It goes without saying that the famous Lego bricks have long been associated with creativity and design. Yet it’s been quite some time since we’ve had a Lego videogame that really capitalizes on offering a free form experience for players to flex their engineering and artistic muscles with. Thus, Lego Bricktales stands out as a rather distinct entry in the vast sea of Lego titles.
Tackling puzzles with the power of your mind is the name of the game here. As you roam through various Lego-laden biomes, you’ll encounter various challenges that will have you putting on your plastic thinking cap. In my case, I think my cap has melted a wee bit due to thinking a little too hard.
Mold your mind
No further than the first real puzzle in its Story mode did Lego Bricktales throw me for a loop. I probably spent about an hour and some change trying to decipher the simple conundrum of constructing a staircase. After much trial, error, frustration, tears, pain, and coffee, I finally cracked the code — my brain must be as hard as the minifigures themselves.
In some ways, Bricktales spells out what you need to do rather blatantly. But for most of the challenges it simply allows you to come up with the solution on your own. Thus, your design may very well differ from a friends’ despite tackling the same puzzle. After having so much trouble with the first challenge, it turned out that I was overthinking the whole concept, which I do a lot in life. But here, sometimes it only takes a little to go a long way.
Each puzzle gives you a specific number of individual Lego bricks to construct the required design with. Your job is to snap, rotate, and balance the bricks into a functional design that doesn’t break. As Thunderful is the mastermind behind the Bridge Constructor series, which offers similar building-based puzzles, it’s no surprise that physics also play a part here in Lego Bricktales. On that note, not every available piece is even needed to complete the challenge. Efficiency is the key.
Snapping into place
As you progress through the Story, you’ll continue to encounter obstacles that you can only pass by building the appropriate design. The rigidity of your design has to be verified before you can proceed. A robot will simulate your character using the design, and if it passes, your blocks will be placed into the level, allowing you to carry on with the Story.
One trick I definitely had to pick up quick was running tests continuously as I built my design to ensure it would work. Hence I had to keep demolishing and reconstructing my build again and again.
Like any puzzle title, especially one that involves building, you will have moments of frustration. It comes with the territory, and I certainly found myself wanting to give up many times. In fact, that’s exactly what I did a few times. I would simply quit my session for a bit to then return a while later and tackle it again. With most puzzles, sometimes you just need to revisit it with a fresh pair of eyes. Considering that the design is up to you, however, it can make the experience a bit more tedious than trying to fit specific pieces together in predetermined locations.
I would’ve appreciated a hint system that could be toggled on or off, or would appear after several minutes or several restarts. There are small hints that tell you certain things like the maximum height of a step or the minimum width of a path. These smaller hints are helpful, but you’re still pretty much left on your own as far as coming up with a solution. For younger players or folks who struggle with problem-solving, this can be a hurdle. Even so, problem-solving is the entire experience in Lego Bricktales, so this isn’t really a fault, per say. A more helpful hint system would be nice, though.
Switch it, twist it, build it
Whether it takes five minutes or 50, the puzzles in Lego Bricktales all provide a very satisfying feeling of accomplishment once they’re completed. The actual building mechanics are pretty straightforward, with the ability to even make micro adjustments to the position of each piece.
While it’s sometimes hard to see exactly where a piece can or can’t go, you can zoom and pan the camera around to get a better view. The camera isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done. There are also indicators that show how many of the individual snapping points can be/are being used, as well as if a brick is out of bounds.
The one real hiccup is that bricks can only horizontally stack on top of each other, so you can’t flip a brick and place it vertically. This seems to be a design choice rather than a limitation, but it does certainly add to the challenge.
The title does fully support controllers, I still preferred to use the keyboard/mouse combo, simply to it feeling more comfortable. It also supports touch screens, should your device feature one. I’d imagine that option is still superior to using a controller, simply for the sake of precision.
Lego Bricktales isn’t a “do whatever you want” style of builder like Kerbal Space Program, but it does provide a robust set of tools and challenges to really exercise your mind. It’s hands-off-style approach to problem-solving may intimidate some players, but the various challenges do provide a decent sense of satisfaction once completed. Both your patience and ingenuity will most surely determine your playtime in the game.
The visuals and soundtrack also add to its depth of quality. Lego Bricktales oozes character with a beautiful rendition of worlds completely decked out in vibrant plastic pieces. Topped with sleek lighting and shading effects, it makes for an overall well-polished package.
Compared to the large-scale, action-adventure Lego titles we’ve become used to over the last several years, Bricktales feels like quite the departure. Yet, it’s a refreshingly different use of the IP that, rather naturally, feels right at home.