Lego Bricktales plays like childhood memories brought to life
The team behind Bridge Simulator is trying, brick by brick, to build the most immersive Lego game yet. We played the upcoming puzzle game at Gamescom.
When I was a kid, I only wanted one thing for Christmas: Lego, and preferably lots of it! It should come as no surprise then, that I have enjoyed the many licenced video games such as the recent Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Still, for all their fun Traveller's Tales never did a good job of recreating the childhood experience of playing with Lego bricks as, aside from some automated puzzles, you never actually got to build anything. Admittedly, Lego Worlds gave you plenty of tools for doing just that, but it still ended up feeling more like Minecraft.
Now, it finally seems that my childhood memories will be reconstructed in the digital realm. At least is the intention with the upcoming Lego Bricktales, that is being developed by the Innsbruck-based ClockStone Studio. "Head Up, now Thunderful, was contacted three years ago by Lego. They wanted to make a game where building with bricks, would be at the core of the game," explains project manager at Clockstone Studio Mathias Hilke.
That destruction has been traded in for construction, can be felt right from the beginning of the Gamescom demo where I was tasked with repairing a broken generator. First, I needed to construct a staircase for my mini figure to move forward. Later, I also had to build the missing parts of the generator. The game provides you with a few hints and pointers, but nothing resembling the thorough instruction booklets provided with the physical toys. Here you are left to your own devices and the initially quite simple task quickly begins to feel like actual puzzles.
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Fortunately, the game gives you a quick crash course in civil engineering that I'm sure anyone will be able to pass thanks to intuitive controls and a balanced learning curve. The first few constructions are already nearly complete, and you are just applying the finishing touches, while at the same time learning how to rotate bricks, navigating the three-dimensional building space, and other useful tricks. With the generator complete, I'm sent through a portal and whisked away to my next destination, a lush jungle environment that serves as one of the games five levels or hubs. "You travel to the desert, the jungle, the medieval times, and also to the pirates in the Caribbean," Mathias Hilke tells us. "In the course of the game, you will also get more and more bricks, with a ton of different colours and decorative elements."
There is a story tying it all together involving your eccentric grandpa and his neglected amusement park. By helping people, you are able to collect so-called happiness crystals, which can be used to restore the park to its former glory - you even get to visit the theme park and decorate it yourself. I think it's fair to say, that this setup will probably not lead to storytelling in the vein of Lego: The Movie or the surprisingly touching Lego Builder's Journey. But it still seems like a fun, light-hearted journey, and the characters I met during my jungle expedition all had plenty of personality and fun dialogue.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, as the developer previously made Bridge Simulator, where physics play a major part in the game's puzzle design. Thanks to the bricks' modular and flexible design, you are pretty much free to build in any way you please - but whether your constructions will hold is a different story entirely. Your carefully constructed bridge or ladder will quickly turn into a pile of bricks if you have neglected to provide proper support.
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As I got further into the jungle, my abilities expanded. New powers such as a whip and a ground stomp allowed me to scale cliffs and remove dense vegetation. At the same time, I also got new bricks to play with. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and little by little my various construction jobs grew in complexity.
The last one was by far the most exciting, as I was tasked with building a helicopter. From scratch. This proved quite a challenge, as I not only had to make room for the large propeller, but also had to make the sure the helicopter was probably balanced. My first attempt proved a disaster as my homemade chopper had barely left the ground before it started flying backwards due to an excessive number of bricks in the rear. A few adjustments later and my helicopter lifted straight into air: And into the game as well, as your finished constructions are transported directly into the game world with all their little quirks and all.
All this building would probably feel a bit unfair (after all the developer is supposed to design assets, not you) if not for the fact that Clock Stone has done a marvellous job in constructing the environment themselves. Everything, as in everything, is made of Lego, and the characters move in an exaggerated, stop motion-kind of way. Yes, Lego: The Movie did the same, but this feels much more like an actual playset thanks to the overhead perspective and the limited play space. Pause the game, zoom out, and you might, for a moment at least, feel like the whole game is taking place on the floor of your childhood room, and not on your computer screen.
With its beautiful art and intriguing concept, Lego Bricktales already had my attention prior to Gamescom. Now, after having played it, I kind of fell like a child again with Lego, for the first time in nearly twenty years, at the very top of my wishlist.