I don't have much experience with toy-to-life games, but Warner Bros. and Traveller's Tales' new LEGO game "LEGO Dimensions" definitely caught my attention at E3. Specifically because it took some of my favorite properties -- "Batman," "The Lord of the Rings," "The LEGO Movie" and tons more -- and crammed them into one game. Not only that, but it uses real-life LEGO minifigures to interact and solve puzzles.
Think of it as the genre-mashing playtime of your youth, but updated for the 21st century.
I got a chance to demo the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week and was surprised to find out just how much of the physical aspect came into play. Right off the bat, I had three characters at my disposal: Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle (your starter characters for the game). In front of me, I also had their corresponding minifigs, situated on the Toy Pad with seven light-up spots for characters and even vehicles (the "Back to the Future" DeLorean, for instance). In-game, however, these default heroes had been transported to the Land of Oz, where they (and I) did battle with the Wicked Witch of the West.
Sound crazy? I thought so too, then I added Scooby-Doo, Chell from "Portal" and a Ninjago Samurai Mech to the equation, as we stormed Chell's native "Portal" world and a haunted mansion, met by the rest of the Scooby gang. (I'm also pretty sure Homer Simpson popped up at one point.) I was told there are currently 14 worlds to explore total, with hopefully more on the way. (Alas, due to copyright issues, Star Wars is off-limits for now.)
If you've played any of TT's other LEGO games, you'll feel right at home in "LEGO Dimensions." The combat, puzzles and level layouts are almost identical to previous games. Again, the real difference here is the Toy Pad, which factors heavily into the gameplay, not just bringing characters into the game. For example, one of the mini-games in the "Portal" level had me move the Gandalf minifig from one spot to another, where the lights beneath it had changed colors, indicating a move to another area of the level. In another case, I played a game of hot-and-cold, where the lights would change from green to red depending on how close I was to fulfilling my current objective.
Granted, for long periods of time, this style of gameplay could become tedious. "LEGO Dimensions" demands a fairly equal give-and-take of physical and on-screen gameplay. That said, it does offer a fun twist on the typical LEGO games. Plus, like I said, there's a bit of childlike wonder to playing with actual LEGO while playing a LEGO video game. While the balance between the two could use some fine-tuning, the concept is too irresistible not to at least give it a try.
"LEGO Dimensions" hits shelves on September 27, 2015 and will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.