E3 2015: Hands-On LEGO Dimensions

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So we finally got an actual hands-on with LEGO Dimensions at E3 and it answered a lot of questions. The game comes with the base and all the LEGO pieces needed to build the portal. That’s right, you actually need to build the portal. Well, actually you don’t need to build the portal for the game to work, but it would look kinda lame sitting there on the table if you didn’t.

You’ll also get the Gandalf, Wyldstyle, and Batman minifigures along with a mini Batman vehicle to build. The portal itself is divided into three quadrants with two right angles on the lower left and right of the base and a circular area in the middle right in front of the portal itself. Each section can light up independently of the others and that plays a crucial role in the game, which I’ll get to in a minute. It’s also worth noting that up to seven characters or vehicles in any combination can be placed on the portal at any time opening up a new dimension of play possibilities. Yeah, I said it.

The story revolves around a mysterious villain who’s breaking in to multiple LEGO worlds using dimensional portals to eventually destroy them all. The start of the demo saw the three main characters wandering down the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz and the first puzzle I ran into required the use of a vehicle. Dropping the Batmobile onto the base of the portal brought it into the game world and allowed my to jump in with one of the characters and smash through an obstruction. So what happens to the vehicle if you leave it behind? Picking it up and dropping it back on the base makes it appear at your side again so you don’t have to worry about it.

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Like any LEGO game there was plenty to smash along the way but when the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys attacked things got interesting. Batman was caught in a forcefield and the section of the base that he was standing on started to flash red. To break him free, I had to physically reach down and move him to a clear section of the base in the real world. He was then able to get clear of the trap and back into the fight.

This is one of the ways LEGO Dimensions plans to separate itself from the other Toys to Life games. LEGO is a well established brand and the best selling toy line in the world. It’s one that has always been about hands-on play and this game revels in that tradition. A number of puzzles we saw across each of the playset levels had me grabbing the characters and moving them around the portal base, keeping me more involved with the physical toys than any of the other games on the market.

To that end, we made our way back to the Batcave and needed to shatter some blocks around a switch. To do so we’d need a different vehicle, one that could only be made from the parts of the Batmobile! The standard LEGO instructions came up on screen and we were able to page through them for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to accomplish this. Once completed and placed on its new base, I dropped it onto the portal and the new vehicle appeared on screen.

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Now I immediately blurted out what you’re all probably wondering as well: “How do it know?!?” (not a typo). Well… there’s some slight of hand involved here. It actually doesn’t know what you’ve built. You see, every character and vehicle in the game is attached to a small, clear, round LEGO base and that’s where the NFC chips are. The bases for the characters have their names stamped on them so if you put Wyldstyle on Batman’s base and drop it on the portal, you’ll still see Batman in the game.

Each vehicle comes with several blank bases. The first time the game calls for a new vehicle and you put the new base on the circular part of the portal, the identity is written into the base. I foresee a bit of a conundrum in the future and even mentioned it to the developer on hand. The character bases are stamped with who they are while the vehicle bases are all blank. It would be nice if they came with stickers to label them as they’re “locked” to specific vehicles otherwise we’re all going to be buying Sharpies and learning to write really small.

Every vehicle comes with three blank bases for the three different configurations you can make with the pieces. Every single character pack I saw included a vehicle, which means you’re going to end up with a mess of confusion pretty quickly if the vehicles become separated from their bases. A scenario that may be quite common if you happen to have say, a three-year-old running around and wanting to play too.

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Concerns of blank bases and confusion arising notwithstanding, we moved on to the Portal level and as a fan, I adored it. It was a perfect mix of Portal and LEGO with the original voice actors from Portal 2 reprising their roles. There are a number of unique puzzles to solve here (that I won’t spoil) requiring you to make you LEGO characters bigger and smaller and you also get to use the Portal gun! I played a small section and was told that the full Portal pack is bigger than the entire original Portal game.

We then moved on to the Scooby Doo level and another wonderful surprise was in store for us. You see, the developers took the time to design everything to fit the properties. For example, while Gandalf and Batman look and move like they do in previous LEGO games, Wyldstyle has the jerky, stop-motion feel and her knees don’t bend, just like she is in The LEGO Movie. For Scooby Doo, the entire level took on a slightly cel-shaded look making it feel more like an old cartoon.

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We were told that this is something the developers took great care with. They approached each property as its own unique entity and decided how best to represent it within the overall game. From the small sections of the game I saw, I’d say they did a fantastic job with it. The sheer number of properties involved right from the start is staggering (and so will the price be on our wallets). These include Portal, The LEGO Movie, Midway Arcade, The Simpsons, Scooby Doo, all of DC Comics, LEGO Ninjago, LEGO Legends of Chima, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, and The Wizard of Oz.

Huge names for sure, and more will likely be added as the game grows in popularity but two big names are clearly missing and I had to ask about them. Marvel and Star Wars are not on the list. While there hasn’t been a LEGO Star Wars game in a few years, LEGO Marvel games are still happening, including the upcoming LEGO Marvel Avengers. When I asked where they were, I was told, “We’re concentrating on the ones we’ve announced so far”.

I’m guessing that Disney is holding tight to those properties, at least for now, since Disney Infinity 2.0 steeped in Marvel is still pretty new and with 3.0 looming on the horizon and all about Star Wars, they probably want to hold the exclusive “Toys to Life” rights on those for a bit longer. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both made their way to LEGO Dimensions eventually.

The field is getting crowded with LEGO, Disney, and Activision all in the game now, but they’ve each seemed to carve out their own little niche. For LEGO fans who are also gamers, things are going to get really expensive come September, but from what I played, it’ll be worth it.

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LEGO Dimensions will be available on September 27, 2015 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Wii U. The Starter Pack includes the game, the LEGO Toy Pad, bricks to build the LEGO Gateway, Batman, Gandalf, Wyldstyle, and the Batmobile at an MSRP of $99.99.

Level Packs (which include a character, a vehicle, a gadget, and a full game level add-on) will also be available at launch for Back to the Future, Portal, and The Simpsons at an MSRP of $29.99 each.

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A Scooby Doo Team Pack (which includes a pair of characters and a vehicle/gadget combo) will be available at launch for $24.99 MSRP with more to follow.

Fun Packs include a character and a vehicle for $14.99 MSRP and will be available at launch for a number of characters from the LEGO Ninjago, The LEGO Movie, The Lord of the Rings, DC Comics, and The Wizard of Oz franchises.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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