I adore the LEGO games. You know the ones, those family-friendly action romps, usually based on a pretty famous IP. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Batman and more. They are all a bit ‘samey’, I admit, but no less fun for it. I always think that the LEGO games are a good entry point for younger gamers and the fact they can be played in co-op means you can play with your kids and enjoy them just as much.
If these games have a negative, then it is (as mentioned) that they are ‘samey’. No matter the IP used, the games pretty much play the same regardless. Even when they do something more original with the likes of LEGO City: Undercover (best LEGO game so far), the core gameplay never really changes. This brings me to LEGO Bricktales, a new LEGO game from developer ClockStone and published by Thunderful Games. So, the same old LEGO game eh? Well no, not quite.
“In this puzzle-adventure, use an intuitive brick-by-brick building mechanic to solve puzzles and bring your creations to life! Experience a charming story as you explore beautiful LEGO® dioramas and help the people inhabiting them.”
With LEGO Bricktales, you get a very different type of LEGO game. There’s no running around and smacking enemies in the face here, as with most of the other LEGO titles. As the blurb up there describes the game, this is more of a puzzle-adventure title. The story is that:
“Your grandfather, a genius inventor, has called you for help! His beloved amusement park is about to close as the mayor is threatening to shut everything down and seize the land if the necessary repairs aren’t made to bring it up to code. With the help of your powerful little robot buddy, you can restore it using a mysterious device based on alien technology. As a source of power, the device needs happiness crystals, which you can harvest by making people happy and solving their problems. With the aid of a portal, travel to different locations all around the world to help people and collect their happiness crystals. Strap in for the ultimate building adventure and save your grandfather’s amusement park!”
Taking place over several themed LEGO-built dioramas, you need to help various people to gain happiness crystals, which can then be used to restore your grandfather’s theme park to its former glory. The main draw of LEGO Bricktales is its building mechanic. If you have ever played any of those previous LEGO games, then you’d know that building really is nothing more than just holding down a button while the game auto-builds whatever is needed. Here though, you have to physically manipulate and build each item by hand, brick by brick. You can move the various LEGO bricks around in a 3D environment and place each one to create whatever it is that you need to build to solve the puzzle.
As this is a puzzle-adventure title, the action here is minimal and the pace of the game is much slower than other LEGO games. You’ll be spending a lot of your time exploring the numerous LEGO dioramas, talking to NPCs and solving a lot of LEGO-based puzzles. You’ll be doing things like building a bridge for construction vehicles to pass over (this is developed by ClockStone famed for the Bridge Constructor games), putting together gyrocopters, rafts, a throne for a king or even a perch for an owl.
Each of the building puzzles will have rules and criteria that you will need to abide by. For instance, the building of a perch for an owl that I just mentioned. Here, you have to ensure that the perch is balanced correctly and doesn’t swing around too much. The puzzles can be quite taxing on the old noodle as there is no one way to solve them and there are multiple possible outcomes. Each puzzle can be completed in a number of ways with you using the specific LEGO bricks given to solve it. Use as many or as few LEGO bricks as you like, as long as the build meets the set criteria. The way that I build a bridge may very well be totally different to how you do it, even if both work.
Physics plays a big part in the puzzles too. Getting a gyrocopter off the ground takes very careful placing of the LEGO bricks to ensure that it can take off evenly and doesn’t crash. The building of a multi-level fire escape took me a good while as I had to ensure it was safe enough to hold the weight of my character and had enough support for each of the sets of stairs. The building here really is very creative, will keep you occupied and the freedom you have (even with limited LEGO) is really impressive. Then, once you have successfully completed a puzzle, you can go back to it, now with unlimited bricks in a sandbox mode. So, you can really put your LEGO-building skills to the test. This sandbox mode does completely remove the puzzle element from the game, but it also allows you to really get creative with your builds. Turn that rickety footbridge into a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take that basic gyrocopter and fashion it into an Apache AH-64E. Your imagination (and build space) becomes your only limit.
Outside of the many and various taxing puzzles, there is the usual LEGO humour. The characters you talk to and the main story is peppered with silly little jokes and pop culture references. Then there is the exploring of the dioramas, there’s a lot to see and do. It’s not all about solving puzzles as you can find various collectables, hidden areas, costumes for your character (yes, the character is customisable), alternate brick designs and more. Your character learns new skills as you progress through the game and these skills can be used to access previously impossible-to-reach places. This encourages you to go back into previous areas and see what you can find.
LEGO Bricktales is available on everything from today and will set you back around £25. Now, I’m not entirely sure what the target age is for LEGO Bricktales. It is far more taxing than the usual LEGO games and some of the puzzles even had me stumped for a while, and I’m 46. So, I think that younger gamers could be put off because it isn’t as straightforward as other LEGO titles. The placing of the bricks can prove to be really fiddly at times. Because you are moving the bricks around in a 3D environment, the controls can be a tad stubborn and placing a brick exactly where you need it can be a pain.
There is no run option for your character. This is a game that involves a lot of moving around, exploring, backtracking and so on. Your character just toddles along at a steady pace and wanting to get from one area to another can become a bit of a slog. Plus, I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more variety with the puzzles. There are some really creative ones that will test your LEGO-building skills. Puzzles like having to build a train to hold ‘coal’ (LEGO studs). The ‘coal’ drops and you have to build a funnel-type thing to direct the ‘coal’ that is attached to a train that will then, not only contain the ‘coal’ but also be strong enough to transport it. There are a few of these more ‘out of the box’ puzzles. However, most of them do just have you building a bridge or some kind of platform.
Still, slight niggles aside, I really enjoyed my time with LEGO Bricktales. It’s not a very big game, nor does it outstay its welcome either. You get five dioramas to explore, all based on LEGO sets and themes (jungle, pirates, medieval, etc) and those five dioramas have multiple areas to explore too. As previously mentioned, there are things to find, hidden areas to discover and more. The dioramas are bigger than they first seem and there is a decent chunk of game here and the £25 price tag is a reasonable one. LEGO Bricktales is a fun and challenging title that is a nice and very welcome break from the usual LEGO games. A recommendation from me indeed.