LEGO Bricktales ditches the traditional LEGO video game format for a wholly original story with building-based puzzles rather than combat and platforming. While this may discourage some from playing the title, if you’re a fan of building and playing with LEGO sets, let me assure you, Bricktales is for you.
Bricktales places you in the role of a Minifig person whose grandfather lives in/owns/runs a theme park—the exact verb isn’t entirely clear, but the theme park is in danger of shutting down for good. Your grandfather needs you to travel via portal to distant lands, help the locals, and collect Happiness Crystals that you bring back with you to the amusement park which apparently serve as the park’s power source.
Your missions range from curing poisoned peasants for a king to finding a lost pirate ship, but the basic concept remains the same across all of the different worlds. You leave via portal, drop into the setting, and then use bricks to build bridges, towers, rafts, and other items in order to solve puzzles and complete the objective. And of course, all of those worlds are rendered using our favorite LEGO bricks.
Let me be the first to admit that I have a bit of a LEGO problem. I can see at least two projects in need of completion right now—an orchid and a Halloween owl, and I’m gearing up to complete the gorgeous Saturn V while setting money aside to purchase the Optimus Prime set. I mention this because you need to know that I am in no way an unbiased reviewer when it comes to a title that requires me to build with LEGO bricks. Because make no mistake, Bricktales is all about building.
Generally, LEGO games in the past have involved franchise tie-ins with adorable platforming puzzles. Building required button mashing as the AI did most of the positioning for you. There’s nothing wrong with this format, and I happen to have quite the collection of these games sitting on my shelf. However, Bricktales represents an interesting risk, and it’s one that pays off in some ways but not in others. The story is unique to this title, so you won’t see Batman or Star Wars characters anywhere in Bricktales. You know right off the bat that this is going to be a different sort of LEGO game.
Neither do you deal with platforming or combat in Bricktales. Instead, you use a set number of bricks to construct structures that allow you to solve puzzles and reach treasures. Zooming out reveals that each world is actually a LEGO diorama, similar to the ones you may have built in the real world. Credit where it’s due, the developers have done their best to create an experience as close to building with LEGO as you can get without actually assembling the bricks yourself. However, their attention to detail with the builds is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, when you get the bridge or tower constructed, the experience can be as zen as it is when I’m following directions to create orchid blossoms. However, on the other, you have to build your structures with an eye toward physics.
In Bricktales, there is no AI placing the bricks where they go for you. You’re on your own, and you have to be sure that your creations are structurally sound. If they aren’t, they’ll collapse under the weight of the adorable test robots you send across your rickety bridges. Let me assure you, gentle readers, that determining the issue with your structure is not at all easy or obvious. The game’s unwieldy camera controls contribute unnecessary difficulty to the evaluation process. In order to zoom out far enough to see what you’re doing, you have to pause the game, zoom, visually inspect, and then return. It’s a cumbersome process. Plus, like all other LEGO titles, Bricktales contains adorable collectible creatures like rabbits, ladybugs, and hermit crabs, sprinkled throughout the various worlds. Spotting these in the various nooks and crannies becomes a less-than-pleasant exercise in patience due to the poor camera controls.
Even when you can see what you’re doing, figuring out what piece needs support can be quite challenging. There were definitely a few times when I had to save my progress and step away from the keyboard for a while because I’d gotten stuck in a rut and couldn’t see what I was doing wrong. There’s a fine line between challenging and unnecessarily frustrating, and Bricktales can and does cross it. The puzzles do have specific solutions, and you have to solve the puzzle according to the title’s specifications before you unlock a sandbox mode, enabling you to be a bit more creative in your builds. However, unless you’re hunting down collectibles, there’s not much incentive to go back and replay the puzzles especially given that you don’t have a wide variety of bricks offered to you.
Bricktales has a great deal to offer LEGO enthusiasts; if you love building and have a nostalgic affection for familiar castle or pirate sets, Bricktales is very much for you. If you’re expecting something more along the lines of the LEGO Batman games, about all you’ll really recognize is the prevalence of the on-brand, LEGO humor.
Bricktales is great for extremely patient or spatially adept children, and you don’t really have to worry about needing the practice effect. If you put it down for a bit, you really don’t have to be concerned about having to relearn twitchy controls. The title actively encourages you to explore off the beaten path, but you do have to conform to its requirements when solving puzzles, which makes for an odd and not always successful juxtaposition.
All told, you should expect Bricktales to take about 10-14 hours to complete, unless you’re a completionist. If that’s the case, strap in and get settled for the long-haul. At $29.99 on Steam, the price feels a touch high for the actual gameplay, but it’s also LEGO.
While not everything in the title quite works, I do hope to see more of these more independent-style games from LEGO as Bricktales presents such great possibilities.
- I loved the castle sets when I was a kid, and getting to play on an animated one made my year.
- The archaeologist adventure was just too cute.
- I may be trying to collect every single collectible in the game. Help me.
- I love the spider web pieces.