The latest Lego game to come out, Lego Builder’s Journey, takes a different approach to the Lego genre than what we’ve come to expect from a Lego game thanks to Travellers Tales work in the series. Instead of an open world, franchise based smash and collect-a-thon, developer Light Brick Studios has chosen a different approach to this Lego-based game.
Originally released for mobile devices in 2019, Lego Builder’s Journey is an isometric puzzle game that deftly manages to tell a story without telling a story. While there are no actual cutscenes or written story, the game manages to succinctly tell one about the bond between a parent and child and about growing up, through action. The action you see the Lego characters indulge in as you navigate them across small, isometric dioramas that ask you to solve their way to the exit of the level.
Levels start off simply enough, introducing you to the games one button manipulation mechanics, establishing a flow through the games puzzles before bringing in some complexity that is only dependent upon your puzzle-solving and creative thinking skills, with an emphasis on the creative part. To complete levels, you’re going to have to complete puzzles using the Lego pieces that are strewn through the area to construct a path to an exit. While most levels are straightforward in their approach to been solved, there’s room for creativity in the later levels to how you put Lego pieces together to solve the navigation puzzles.
An area later in the game, for instance, that has our child character finding its way to its parent by skating there, can have a simple and straightforward path laid out to skate across water and pillars or, using the extra parts floating across the water, you can construct a more complicated track to the exit. There’s fun to be had in experimenting with what you can do with the pieces provided, as much as there is to be gained by taking the simplest solution. This aspect of creativity also plays into the length of the game, as Lego Builders Journey isn’t a long game, but allowing yourself to play as you solve adds some extra run time to the proceedings. The magic, of course, is in seeing what you can do with pieces that don’t look like a natural fit.
Mechanically the game is very simple with its one-button mechanics. The left analogue stick moves you from piece to piece with a lock-on mechanic, the right analogue controls the camera and the A button does all the heavy lifting. You use the A button to pick up pieces, rotate them and place them on another Lego connection point with a snap-to mechanic. It’s a simple, stripped-down solution that both makes it easy to navigate and play while also providing some issues of its own.
At times the navigation between pieces can take too long while the snap to mechanics can prove finicky at times, making fast navigation and placement not as precise as it needs to be. I found this more of an issue in the levels that required speed placement of Lego parts on sinking platforms or moving machinery. During these moments it felt as though a mouse and keyboard or touchscreen controls would be a welcome addition to the game. In fact, since this started as a mobile title, it’s rather strange that touchscreen controls haven’t been implemented here as an option.
The other issue I found had to do with camera control. You don’t have full 360-degree camera freedom but you can move to the left and right, pan a little lower and view the level from above. You can’t go behind the diorama, as it were, and the camera, when left alone, auto rotates back to its original view. Needless to say, this is a pain when placing parts or experimenting as you’re constantly having to manually orientate the camera back to the view you had.
Visually Lego Builder’s Journey is absolutely gorgeous. The diorama design is fantastic and the visuals carry a nice sense of weight to them. The plastic sheen that coats most of the levels looks great and the quality of the game’s lighting is fantastic. The comparative simplicity of each level has certainly helped to create some wonderful visuals that would look at home on more powerful hardware.
Despite the small control issues, Lego Builder’s Journey is a wonderful little puzzle game that is creative, fun, whimsical and melancholic, whose brief playtime is just enough to inspire your creativity without overstaying its welcome. It’s an experience I highly recommend.
Publisher: The Lego Group
Developers: Light Brick Studio, Light Brick AS
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, iOS, Microsoft Windows, tvOS, Macintosh operating systems
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