The surprise box office hit of the year so far, “The Lego Movie” deserves every accolade chucked its way, in my opinion. It’s funny, subversive, visually distinctive and way smarter than family entertainment is required to be. The music is great, too. The kids and I have been humming the movie’s theme song – Tegan and Sara’s “Everything Is Awesome” – for three straight weeks.
Now comes the inevitable tie-in video game, cleverly titled “The Lego Movie Videogame” ($49.99/Rated E-10), and it’s threatening to devour still more pop culture bandwidth at the old homestead. I can write all sorts of nice things about the game – in fact, I’m about to – but the salient point for parents will be that my two grade school kids have been playing nonstop since they opened the game disc package.
If it ain’t broke …
Crossover between movies and video games has been happening forever, but the Lego situation is particularly complex. The new movie is not based on the construction toy itself so much as it is on the popular Lego video game franchise. Those games, in turn, are often built around other movie franchises like “Star Wars,” “Batman,” “Lord of the Rings,” etc. So the new multiplatform title is actually – deep breath – a game based on a movie based on games based on movies.
Fans of the previous Lego titles from TT Games will find the new adventure is very familiar in structure and approach. But you know what they say about things that ain’t broke. The game shuttles you from scene to scene in a linear fashion, with some limited open-world options if you just want to run around and explore.
The story follows the plot of the film with rather surprising fidelity, expanding the showcase scenes from the movie to make room for more exploration and action. You can play solo or with a partner, and as the story progresses you’ll assume the roles of up to 90 onscreen characters – including Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. The film’s main cast returns for voiceover duties, so you’re getting some star power with the central characters of Emmet (Chris Pratt), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson).
The console version of the game features 15 levels drawn from locations in the movie, like home base Bricksville and the psychedelic Cloud Cuckoo Land. The gameplay is the usual mix of exploration, puzzle-solving, platforming and goofy Lego-to-Lego combat. Progressing through any given level requires the usual assembly of various doohickeys and the occasional focus on lateral thinking and creative problem solving.
The game adds one new wrinkle, a kind of mini-game in which you interact with a virtual version of those step-by-step Lego instruction guides. Otherwise, the overall gameplay design is pretty much identical to other recent titles in the series. Kids familiar with the previous entries will pick up the new game in zero seconds flat.
In terms of tone, though, “The Lego Movie Videogame” is relatively bland in comparison to the film. The mischievous edge of the movie’s anarchic humor has been smoothed out. Many of the film’s musical gags are omitted as well, presumably because the game was completed before the movie. Occasional snippets from the movie proper only serve to make the contrast more distinct.
“The Lego Movie Videogame” isn’t quite the impish genre-buster that the film proved to be, but it’s another solid entry in an A-list video game franchise. Not everything is awesome, but almost everything is, and that’s a pretty good deal.
Note: “The Lego Movie Videogame” is available on Microsoft Windows. Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
New this week: The classic stealth game “Thief” returns this week with a total reboot crafted for next-gen consoles and PC.