We should probably get the elephant out of the room straight away - LEGO Worlds is unlike any LEGO game you've ever played. The product of a combination of technological advances, and the ever-present influence of Minecraft, this is a LEGO game that's as much about the creation as anything else - a game that ditches traditional levels, red bricks, minikit pieces, and even, for the most part, cutscenes, to create a game that feels completely different, yet comfortably familiar at the same time. And the best part it? It's every bit as good as those that have come before it.
If you're a regular reader, you'll already know how much we love our traditional LEGO games. From LEGO Star Wars to the upcoming LEGO City Undercover, there's nothing we like more than a good brick bashing, co-op adventure to get lost in. But that doesn't mean we're completely opposed to change. Having seemingly become village elders in the games industry overnight, we can still remember the early days of LEGO games, way back before TT were even on the LEGO scene, when variety was the order of the day for the industry as a whole. From real-time strategy mining in LEGO Rock Raiders, to Mario Kart style racing in LEGO Racers, there was a whole bunch of very different LEGO games out there - one of which was LEGO Creator. A game which basically served as a virtual environment to play around with LEGO bricks, and create whatever you could imagine, it was an interesting experiment that was let down by the technology of the time - but now, LEGO Worlds is here to put the record straight.
In a nutshell, LEGO Worlds is a LEGO take on Minecraft - but, as a game, it's also much more than that. For starters, it actually has a kind of story, with quests to complete, gold bricks to collect, and characters to talk to. And while Minecraft's building tools may be fairly popular, if limited, LEGO Worlds gives you the ability to create almost anything, from a huge variety of bricks.
Your game here begins when you crash land on a randomly generated world - and almost from the get go, it's clear this is going to be a very different type of game. Fully playable in either split-screen, or online co-op (the first time in a while that a LEGO game's done online play), LEGO Worlds is a game about solving quests, exploring the randomly generated worlds, and collecting new bricks - whether gold or otherwise.
On the first planet you land on, you'll find a handful of characters that need your help, and will give you quests. In return for helping them out with something, they'll chuck you a gold brick, whether you're finding a pirate throne, bringing them an item (which may even be on another planet), or even doing something more complex, like rebuilding their house. It's these quests that form the backbone of LEGO Worlds' progression, as with no traditional levels, you'll instead work your way towards earning 100 gold bricks, and attaining the rank of master builder.
While you may not really notice it, as it's been so cleverly done, every quest you complete here will slowly be teaching you how to use the game's incredibly powerful creation tools. With procedurally generated worlds, every single thing you can see, from the highest mountain to the floor underneath your feet is made of LEGO - and everything and anything you can see can be tweaked, changed, or removed as you see fit.
As you'd probably expect for a game like this, if there's one thing you're really not short of in LEGO Worlds, it's options. If you want to change the floor, you can either go in and delete/add new bricks one by one, or you can use the game's Landscape Tool to work on a much more macro scale, raising and lowering entire chunks of the world, creating mountains, valleys, and almost anything else you could want. If you want to change the colour of things, there's a handy Paint Tool, which not only lets you change the colour of bricks, but also lets you change their properties. Painting a brick with lava paint will actually turn it into lava - ditto for water, stone, wood, or any of the other elementally themed paints. By messing around with paints and the Landscape Tool, you can create some hugely varied worlds.
But of course, there's no point having a gorgeous landscape if you've got nothing to fill it with, and LEGO Worlds has you covered here too. As it wouldn't be a LEGO game without a gigantic amount of collectibles, LEGO Worlds lets you use your Discovery Tool to "discover" pre-built LEGO objects in game, created by the team at TT, before letting you place them in your worlds as you see fit. Pointing your discovery tool at almost everything, from animals like cows, pigs and horses, to vehicles, trees, buildings, furniture, fences, will let you discover them at the touch of a button - and then place as many as you want, wherever you want!
By far the most powerful creative tool here, though, is the Ronseal titled Build Tool. Rather than letting you simply place pre-built objects, the Build Tool lets you create your own LEGO model from the ground up, designing literally anything you can think of. With a humongous selection of brick types on offer, you can place, rotate, tweak, edit, and paint individual bricks to create the model of your dreams - and playing in co-op, you can even create it with a friend. It's hard to describe just how powerful this is, and perhaps the most telling test will be when the community's found their way around it, and started to really put it to the test. Already, some incredible creations are already popping up online - and when you consider how spectacular some of the worlds people made in Minecraft were (and those were made just using a load of poorly textured blocks) the sky really is the limit for LEGO Worlds, and its immensely powerful creation tools.
