Thursday, April 16, 2015

LEGO Expands Play To A New Dimension

My kids always enjoy playing with either LEGO building blocks or one of the various video games they have that are inspired by the toys like LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes. Hey I'll admit it I love playing with all things LEGO too!  So we were excited to hear the news that LEGO is introducing a new video game that will merge virtual and physical play this September.  Called LEGO Dimensions, the toy company promises to break the rules of traditional gaming to merge physical LEGO brick building with interactive console gameplay in a manner only imaginable in the universe of LEGO entertainment.

Taking a cue from the popular blockbuster hit THE LEGO MOVIE, this new gaming system has a story that merges our real life world with the fantastic LEGO worlds of our imagination.  LEGO announced its new gaming system through releasing a humorous video that portrays the creation of a magical vortex that connects real life to a dimension of LEGO worlds.

When a mysterious and powerful vortex suddenly appears in various LEGO worlds, different characters from DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings and The LEGO Movie are swept away. To save their friends, Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle bravely jump into the vortex and quickly find themselves fighting to save all of LEGO humanity.

Let creativity be the guide to a building and gaming adventure – journey through unexpected worlds and team-up with unlikely allies on the quest to defeat the evil Lord Vortech. Play with different minifigures from different worlds together in one LEGO videogame, and use each other’s vehicles and gadgets in a way never before possible. LEGO Bad Cop driving the DeLorean Time Machine…why not?! The LEGO Ninjago Masters of Spinjitsu fighting alongside Wonder Woman...yes, please! Get ready to break the rules, because the only rule with LEGO Dimensions is that there are no rules. #BreakTheRules

The concept for this new game isn't entirely new though, it is essentially following in the footsteps of ACTIVISION's popular ground-breaking SKYLANDERS which allows players to purchase physical action figures and than immerse the toys they've collected into their video game play.  DISNEY recently followed the Skylanders model with the release of their own Infinity video gaming platform.  Based upon the popularity, and profitability, of combining physical and virtual play elements, LEGO has now joined in on this video game trend.  It will be interesting to see how LEGO puts its own spin on this trend and the quality of its product versus that of Disney Infinity and Activision's Skylanders.

LEGO Dimensions is being developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive.  It will be available for Xbox One and Xbox 360 from Microsoft, Sony's Playstation 4 and Playstation 3, and Nintendo's Wii U entertainment systems and will combine many of the LEGO licensed properties together including DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, The LEGO Movie, The Wizard of Oz, LEGO Ninjago, and Back to the Future.  Characters from additional fan-favorite LEGO worlds will be introduced in future upgrades and editions of the game.

Beginning September 27, 2015 the LEGO Dimensions  video game will be available in a Starter Pack along with the LEGO Toy Pad, which allows players to transport special LEGO minifigures and other LEGO vehicles and objects into the games, bricks to build the LEGO Gateway, three LEGO minifigures (Batman from DC Comics / Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings / Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie) plus the LEGO Batmobile.  Additional expansion packs can than be purchased to provide new buildable characters, vehicles, tools, gadgets, mission-based levels and unique in-game content.  Expansion packs that will be available at the release of LEGO Dimensions or later on within 2015 include a Back to the Future Level Pack with a LEGO Marty McFly minifigure, a LEGO Ninjago Team Pack with Kai and Cole minifigures, DC Comics Fun Packs with Wonder Woman and Cyborg minifigures, The LEGO Movie fun packs with Emmet, Bad Cop, Benny and Unikitty characters, and a The Wizard of Oz Fun Pack with a Wicked Witch of the West minifigure.  LEGO plans on having further waves or expansion packs released regularly following the launch of LEGO Dimensions.

"When kids play with LEGO bricks, they build beyond the singular brands, intermixing all of their favorite characters and universes, and we have come up with a way for players to experience that in games," said Jon Burton, Founder and Creative Director, TT Games in a press release sent to A Geek Daddy Blog.  "Now for the first time in a video game, LEGO fans can play in the virtual world and in the real world -- combining everything without restrictions.  Imagine putting LEGO Gollum from The Lord of the Rings behind the wheel of the LEGO Delorean in New Ninjago City - the creative play is endless."

One brand that probably won't appear in LEGO Dimensions that was included in The LEGO Movie unfortunately is Star Wars as this video game system is a direct competitor to Disney Infinity.  One of my kids favorite video games is Disney Infinity but it does have some weaknesses that it appears LEGO is looking to exploit.  While offering numerous characters to expand into its game, Disney Infinity really limits the structured game play and uses for add-on characters (for example Anna from FROZEN can't play in the Marvel Avengers levels or Sorcerer Mickey can only play in the build it yourself Toy Box worlds) while LEGO Dimensions promises that gamers will be able to use everything interchangeably, anywhere through the game - with no limitations.  Another Disney Infinity limitation has been its difficulties with backwards compatibility as consumers needed to buy a new a new figure platform to access its second edition updated game and lost the ability to access content from its first edition offerings.  LEGO Dimensions has also promised that the LEGO Toy Pad, LEGO Gateway, and the video game found in its initial Starter Pack will offer endless opportunities to customize player's experiences for year's to come and in a dig at Disney proclaims "future expansion pack purchases will continue to work with the Starter Pack, even in the fall of next year -- no compatibility chart necessary."

Now my kids have really enjoyed the Disney Infinity video games and we have purchased characters to play on it ranging from Baymax to The Incredible Hulk to Woody from Toy Story which have resulted in some great hours of family fun.  We're actually planning on buying the next expansion of Disney Infinity when it arrives presumably in the Fall of 2015 and hopefully with a Star Wars theme based on our satisfaction with it.  That being said, we've also been somewhat under-whelmed by Disney Infinity as it has failed to fully live up to its potential by lacking in providing greater detail in its backgrounds and environments, the ability to fully interchange all of its characters in any aspect of game play, and to provide more structured and enhanced developer provided levels for players to use all their characters in rather than making people DIY through the Toy Box features. Note the Toy Box feature is a lot of fun and very good but most people can't produce the same level of quality through it as that provided by professional video game developers - sort of like youtube is fun to watch but I wouldn't replace viewing television networks for it. It will be interesting to see how LEGO Dimensions lives up to its promises and how it actually plays once it is available in September. 

Hopefully continued competition between Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and LEGO Dimensions will prompt improvements in each game to the benefit of their players.  I know my kids are looking forward to playing ALL these video games - and yes once again I'll admit I am too!


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