For as many Lego games as there have been, the most notable have not been the ones that leverage the toy in its truest sense. In fact, you could argue that if not for the various licenses that came along for the ride with the likes of the Travellers' Tales games, those Lego games might not have had the clout they did. And so it is that Lego Bricktales is a curio, forgoing the tried-and-tested formula that we now recognise as a "Lego game" for something that hopes to be a little more creative, a little more constructive, and a little more true to the Brick.
Release date: 12 October
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
What that means is a cutesy, diorama-like Lego world where Minifigs break the fourth wall, minor inconveniences are presented, and the solution is in your block-building hands. It's actually kinda pretty, too, with finely detailed environments to explore, pleasant lighting, and a unique Lego look to underpin a sense of fun – a sense that you're actually playing with Lego.
The crux of the story, if that matters at all, is to travel through time and space to solve problems and make Minifigs happy. In doing so you'll gather a Happiness Crystal, with which you can restore your grandfather's decrepit theme park before it's forced shut and he can get back to inventing things in his basement. It's all very twee, but as far as MacGuffins go it's an amicable one. It's there to trundle along and direct you from puzzle to puzzle, scattered with the odd joke that is capable of a smirk or three here and there.
Brick by brick
It's the puzzles that are the standpoint feature of Lego Bricktales, thankfully. With each one you're asked to construct something in a separate safe space, a gray void of clicking and snapping bricks as you try to build your way out of a paper bag. At first the problems are simple: build a bridge, build a platform, build a ramp. They're good ways to ease you into the concept, especially since physics are a factor here too, and you'll need to make sure your construction is solid enough to hold your crash test robot before you can make use of it yourself in the world.
Alternates of these continue to varying degrees of challenge, with more restrictions placed on you to test your gray matter as much as your understanding of Lego pieces. But the same toolset is then used to manufacture other sorts of puzzles, where it might be about building a clone of a statue, placing things in the right order based on a riddle, or even just designing your own marketplace, zipline, or rollercoaster train.
It gets its hooks into you in the same way that real-life Lego might; Bricktales achieves that same sense of creative curiosity. The solution to a particular puzzle could be completed in its most basic form and you're not really punished for doing so, but that satisfying click-on-click of bricks and the joy of building something from just a selection of Lego blocks urges you to want to do more. Ticking off the objective is easy, but the fun comes from doing so as elegantly or as creatively as you personally want to.
That's when Lego Bricktales is at its best. Sadly, the pacing of these puzzles is a little off, and you'll find you're never really pushed by the tasks placed before you. A good example of this is when you're asked to construct a minecart that will carefully catch, transport, and deliver a pile of Lego dots intended to be coal. It's an opportunity to require some lateral thinking in how to form your Lego creation, but the solution is not finicky nor requires much in the way of iteration.
The potential is there for puzzles that confound up until that "eureka!" moment, when you've discovered a solution that your creative problem-solving energies have conjured through the medium of Lego, but Bricktales never really reaches that ideal. Instead, you'll find yourself building yet another bridge, walkway, or platform instead of using Lego bricks in inventive ways to solve problems.
A sandbox mode will unlock once you've completed a puzzle, which allows you the opportunity to construct the ornate and intricate designs of your dreams, but honestly Lego Bricktales works better when brick limits are in place. The puzzles are like inspirations for your creativity, and the limited options of bricks help to spark that.
To mitigate the lack of scope with its puzzles, each of the explorable environments come with hidden collectables and chests, which you'll be able to access as you progress through the game to unlock one of five different abilities. Likely this is taking cues from those Travellers' Tales games, and gives you some reason to backtrack once you discover a new skill, but Lego Bricktales kind of falls flat in this regard. The exploratory portion is a little tiresome, with slow, plodding movement and too much unnecessary back and forth navigation. And when the reward is just more bricks for the sandbox mode you probably won't use, it hardly seems worth it.
It smacks of a lost opportunity more than any real failing on Lego Bricktales part, but it never manages to detract too significantly from the core of the experience. So long as you know what it means to idly place plastic bricks on top of each other, you'll find that there's a good time to be had here.
Lego Bricktales was reviewed on PC, with a code provided by the publisher.