The Lego video game universe is an ever expanding one, and the latest venture from TT Games, Lego Worlds, lets us explore Lego planets in Lego Galaxies, providing a different flavour to what we've seen in previous Lego games. Instead of a themed narrative to follow, we get to exercise our creative muscles and build and shape the world around us, and it seems blindingly obvious, to combine the sandbox genre with the world of Lego, when you stop to think about it.
The premise for Lego Worlds is simple: you explore a sandbox world to collect Gold Bricks, and these help fuel your spaceship so you can continue your journey and discover new worlds, the end goal of all of this being to become a Master Builder. Lego Worlds draws on different aspects of the physical toys for inspiration, making the game feel more like a virtual creator than its predecessors, where every brick can be manipulated to the will of the player. It's incredibly well stylised and makes every procedurally generated area look like it's been painstakingly crafted by hand from Lego, something that fans of both the toys and the games will no doubt appreciate.
The first few planets you'll visit act as your tutorial, where NPCs give you instructions for items, structures, or basic puzzles, all while telling you how to use the tools you'll need to use to complete the quests. All the usual character movements are there, but with one notable addition: the ability to free climb. This introduces a new way to traverse the world, and makes getting out of holes and scaling mountains much easier (you wouldn't want to create a massive crater and be stuck in it, after all).
Certain parts of the game are narrated, including the tutorial, which helps to gently guide you at the beginning, but unfortunately the NPC voices are kept to a minimum of grunts and noises, which spoils the interaction a little, and it seems like a step backwards considering the recent use of voice acting in Lego games. In terms of music, however, the player is treated to a wonderful soundtrack provided by orchestral pieces that match the areas you visit, adding so much character to the game and giving a real sense of adventure to it.
After just three short tutorials the reins are handed over, and you're then free to play the game as you wish, and this is where your search for the essential Gold Bricks really begins. The starting worlds contain just a couple of areas (or biomes) for you to explore, containing certain characters, flora, fauna, and vehicles for you to interact with, and as you continue on your travels, these biomes become more varied and complex. Discovering villages and towns, however, won't happen until you reach much larger planets, but this comes with its own issue - draw distance. Sometimes the draw distance was noticeably poor, and in bigger worlds it was sometimes unclear whether you'd reached the world's edge or just the limits of draw distance.
Talking to characters in these worlds can activate certain quests that can range from simply finding items or collecting animals, to more complex building and painting challenges, and being successful might earn you a Gold Brick for your troubles. Another way to obtain these gold bricks is to stop the cheeky Troublemakers who run around carrying random brick pieces. If you find one of these guys carrying a Gold Brick, you have to bring him to the ground with a well timed tackle and the brick is yours.
The final way to add more Gold fuel to your ship is from the massive amount of large treasure chests dotted around the worlds, which will either give you Gold Bricks or items and weapons to complete challenges. Many of the chests are found deep in underground caverns, however, so using your Landscape Tool is an ideal way of reaching these. This tool can be used in a variety of ways, too, such as adding and removing sections of blocks, raising or lowering the ground level, and even smoothing out the area ready for your new build.
All of the quests and chests are nicely visible through huge beams of light that descend from the sky as well, making locating them fairly simple. What this also means is that it won't take too long to collect the 100 Gold Bricks needed to unlock the largest worlds, as well as the ability to create your own worlds from scratch, nor will it be too much of an arduous grind.
In terms of building, one of the most important aspects of Lego, this can be as simple or complex as you like. For those just wishing to have a bit of fun, simply point your Discovery Tool at a selectable item and copy it into your inventory, then for just a handful of studs (the staple currency of Lego game) and a one-time purchase, you can reproduce these items at your leisure. Maybe you've seen a castle, a wooden lodge, or even an igloo you like, for example. By using the Copy Tool, you can move the box grid over the desired structure and save it to recreate it again later - it's as simple as that. The Build Tool itself, however, is much more complex, and opening the menu reveals bricks, plates, tiles, slopes, fixtures, and fittings that can individually be placed down to create just about anything, like an unlimited Lego toybox.
Being a game with a main demographic of children, we decided to use the two player split-screen option to gauge what kind of reaction they would have. Sadly, the split-screen is vertical rather than the standard horizontal display, meaning the field of view is greatly reduced, but great fun can certainly be had, and the younger kids opted for a more constructive/destructive experience, ignoring the many objectives and instead making hills and painting bright colours, or valleys filled with water, or just stacking blocks and objects randomly. For the older kids the gameplay seems to be centered around more imaginative creations using individual blocks as well as the copy and paste tools. Needless to say, many hours of enjoyment were had between us all, whatever we were doing.
Making your way closer to 100 Gold Bricks, you'll also discover dungeons, dragons, and maybe even some QR code coordinates to Legendary Bricks, and there's a lot of fun to be had along the way. There are so many biomes, characters, vehicles, and items left to unlock that it'll keep you entertained for a long time after reaching the title of Master Builder, and with the ability to transfer real world toys into the game, as well as community creations being uploaded, there'll always be more content coming. In terms of character customisation, there's also plenty to indulge in, as you can use the discovery tool to unlock outfits from other characters, and throughout the game you'll earn more options, including body, hair, legs, and the usual Lego stuff. Early adopters on PC even get exclusive customisation options too.
The camera is something we should mention, as it became a nuisance sometimes. For instance, when doing certain quests it could swing around and become unhelpful for finding out what we were meant to be looking at, and when digging straight down it sometimes glitched and revealed your location as if we were outside of the map, or under it, showing tunnels beneath us, which, although useful, isn't really in the spirit of the game. These issues were only minor, though, and didn't prove too frustrating in the grand scheme of things.
Lego Worlds will always be likened to Minecraft, mainly for being an open world sandbox game aimed at children, but unlike the Mojang game, we found ourselves, much to our surprise, scavenging and exploring, more like games such as No Man's Sky. With more content added all the time, and stuff for all ages to appreciate, TT Games' attempt to move Lego into the sandbox world has been a successful one.