Things in the growing toys-to-life category, which lets NFC-active toys interact with games, keep escalating. First Activision established the entire category with Skylanders, a Spyro offshoot that allowed people to buy figures that would unlock characters in-game. Disney entered the market with Disney Infinity, which lets fans bring together characters from various Disney properties together in a single, updating title. Then Nintendo joined the fray with Amiibo, using its slate of popular characters as physical DLC to unlock content across a wide variety of titles.
Today, the toys-to-life category has a new challenger. Today, Warner Bros and the Lego Group announced Lego Dimensions, a game launching on September 27, 2015 that brings together almost any property that Lego has access to in a single title. Early candidates for inclusion include The Lego Movie, Ninjago, DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, and Back to the Future.
I'm the resident Lego game reviewer here at USgamer and one thing I've noted before is that each title developer TT Games has created is built on the same core. They're all family-friendly action-brawlers that can be played in co-op. Some games have larger open-world elements, some lean heavier on a bigger cast, but for the most part, once you've played a Lego game deciding if you'll like the next one is simply based on how much you love the licensed property. TT Games does solid work that shows a real love for the worlds they're handed, so it's no surprise to see them as the developer on Lego Dimensions.
"Lego Dimensions is unlike anything that we have ever done. It further extends the Lego play experience into the digital world with all of the characters, humor and action of Lego videogames now combined with the fun of Lego minifigure and model building," said Niels Jørgensen, Vice President, Digital Games for the Lego Group. "We are thrilled to expand our partnership with TT Games to explore ways in which physical and digital Lego play can merge in meaningful ways for children."
Did he say "minifigure"? Yeah, he did. Like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions will have a Starter Pack acting as a gateway into the line. The Starter Pack is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U for $99.99, and comes with the Toy Pad (Dimensions' NFC reader), bricks to build a cool looking gateway on the Toy Pad, a Lego Batmobile accessory, and three minifigures: Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle from the Lego Movie. The Toy Pad can accept up to 7 minifigures or accessories at once and the Lego Dimensions game features the same drop-in/drop-out co-op play we've come to expect from the Lego titles.
Other expansions beyond the Starter Pack include Level Packs, Team Packs, and Fun Packs. Level Packs include one new level alongside a minifigure and accessory, Team Packs seem to include two minifigures and multiple accessories, and Fun Packs include a single minifigure and accessory. For 2015, Warner Bros has the current lineup planned:
- Back to the Future Level Pack with a Marty McFly minifigure
- Lego Ninjago Team Pack with Kai and Cole minifigures
- Three Ninjago Fun Packs with Jay, Nya and Zane minifigures
- Two DC Comics Fun Packs with Wonder Woman and Cyborg minifigures
- Three Lord of the Rings Fun Packs with Gollum, Gimli and Legolas minifigures
- Four The Lego Movie Fun packs with Emmet, Bad Cop, Benny and Unikitty minifigures
- The Wizard of Oz Fun Pack with a Wicked Witch of the West minifigure
Of course, this isn't the end, with more coming in 2016. And Warner Bros is keen to fix one of the major problems with Skylanders and Disney Infinity: compatibility issues. The Starter Pack you buy this year will continue to work with future releases, whereas parents buying their kids figures from the other two properties have to deal with complex compatibility charts. During this Christmas shopping season, I had to explain a clueless parent why their old Disney Infinity Starter Kit wouldn't work with the new Marvel figures. It was sad and heartbreaking at the same time.
"One Lego Toy Pad, Lego Gateway and the videogame found in the initial Starter Pack will offer endless opportunities to customize a player's experience for years to come. Future expansion pack purchases will continue to work with the Starter Pack, even in the fall of next year. No compatibility chart necessary," says the press release. "All expansion packs will feature well-known properties and provide gamers the opportunity to use everything interchangeably, anywhere throughout the game – with no limitations."
The odd part is Lego Dimensions is not taking the place of TT Games' standalone licensed games in the same way that Disney Infinity is Disney's only console game output. Lego Jurassic World is still coming in June and Lego Marvel's Avengers is launching this Fall.
My major question mark is will the Lego minifigures used in Lego Dimensions can separate from their NFC bases so they can be used with normal Lego sets. My guess is yes, but I'm not going to assume. I've reached out to Warner Bros for further information and I'll update this story when I find out. Updated: Warner Bros PR has told me this is the case. "They can indeed," they told me in an email. "They connect with the bases just like regular LEGO bricks.
If so, Dimensions is my next big thing. I'm definitely "that guy" here at USgamer. Like I said, I'm the one who reviews the Lego games and I'm also the one who buys Disney Infinity and Amiibo figures. I don't even use the Disney Infinity or Amiibo figures for their intended in-game features, I just have that collector's mentality when it comes to kid's toys. I can't help myself. I've already mentally checked off the Fun Packs for Cyborg and Wonder Woman, depending on how Warner Bros. prices them. (Legos aren't cheap.) I admit, I'm pretty excited about the news and looking forward to grabbing Lego Dimensions this September.