There is a unique perspective that a Lego game gives to a parent. In the past, I played Lego games for other systems with a certain nostalgia. The games were usually about a movie from my childhood told through the medium of a toy from my childhood. Fast-forward to today, and I am manipulating Lego blocks on a screen, but I am no longer thinking about my childhood, I am thinking about my kids.
I first began playing this game the day after Father’s Day where I received, as gifts from my kids, Lego sets. A 1000+ piece Grogu and a replica of 4 Privet Drive, the home of the Dursley Family and Harry Potter. The gift, however, wasn’t the sets. It was the time. Sitting with them, building with them, enjoying the process together. So it made the experience that much sweeter to find out that the game was about a Father and Son.
The game itself is simple enough. A father and son are separated on a journey into the wild and you have to use loose bricks to forge a path for the son to make it back to his father. The mechanics of the game are smooth and simple. You can pick up pieces, rotate them and place them anywhere there are studs to lock the block in place. Once you get your character to his goal, you move on to the next level, occasionally reaching a scene that pushes along the story, like the father and son building camp.
The levels do remind you that you are playing a game with mobile origins and, like other puzzle games, one would assume its ability to keep a player engaged is dependent less on story and more on the player. Where Lightbrick Studios really separated themselves from the rest of the pack is in the atmosphere in which the player is immersed.
Lego Builder’s Journey looks beautiful. The Lego bricks shine in the same way as they do under the light, only the lighting feels so natural and warm. The animation of the elements meant to represent nature (bricks simulating water, mud, etc.) is fluid in a way that one wouldn’t normally equate to a hard, plastic block, especially if you’ve ever stepped on one. The ability to buy into the idea that an environment that is completely compiled of the type of bricks that you have seen since you were a first-grader is a testament to the developers.
Complementing the visuals is the beautiful music by first-time game composer Henrik Lindstrand and subtle, but immersive environmental sound effects create a space that draws the player in for extended periods of time. Watching my five-year-old son play the game, his first comment was “this game is so calming,” and I couldn’t agree with him more. This may be a puzzle game, but in a way, it’s also your personal little zen garden.
The gameplay experience is one that has not been particularly challenging, at least as far as I have gotten thus far. You essentially need all the loose bricks in a level, so a keen-eyed player can put the picture together quickly enough in their head and get building. Some levels have bricks floating in the water and all you need to solve the puzzle is patience as you wait for the right piece to come along. Hopefully, as I continue playing, I will be challenged with more bricks to pick from, meaning that there is no one right answer, but plenty of wrong answers.
The only real drawback is the replay value of the game. A game with a good story may have you coming back to relive that story, but when a puzzle is solved, the thrill is gone (unless you have poor short term memory). The good news is that the game is extended beyond the original 35 levels found on the mobile app, giving the player a little more bang for their buck.
The final thing that this game shows us, though, is what Lego can do moving forward. If I were making my own personal wish list for the Lego Group, it would be for a Minecraft-esque game with this game’s atmosphere. If they could do that, they could open up a world that would make players of all ages feel like a kid again.
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