It seems like LEGO games come in two different types these days. Ironically, these games are reflective of the two types of people who play with the wildly popular construction sets. There are those that strictly follow the rules and the instructions. You know the type – bricks into corresponding piles, 1 bag at a time, LEGO sat on a shelf after it’s made. These are the TT Games’ LEGO series (Star Wars, DC Super Villains) with their formula of Red Bricks, Gold Bricks, character based powers, etc that has lasted more than a decade with very little deviation. Then you’ve got the new breed. Those that are breaking from convention. These are the games that would dump a bucket of LEGO on the carpet and build a multicoloured rocket ship that you’d never find in an instruction booklet. They’re the likes of LEGO Builder’s Journey, LEGO Brawls and now, LEGO Bricktales.
A puzzle platformer from publisher Thunderful and developers ClockStone, LEGO Bricktales personifies the creativity of LEGO bricks within its game play. It’s just a shame that this build is a little out of sorts right now. At least on PS5.
Building The Narrative
In LEGO Bricktales, you play as a customisable mini-fig character. The game begins as you’re visiting your eccentric inventor Grandad whom owns and lives under a delipidated theme park (it’s far less scary than it sounds). You find him trapped on a platform after a spot of calamity has caused his latest invention to backfire.
In the process of rescuing him, you manage to call forth a flying robotic creature. Once one of your Grandad’s invention, this robot goes by the name Rusty. After shooting it off into space, Rusty had gone missing and was thought to be lost forever. In actual fact, Rusty had been rescued and upgraded by an alien species. Now returned and far more advanced than when he left, Rusty is offering to help fix up the theme park before it is taken from good ol’ Grandad.
In order to fix up the place quickly, Rusty has offered to use alien technology. The only catch is that this technology runs on ‘Happiness Crystals’ which are only produced when people feel immense glee. Rusty has pinpointed a few places in time and space where this might happen. So, using a portal machine to visit strange new worlds, the player character and his robot companion blast off on adventures to bring some joy to people’s lives and collect some bricks in the process.
As narrative set ups go, the one in LEGO Bricktales is adequate, if a little uninspiring. Thankfully, some bristling and genuinely joyful dialogue throughout paper over the blander broader strokes and motivate you on. Once you’re out on your adventures, they’re so fun that you forget the fact that the only reason you’re doing any of this is because you Grandad didn’t stay onto of the upkeep of his theme park.
Mechanically, LEGO Bricktales is made up of an interconnected maze of self contained cuboid worlds. Those familiar with LEGO Worlds will recognise the set up, only what’s here is far more condensed and purposeful. You’ll be given an objective and you’ll have to move through these worlds, talking to characters, exploring and overcoming obstacles in order to achieve them.
For the most part, you’re viewing your character from a pseudo-isometric view that’ll rotate to get the best angle. If you enter a tunnel and end up behind a load of scenery, the camera will swing around to give you a glimpse of where you’re going. It’s not always totally clear where you’re header, but there’s virtually no threat in this game so it’s not as if you’re going to walk into a villain to fight.
LEGO Bricktales leverages creativity and puzzle solving over combat (of which there is none). It does this by focusing on the building side of LEGO, providing an intuitive tool set to use to create your own solutions to problems. For example – and you’ll see this more than a few times during the game – you need to pass over a gap to get to your objective. You’ll have to build a bridge.
Build Brick Better
Click on a build icon in the world and you’ll be taken through to a blueprint screen. This a space that occupies the same area as it does in the cuboid worlds but without any of the visual distractions. You’ll have a clearly identified space in which to build and a series of bricks in which to do so, all lined up neatly outside the space (or partially built at times). Click on bricks and you can pick them up and then you can place them where you want them to go, connecting them. The tools, while a little clunky on a controller, empower your creativity.
Each build comes with a set of objectives which replicate their usefulness. Things have to stay standing – that’s a given – but they have to be able to fulfil their purpose too. Returning to the example – When you’re building a bridge, you’ll have to simulate a crossing by triggering a little robot that crosses over. If he gets from A to B across the bridge, it’s a job well done. When building a well, you’ll have to make sure the bucket is above the water. Y’know. Like a well. Once you’ve achieved all of the objectives, you can click “Finish” and your build will appear in the world, ready to be used.
