls at times, though I’ll admit I only really dabbled with the touch screen play, and that’s for a very good (and no doubt familiar sounding) reason.
Sadly, the performance on Switch isn’t great. In contained areas it’s nice and smooth, but with busier environments it feels choppier, though it’s still perfectly playable. It’s when building with complex scenes that the frame rate and lag can become almost unbearable. Whenever there’s larger construction parts that you can move around, it just becomes so aggravatingly unresponsive for seconds at a time until the object can catch up, leading to movement overshoots and frustration.
This compounded some of the most annoying puzzles in the game. Having to construct a fire escape so that four robots could travel down to safety, I was given pre-fabricated flights of stairs that were just horrible to move. Worse, my construction would explode for no obvious reason when running the simulation, forcing me to completely rebuild two or three different ways to get it to work. It was only marginally less painful than standing on a Lego brick, but it’s not an isolated incident and blights any time that the game throws larger and more challenging builds at you. Hopefully ClockStone can address this, but for now we’d suggest you consider other platforms.