A short time after starting The LEGO Movie Videogame, I began to understand TT Games' Lego titles. Lego Marvel SuperHeroes was my first experience in the series and I absolutely loved it. It's a solid game on any platform, with a lot of love shown for the original source material. I'm a big Marvel Comics fan, so TT Games's effort was elevated for me; my guess is that Lego Harry Potter would not be as strong an experience, as I'm only vaguely interested in that franchise overall. The strength of these Lego games is wringing out all of the magic from their respective franchises.
TT Games - like the other developer that can be shortened to TT - has built a rock solid framework that can be applied to any series they want; their only real limitation is licensing. That framework is largely unchanged here: two player co-op, character switching, a wide variety of unlockable characters that fit into certain categories for the purpose of simple puzzle-solving, widgets hidden in each level to collect, and a great sense of humor. What's here mechanically works very well.
We've just gone a week-and-a-half with the internet conversation surrounding mobile hit Flappy Bird. Part of that lengthy conversation was about the game being "derivative", which stands in opposition to "innovation", a term that surrounds our much of our industry. Developers and publishers crave new innovations like Christopher Columbus looking for the New World and fans cry out for new ideas in their games. That's understandable since the same old thing can get tiring at times, but honestly, sometimes we just really want to retread familiar territory. Instead of breaking new ground, platforms like Steam Early Access and Kickstarter show that gamers tend to like old stuff done well, perhaps with a new coat of paint.
TT Games understands this. They've built a working car that can get them anywhere and instead of tearing it down and starting anew each trip, they subtly improve the vehicle. Moving forward from universe-to-universe is just a matter of switching out who's riding in the car this time. New passengers, new journey.
Occasionally, I'll liken playing games to learning a language. That ability to sit down and start on a new game with no instructions relies on each player carrying a certain set of general knowledge inside their heads. You can see the disconnect when Western players play some Japanese games: A/X is confirm and B/Circle is cancel for many Western players, but in Japan that's reversed in a number of games. (It's a cultural thing; symbols matter people!) The control language disconnect can throw off players. That's why a number of games use the same controls, to lower the barrier between the player and the game itself.
The Lego games don't have that problem. Once you've played one of the recent ones, slotting into the rest is like revisiting an old friend with a new wardrobe. "Did you get a haircut?" you'll briefly ask your best friend before you head out to a party and cease worrying about it; the change is largely cosmetic to you. The Lego Movie Videogame's learning curve is slight, which is good because it's meant to be played by families.
That's not to say that The Lego Movie game doesn't have any new additions. Visually, this is the first Lego game to be built completely out of Lego bits just like the film; past games half-stepped by using Lego blocks in certain places and designing the rest of the world like any traditional game. Gameplay-wise, we have Master Builder Vision which selects three objects at certain points in the game and brings them together into a new creation. There's also the Instruction Builds: collect X number of pages of an instruction book and you're treated to a timed mini-game where you choose the missing parts of your creation out of an eight-piece lineup. The cast of 96 characters spans Lego's vast history. Like Batman and Superman from Lego Batman 2? They're here. Gandalf from Lego Lord of the Rings? Yep. Historic figures like Cleopatra and Abraham Lincoln are even along for the ride. There's new stuff here, but it's still largely a Traveller's Tales Lego game, so a lot rests on how much you love the source material.
Luckily, The Lego Movie is really good. I went out to watch the film before playing the game, because as I guessed, much of the plot and many of the cutscenes found in the game are plucked directly from the film. The movie is much better than a giant commercial for a single company has any reason being. If you currently love Legos or have ever loved Legos, you owe it to yourself to at least pay for a matinee. If you have kids, seeing the Lego Movie is an absolute no-brainer. It's a great film that's still a bit of a sales pitch, but it's a pitch that comes from the heart with some real emotion. The game itself exists in the void between movie scenes, fleshing out or adding padding in-between certain scenes.
If you're a parent, The Lego Movie Videogame could be a great alternative to watching the Lego Movie on Blu-Ray for the 20th time. If you're a Lego collector or fan, you can add another star or half-star to my rating. Didn't like the Lego Movie? Dock it a star. That's the subjective part of reviews; my ultimate experience is colored by who I am as a person. I liked the Lego Movie, which is good for this game, but I don't like it as much as years of Marvel and DC comic collecting and I'm not sure I needed an interactive ride through the plot of the film. All told, I'm still looking forward to the next world at TT Games gets to play in and you can't go wrong with their latest unless you're predisposed against the source material.