When worlds collide.
LEGO Dimensions starts within an unusual way: it asks you never to play the overall game. After some short, perfunctory in-game tasks, Dimensions requires a swerve, telling you to place your controller down and build (using actual LEGO pieces) a physical portal that sits atop the real-world base you’ll use to connect to the overall game. The portal itself is of interest and intricate, and according to your fine motor skills (and whether you have children helping/hindering you), could take at least one hour to build.

You don’t already have to physically build anything to advance within the overall game, but that off-game opening speaks to a confidence developer TT Games seemingly has in LEGO Dimensions, both as a genuine toy and a virtual one. It’s a confidence that’s well founded. The selling point of building LEGO is near universal, and only the largest curmudgeons would deny the selling point of Dimension’s charming fusion of several huge entertainment franchises within its sprawling gameplay. LEGO Dimensions works unquestionably, unequivocally, as both a toy and a casino game, and it feels as though the high point of the numerous LEGO titles that contain come before it.

What’s exceptional is that despite Dimensions being the long-running LEGO series’ first foray in to the toys-to-life genre, the newly physical nature of the game isn’t its most noteworthy aspect. Previous LEGO games have showcased the series’ irreverent, playful assumes huge pop culture franchises, but Dimensions substantially ups the ante by shoving multiple properties into one gigantic mash-up. The in-game premise is that the evil Lord Vortech is wanting to destroy each of the various LEGO dimensions and incorporate them into one; the truth is, it’s a helpful excuse to see worlds and characters from some major franchises collide, like the Lord of the Rings, the DC universe, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, the Portal games, The LEGO Movie, and more kid-friendly series like Scooby Doo, Ninjago, and Legends of Chima.

The result is, oftentimes, outstanding. There’s an undeniable joy to be enjoyed in seeing Batman utilize the Bat Signal to defeat Sauron, or the Joker destroy the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, or the off-handed way the physician addresses Portal’s GLaDOS as the “faulty A.I.”. My favourite–and forgive me for venturing into possible spoilers here (skip to another paragraph if you are wary)–is a brief sequence through the boss fight with GLaDOS. Amid this fight, a dimensional rift appears, attracting HAL 9000 from 2001: AN AREA Odyssey in the area. HAL is supposed to be always a distraction, an opportunity that you can defeat GLaDOS during her preoccupation with the strange AI that just popped into her testing chamber. Instead, I put my controller down and just listened, transfixed by the pair’s hilarious banter.

Lots of the dimensions the overall game goes to is filled up with occasions like these, and I looked forward to every rift, every intrusion, wondering that which was likely to happen next. The LEGO games’ light touch and cheeky nose-tweaking of the franchises it portrays is definitely among the series’ highlights, and it’s really in fine form here. Doctor Who’s world, for instance, is impressive. Nods to fans abound, from Bad Wolf graffiti on walls, to mysterious, glowing cracks in surfaces, to the wonderful way the menace of the Weeping Angels was translated right into a child-friendly gaming. The stages predicated on classic Midway games, too, show ingenuity, changing the overall game to a top-down Gauntlet-like experience in a single instance, to a 2D-shooter in another.

Other worlds were less impressive. The Wild West of Back again to the near future is nondescript, feeling little just like the source material beyond a few folks named after characters in the 3rd BTTF movie. THE BRAND NEW York of the Ghostbusters world, too, felt lacking. But even amid my disappointment, I heard a number of the cheesy ’80s pop songs from the Ghostbusters soundtrack play, and I smiled. In LEGO Dimensions, the tiny touches are oft times as affecting as the major strokes.

Regardless of the age of many of these franchises, make no mistake: while a lot of the humor, references, and gags could be targeted at grown-up gamers, LEGO Dimensions continues to be unabashedly a family-friendly game, one that’s best used an adult assisting a kid. The game’s basic foundations remains true to previous LEGO titles–simple combat and controls, no real penalty for dying. Each one of the characters you control features a couple of talents specific to them–these end up being the basis for solving the game’s easiest puzzles. Only Batman, for instance, may use a Batarang to activate a switch, while Gandalf’s magic must move certain blocks. This simplicity sometimes resulted in frustrations in Dimensions–driving controls, for instance, felt too rudimentary, rendering it fiddly to manoeuvre vehicles into tight spots.