Even if you're not the most creatively minded of folk, though, LEGO Worlds still has plenty for you to sink your teeth into. Even if you never touch the creative tools outside of the main quests, you'll still have a 20+ hour game to play your way through. Working your way through the main quests on the way to becoming a master builder, the game really comes into its own when it asks you to create something for a character. From rebuilding someone's house (roof included), to patching up a barn, it's the creation tasks that are by far the most exciting - although they are also a little bit buggy. With characters having very specific requirements, it can sometimes be hard to second guess exactly what the game wants you to make, and what it'll count as fulfilling the quest - although that doesn't make it any less fun when it all comes together.
One of the biggest changes here is just how much exploration there is to do. While exploration is a word that's often thrown around, it tends to mean something very different in a procedurally generated universe, like LEGO Worlds. While there's plenty to see above the surface, often, half of the items and other collectables in each world actually lie deep below the ground, in a network of huge, winding, maze-like caves. These caves can stretch on for miles, and, in true LEGO style, aren't always completely empty - instead, we've found horses, dogs, goats, and even an entire horse and cart set up underground (not the most sensible of vehicles to explore narrow tunnels, but hey - it takes all types). Weird as it may be to say it, but burrowing underground, and exploring the tunnels below has a real sense of adventure to it, and something that's unlike any other LEGO game.
There are other really nice touches here, too. The ability to go into a first person view gives you a totally different perspective on the world, and helps a lot, both when it comes to building, and taking a good look at your new creations. The traditional LEGO humour, too, is still present and correct, from the musical instruments you can collect (even enemies can't resist having a bit of a jig when you play them), to the ability to slap enemies with a fish. There's so much to do, so much to love, and so much that'll raise a smile here.
However, with LEGO Worlds being such an ambitious game, it'd almost be a miracle if there weren't any bugs, and unfortunately, Worlds doesn't get off scot free. Apart from the occasional dodgy quest, many of the problems seem to come in split-screen, particularly getting back into your rocket at the end of a job well done, ready to jet off to another planet. Usually, you'll stand in front of your ship, the cockpit will open, and you can press triangle to jump inside - yet in split-screen, it just keeps opening and shutting infinitely, making it nigh on impossible to get inside.
Similarly, the copy tool seems to break a little bit in split-screen too. Used to copy anything you find in the world that can't be discovered, the copy tool is a great way of storing your creations for later use, and one that seems deceptively simple to use. All you have to do is drag a box around the creation you want to capture, and at the touch of a button, you'll be able to capture it. All you need do then is remove the bricks you don't want (you'll almost always end up dragging some of the terrain with you), and save it for later re-use. The problem is, in split-screen, it's almost impossible to remove bricks, as the copy tool simply doesn't seem to be designed to cope. Rather than scaling properly, your view is instead majorly squished, as the game seemingly takes the 16:9 screen, and crams it into the split-screen window - and that means nothing lines up as it should. In turn, that makes removing any bricks almost impossible, and means it's a lot harder to copy your creations in split-screen.
Unfortunately, there's also a fair few frame rate issues - again, mostly when playing in split-screen. While for the most part, the game runs fine, every now and then the game will really start to lag, although it usually does only last for a few seconds. Similarly, if you jump into one of the airborne vehicles, it's all too easy to reach the "edge" of the map, hitting an invisible wall before the rest of the level slowly loads in behind it. While each world does have a distinct edge to it, hitting a wall that isn't really there, because the game simply hasn't loaded anything past it in yet can make things a bit confusing.
Still, despite the few glitches, LEGO Worlds is an incredibly impressive game, not to mention a powerful, sandbox creation studio. Whether you're here for the co-op fun, or the chance to make your own LEGO models inside a virtual world, LEGO Worlds is well worth picking up, especially at its current budget price. Showing just how versatile a studio TT are, it proves there's life in LEGO games beyond the traditional platformers - and we can't wait to see where they take the brand next. A new LEGO Racers, anyone?
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Switch