Lego Worlds: review

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When it comes to using blocks to create and inspire, Minecraft was pretty late to the party. Lego (or, as the company oddly insists, LEGO) was there many years before. The Danish toy franchise has become more prevalent in modern media in recent times, with two intelligent and hilarious Hollywood movies (so far) and a foray into videogames that started off with a trickle of titles that has now bloomed into a regular stream of licensed platformers and, of course, its very own “toys to life” brand in Lego Dimensions. Strangely though the creative aspect of Lego has, in the games, largely been reduced to little more than holding down a button to automatically build a pre-programmed construct.

Enter Lego Worlds.

The basic premise is that you will travel between, well… Lego worlds, as in worlds made of Lego and populated by Lego people and animals. The main twist here is that you quickly accumulate the tools to add to, take from, and manipulate these worlds as you see fit. You can mess around with your surroundings like some kind of Lego god and, extending this idea further, you can even build your own Lego world from scratch. That last point comes with a significant caveat, which we’ll go into later.

In terms of design and presentation, there’s an inevitable bit of Minecraft in there. The stronger influence however is LittleBigPlanet, with similarities (intentional or otherwise) to No Man’s Sky. Each world you visit (the loading screen sees you travel through space in your cute little Lego spaceship) is randomly generated, but based around a particular biome. Each world has an associated ‘seed’, a sort of password that you can keep – or share – if you find a randomly generated world you’re particularly fond of, or if you want to share your creations with others (or explore theirs yourself).

Narration is provided by Peter Serafinowicz, who does a fair job but sounds slightly uncomfortable and, as such, never matches up to LittleBigPlanet’s Stephen Fry. The narrator will explain what the tools you come across are and how to use them. He’ll also on occasion offer hints for the tasks that Lego NPCs will ask you to help them with. Sometimes, they’ll just want a certain item that you’ll either find or buy. Often, they’ll want you to decorate or build something for them. Sometimes this will be a pre-programmed model (the designs for which are unlocked by finding them, or as rewards for completing other tasks). Much of the time though, you’re largely free to build as you see fit in order to please them – although you’re extremely limited in the blocks at your disposal until you find & unlock them.

Impressively, the game manages to provide a convincing sense of playing with Lego (with none of the agonising dangers of stepping on the pieces). Certain Lego characters and animals cannot be copied until you’ve completed a task for them, but otherwise adding a Lego piece to your collection is as simple as pointing the appropriate tool at it, adding the design to your catalogue, and then buying it with studs. Once you’ve fully unlocked a piece, you can place (or shoot) it pretty much anywhere you like, or even remove an already-placed one from the world that you’re visiting. Want to launch cute huskies into the air? You have a cruel streak, but sure, you can. Want to reach that island, but can’t be bothered to swim all the way? Just whip a boat or submarine into existence!

You also very early on unlock the ability to lower, raise, or delete chunks of scenery. It kind of feels like using a cheat mode, but in a good way; and you’re encouraged to use these abilities. Certain NPC tasks demand it. Throw in the fact that you can play with a friend either in the same room or over the internet, and things sound really rather cool. And they are.

But.

Lego Worlds has technical problems, which both the publisher (low low RRP) and developer (you can drop back into the world from the sky at any time) clearly acknowledge. Although we’ve never had the game crash on us – which is more than we can say for many other, more expensive games – the frame rate dips regularly, sometimes to atrocious levels. There are also some odd bugs and strange NPC spawns, so many that we can’t be sure a few aren’t intentional (our personal favourite is noticing two cows wandering around on top of a tree).

More troublesome is the odd design decision regarding the creation of new worlds from scratch. This ability is only unlocked once the player has collected 100 gold bricks, requiring them to jump through hoops for what is likely to be a dozen hours or more of play. The issue is that not every NPC with a task is carrying a gold brick as a reward, and the random nature of the worlds means that some will be easy to harvest in this way while others will not. We can understand why this decision was taken – players will be familiar with all aspects of creation by then, and will have built up a mighty collection of objects and characters to use – but there are many better ways to handle this. The LittleBigPlanet games, which were clearly used as a template in other respects, do not have this problem. Younger players especially may become frustrated if they’re expecting a Lego-flavoured Minecraft.

Despite some niggles that can’t be ignored, Lego Worlds still has a lot to offer in terms of freedom and fun. Best enjoyed in short bursts, it does an admirable job of capturing the sense of playing around with (and destroying) Lego.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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