However the gameplay strength of the LEGO series is definitely using its environmental puzzles, and Dimensions features probably the most innovative yet observed in the series. They start simply, with the overall game giving you the opportunity to teleport characters around, or change their size, or lend them specific elemental powers. By the finish, if you are asked to incorporate powers in increasingly intricate methods to progress past puzzles, choosing the best solutions was quite often rewarding.

LEGO Dimensions includes physical LEGO pieces you need to build into sets (just like the aforementioned portal base), characters, vehicles, or accessories. You place the characters, vehicles, or accessories (that you put on small discs, which is where all the information on that one piece is stored) on the bottom, and voila: they’ll pop-up on your tv prepared to be controlled. The game’s starter pack includes Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle (from The LEGO Movie), and also the Batmobile.

You can complete the key narrative with the starter pack alone, but as may be the case with other toys-to-life games, some content is locked to specific characters or sets that want separate purchase. In cases like this, characters and objects from the other worlds within Dimensions can be purchased separately which, if you are a veteran of the LEGO games, can seem to be somewhat annoying. Needing specific characters to gain access to areas or activities is nothing new in a LEGO game–you simply had to amass enough in-game studs to get. In Dimensions, you need to use real cash. Thankfully, there’s a substantial amount of content available in a matter of the essential pack; finishing the key quest line should take a lot more than 12 hours, according to how obsessive you are about collecting studs within levels.

Beyond the narrative, Dimensions also features large, open world sections focused on each franchise, and all you have to is a character from that franchise to unlock it (which means with the starter pack, you have GOD, THE FATHER of the Rings, DC Universe, and LEGO Movie open worlds already unlocked). These open world sections are separate from the key narrative you need to include various pursuits like checkpoint races, simple quests, and a good amount of collectibles. While they don’t really feature the same degree of intricacy the key game provides, they do add several more time each to the entire experience, therefore the pain of shopping for a Homer Simpson pack just so that you can use him within the key game could be somewhat mitigated knowing in addition, it unlocks a virtual Springfield that you can play in.

Up to now, so basic for a casino game in the toys-to-life genre. But LEGO Dimensions takes things a step further. It needs you to almost constantly connect to the true LEGO figures on your own base to fix in-game puzzles or avoid in-game obstacles, with the bottom having three different sections that light according to what’s happening on screen. Wicked Witch of the West got Batman trapped in magical chains? Simply move the Batman figure off the red-colored section of the base to free him. Have to teleport a character to a particular spot within the particular level? Then move the true toy onto the correct color-matched spot on the bottom. A few of Dimensions’ most complex puzzles and challenging bosses need a large amount of moving toys around, making the overall game an exceptionally tactile experience. In LEGO Dimensions, sometimes you’re manipulating real LEGO around you are holding a controller.

Make no mistake: while a lot of the humor, references, and gags could be targeted at grown-up gamers, LEGO Dimensions continues to be unabashedly a family-friendly game, one that’s best used an adult assisting a kid.

It’s this real life activity which makes Dimensions a distinctive experience. As toys, they are in every way exactly like any other LEGO set you’ll buy–great construction, simple in design but quite often intricate in construction, and fully adaptable with other LEGO bricks you curently have. There is nothing stopping you from putting Gandalf’s hat on Batman, or ignoring instructions and building the portal to your own design, and even foregoing building altogether (in the end, all you need to really play the game will be the ID discs for each and every character). But also for me, Dimensions’ endearing nature and interactivity with real life made me want to build, and it’s really a sense that’s bound to intensify if you play with a one.

In the first few hours of LEGO Dimensions play time with my six-year-old son, almost half enough time was spent on using blocks. We built the portal together. We built the Batmobile, and exposed a Scooby Doo pack and built the power-up Scooby Snack and Mystery Machine located within. We then hit the Wizard of Oz world, with Batman’s head comically poking out the most notable of the Mystery Machine. In virtually any game within the toys-to-life genre, there’s sometimes an unspoken question: is this also an excellent toy or simply a great game? In LEGO Dimensions’ case, the answer is simple: it’s both.