Image Credit: Xavi Cabrera: Image on Unsplash
Who doesn't love LEGO? Coming to our fair shores in the 1950s it has been beloved by children for decades. Despite a rough patch in the 90s where the company was quite literally saved by Bionicles, the brand is doing better than ever. With Star Wars and Harry Potter Sets selling like gangbusters and a string of excellent movies under its belt it's almost certain that our children and even our children’s children will continue to love LEGO.
LEGO is also no stranger when it comes to video games. Steam lists no less than 25 different games, largely movie tie-ins, including the rather wonderful LEGO Star Wars games. Or if you’d rather just have a digital version of the plastic bricks there are a range of programs of varying officialdom from LEGO Digital Designer to BrickLink. But coming from the newly created LEGO studio is something a bit different in LEGO: Builder’s Journey.
Rather than an action-filled, comedic version of a major movie or a building sandbox, LEGO: Builder’s Journey is a beautifully minimalist puzzle adventure. You play a small LEGO boy (made of standard blocks rather than a minifig) travelling through a series of LEGO dioramas in search of your father who’s stuck at work.
The game is visually stunning. Everything is made out of LEGO and the scenes are small but richly detailed. The engine work is on full display and the developers have made full use of advanced lighting and materials techniques to give the game that feeling of being made of real LEGO.
Sadly, the game is very pretty and not much else. As a puzzle game it is laughably easy, often hardly even having a puzzle element to it but rather being an exercise in moving blocks around from A to B. It hardly takes advantage of its brick building nature. There was only one part that required any kind of actual thinking and the puzzles accepted imperfect answers, not even giving me a way to repeat them so I could fully solve them to my own satisfaction. The game then rests on its unspoken story, but it's a bit of a mess.
The intended meaning is clear, a father is so torn away by his work that he can’t properly spend time with his son. The son then builds himself a robot who helps him break into the factory and destroy it thus releasing his father. Attempting to get anything more out of it is somewhat difficult. The father’s work is clearly superfluous and could just as easily be performed by one of the factory machines, which could itself be some kind of statement. But the interpretation between mechanics and story is unclear and ultimately, I choose to take the message of the game to be that industrial sabotage is good, though I doubt the developers would agree with me.
The biggest issue for this game is that the release price of £15.99 can’t be justified by its lacklustre gameplay over a runtime of about 90 minutes or so and total lack of replayability. As such, LEGO: Builder’s Journey is perhaps an interesting start from the new Light Brick Studio who I hope will make other games, but this one is an easy skip for now.