Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 3/12/19
"Who are you, and where are my pants?"
For better or worse, "The Lego Movie 2 Videogame" significantly revamps the classic Lego formula, which is pretty impressive since the core gameplay of the franchise has hardly changed at all in the last fifteen years. The story is a loose retelling of the film that takes place on a half dozen "planets," with just as many bonus planets to explore. You guide the character of your choice through Emmet's quest to save his friends, while Lucy narrates the highlights. There's no dedicated Story Mode or Free Play Mode like previous Lego games, and the presentation is a giant open world sandbox where you can choose to follow story objectives or explore things on your own. Instead of having skill-based character classes, all characters have the same set of abilities and use various tools to achieve results. So, instead of swapping characters, you cycle through tools.
In addition to collecting Lego studs (the standard form of currency in Lego games), you also collect various types of bricks, which can be used to build any objects that you have instructions for. This includes mundane objects like flowers and chairs, complex objects such as vehicles, and even entire buildings. These objects can be built on nearly any flat surface in the game, except underwater. Each planet has a shop where you can buy more bricks if you run out, or you can find them in treasure chests that are scattered throughout the game. The one exception is that you can't buy bricks on the one planet where you actually need to use them, which forces you into the time consuming act of shopping on another planet. Go figure. Another limitation is that you can't buy characters, vehicles, or construction kits. They're unlocked at random when you collect various relics, which is extremely tedious and annoying. The entire process is akin to buying a bunch of minifig blind boxes, hoping to get that one figure that you really want. Duplicate objects are converted into mega-relics, which in most cases results in items that you don't already have. Most of the time. Collecting and unlocking relics is by far the most frustrating mechanic in the game.
There are no mini-kit capsules, character tokens, or special power bricks to collect, and there are no stud multipliers or other character enhancements. You mark your progress through the game by collecting purple bricks, which unlock extra planets to explore. The final planet is Goldtropolis, which features an amazing city made entirely of gold bricks and populated by gold minifigs. It's a really fantastic sight to behold. Purple bricks are awarded for completing missions and can also be found hiding throughout the various worlds. Trying to collect these early in the game is difficult and often impossible because you don't have all of the necessary tools yet. I knew this, and I still wasted a lot of time trying to reach them. It's not until you realize that you can build a flying vehicle that everything becomes really easy. Except for the bricks in Syspocalypsestar, which are so unintuitive that I had to consult a walkthrough guide.
Production wise, it's obvious that the game had a much smaller budget to work with than other Lego games. The playing fields are a decent size; large enough to not feel constricting, and small enough to not get overwhelmed and lost in, but even at short distances they suffer from distracting pop-up details. Like the original "Lego Movie Videogame" (2014), EVERYTHING is made out of Lego bricks, which looks fantastic and really shows off some impressive design skills. Unfortunately, as is the current trend in Lego games, the loading times are excruciatingly long and the drawn out title bumper can't be skipped. You might as well get a drink, go to the bathroom, and/or fix yourself a snack when the game starts up and whenever you travel between planets. Vehicles can be built almost anywhere at any time to help you get around, but they move inexplicably slowly. In most cases it's faster and easier to just run, which makes the racing missions kind of pointless. I don't understand that design decision at all, unless play testing revealed that their target demographic had trouble controlling them. The flying vehicles are the only ones that offer any benefits, as they allow you to reach places that you can't jump or climb to, and they provide shortcuts for getting around certain areas.
Thankfully, the game isn't nearly as buggy as most Lego games tend to be, but I still ran into a fair number of issues along with some genuinely bad design choices. Many aspects of the game are baffling and completely unintuitive, even with the pop-up tutorials that are sprinkled throughout. The first boss battle is so bewildering that I had to resort to watching a YouTube video to figure out each step of the process. The game introduces the whole idea of shopping very early on, before you even have access to a shop. I spent a lot of time in Apocalypseburg trying to interact with a store that simply wasn't open, which made me think the game was broken. That's also where I encountered my first bug. The guy who owns the Apocalypseburg store asks you to decorate it with your sticker gun (which also makes you think you should be able to interact with the store), but none of the stickers would stick. I had to come back after going to several other planets for the stickers to actually work. My character never got stuck in the environment or fell through the floor, but I did get trapped in one of the buildings that I built when the game decided to drop it right on top of me. Fortunately, the galaxy map is always available, so a trip to another planet got me out of that bind. I also ran into situations where enemies would be trapped within walls, underwater, or underground where I couldn't reach them, which would force me to abort those missions and try again later. On a couple of occasions, the enemies were actually invisible, which was problematic and forced me to leave the area. Another mission had me attempting to photograph an invisible item, but fortunately the camera still provided a frame for it. In addition to the Syspocalypsestar building missions being completely impenetrable, critical buildings didn't show up in my objects menu even though I had collected them. This caused me to needlessly grind for several hours, thinking that I had to obtain extra buildings through the tedious random unlocking process. The buildings are also impossible to identify in the menu, which doesn't help any. They eventually showed up after several trips bouncing between various planets.
Despite its various problems and trappings, it's still a fun, simple, and relatively short game that serves as a good time waster. It lacks some of the charm, depth, and engagement of the other Lego games and takes a more juvenile approach, but the characters are still enjoyable. However, the game's biggest sore spot is the voiceover work. The acting ranges from good to really bad, and having celebrity impersonators always invites criticism. Surprisingly, Emmet isn't voiced at all, even though he's arguably the star of the show. Lucy gets nearly all of the dialog, and her voice actor does a very impressive job of emulating Elizabeth Banks - most of the time. There are definitely times when her performance is noticeably off, which makes you wonder if she was having a bad day or multiple actors were used. Even though the other performances tend to be obnoxious, the biggest problem across the board is with consistency. Many characters will speak certain lines in English, and then inexplicably speak everything else in gibberish. This even includes the main characters like Lucy, Batman, Rex, Benny, Metalbeard, and Unikitty. It's really unnerving to hear Batman narrate a plot point in English, and then speak everything else in gibberish. It makes no sense. I can only guess that the developers ran out of time and/or money to record the entire script. But even so, why use gibberish at all? Simple text balloons would have been more effective and less disruptive.
Funny localization tidbit: A football labelled as an "American Ball."