The builds become ever more complicated as you progress through the game which creates, not a difficulty curve, but a creativity one. At the start of the game, you’re mostly building simple structures but by the time you’ve hit the forth world zone, you’ll be making interconnected fire escapes which have to bear the weight of 4 of those little robots. It’s a well structured system that gently pushes you to test your limits.
Because what you build becomes part of the game worlds (which are all admittedly gorgeous to look at), there’s an underlying motivation to create something pretty. Some objectives could be completed with half the number of LEGO bricks available, but without a pleasing aesthetic. There’s no time limit so if you’re feeling artistic, you can spend time put the finishing touches on your builds to really make them pop – or reach collectables you couldn’t otherwise. It’s here that LEGO Bricktales really epitomises the creativity of LEGO in the options it has.
As you progress through LEGO Bricktales, Rusty will pick up some new abilities for you to use. Each one of these allows your player character to access new areas in the cuboid worlds. While each world is designed to utilise the power you’ll be unlocking there, often as part of the story, these powers are useful in every game world.
You’ll often come across curious spots in levels that feel like dead ends until you’ve unlocked a power or gadget later. There’s a lot of different collectables in the game that increases replayability; return to each level once you’ve unlocked all the powers and you’ll find new paths you can now venture down.
An Unstable Build
For all of the ground work that LEGO Bricktales lays with its artistic take on fetch quests, puzzle solving and adventuring, some unfortunate bugs threaten the whole experience.
The most pressing issue facing the game at the time of writing this is the game’s stability. The PS5 version of LEGO Bricktales has been regularly hard crashing during my review period with it. It happened once in the Jungle area, when trying to open a chest. I didn’t lose much progress – just a minute or so – so no real harm done. The crashes in the Desert zone however? They’re much more severe. The game crashed 3 consecutive times outside of a pyramid when approaching a ladder. Inside the Pyramid, there’s also a room that contains 4 different build spots. The game crashed four times when coming down the stairs after completing the forth and final build. Each time this happened, I’d lose the 20-25 minutes of progress I’d made here. The other levels are far more stable – only 2 more crashes after the second zone in total – but I almost didn’t make it there. I was truly ready to quit.
I eventually discovered a work around – by changing the clothes my character was wearing after each build spot, I could force an auto save. If you’re playing this game – and without these glitches, I’d happily recommend you do so – and you’re facing this issue then try swapping your mini-fig wardrobe so you don’t lose too much progress.
The other, milder annoyance with LEGO Bricktales is in regards to the robotic drones that work to prove your builds work as expected. For the most part, they do a good job. They will follow a path you’ve built and they’ll do so efficiently. When your builds start to get more complicated however, they start to malfunction.
Take the aforementioned Fire Escape build for example. Having built a pretty sturdy series of stairs with supports, I went to try it out for the first time. The robots – 4 of them – set off on their journey down the stairs. And then something weird happens. The front robot turns around and starts driving into the robots behind it. They all then started to drive sideways off the staircase. Crack. The stairs brake. I thought it might have been a glitch so I triggered it again. Similar result. So – back to the drawing board. I rebuilt my fire escape from scratch. Maybe I’d made a mistake. No. The front robot did the same thing despite checking it’s path was free and wide enough. The AI robots seem to be following an instruction which didn’t gel with the way I was building the stairs. It took me three perfectly valid attempts to build a fire escape where the bots wouldn’t bug out. I have to admit – it was a touch frustrating.
I do hope that developers ClockStone get the opportunity to address the issues with the PS5 version of LEGO Bricktales. Putting the bugs to one side, this is the LEGO game that comes closest to recreating that feeling of letting your imagination run wild with a box full of blocks. The creative tools here, alongside the familiar world based game play, make for a really enjoyable package. With a patch, LEGO Bricktales will hopefully be a solid 8/10 game. Until then, it feels a few bricks short of completion.
A creative adventure puzzle game that leans into what makes LEGO so great, LEGO Bricktales is a fun and imaginative title. The PS5 version is a little unstable right now, crashing often in certain areas, making it feel a few bricks short of completion. With a patch though, this could be the most creative LEGO game to date.
LEGO Bricktales is launching on PS5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC and Nintendo Switch on October 12th, 2022.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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