TT Games is synonymous with the Lego licence, with their tie-in titles veering towards the thirty count by now. In recent years the focus has shifted from clear individuality between the gameplay of each, while the actual block-making has had a smaller role in the process.
However, it's difficult to be unhappy given the great co-op and characterisation of familiar franchises, even if the template was starting to wear a bit thin.
But in Lego City Undercover we got a game in which it felt like the team were trying something new. This time it was a solo experience, and an original story. At the same time, we got a huge - and surprising - sandbox experience exclusive to Wii U (we'll forget the mediocre 3DS game). Lego Marvel Super Heroes kept the sandbox, but returned to the familiarity of a known licence.
The LEGO Movie is the first time that the UK developer is experimenting with a genuine LEGO film at Hollywood level. A movie where the blocks are the focus and where characters from the different corners of the Lego world meet. TT Games even manage to clamp down on the retread of past gameplay - there's enough recognisable from before, but this feels like a fresh approach.
The movie, that sees contraction worker Emmet try and stop the Lego universe being destroyed by the evil Lord Business, runs riot with its own meta-narrative, and this is something that TT attempt as well, without skipping out on the co-op, block collection and platforming that their titles are known for.
It's clear from the first minutes that TT Games is looking to tell the story of the movie yet offer an alternative experience. So the game matches the movie's opening, but tosses in gameplay to keep things interactive, to the extent that we feel we're playing an alternate version of the movie plot. It's quite smart; not only do we get the movie plot but we also get a new and fresh experience, even though we may already know what's coming (and with over forty clips from the movie in the game, it's as good as taking a trip to the cinema to see the flick).
And nicely, this Lego world is now fully Lego. Previous games had leaned towards Lego figures running through non-Lego environments. This is all about the structures, the buildings, the building. Just like in the movie.
There's much more focus this time on taking things apart and putting them back together. The blocks look realistic - the PS4 tech being put to good use - and as was the case with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, everything runs without a hitch on the console.
The first time we witness a crane being assembled before our eyes as we 'scroll' through the instructions, it's impressive. Suddenly the construction stops, one part flashes, and its up to you to find the required blocks. A fun little mini game, and it's not the last, nor the most unusual (ready for some rhythm-action elements).
There's a surprising amount of variation to the game's challenges as well as the game's locales. You'll have multiple linear stages as well as a sandbox world to play around in. That the movie's story has our hero flicking between multiple environments does the game good; you'll work through a vibrant mix of levels.
For challenges, we're no longer limited to leaping, fighting, and tackling the odd puzzle.
For example, the film's first car chase is retold as a hefty racing sequence in which you have to shoot pursuers, jumps between cars and jump into a ride. Later races have you cannoning through a Western-style town that's more roller coaster meets endless runner than standard racer. There's entertaining boss battles, and several nods to
the classic Nintendo series Pilotwings. Scenes atop speeding trains, reminiscent of classic side-scrolling beat 'em ups.
Those last are wonderfully nostalgic, but unfortunately reveal the game's simplicity, as you're more or less pressing a single button. Younger gamers will love it, but seasoned pros can become bored. But there's enough variety that boredom's not a constant companion.
As with virtually every other LEGO game there's a wealth of characters to be collected, each type used for specific actions, puzzles and the combining of bricks. And as before, it prolongs the game's already acceptable length when you're hunting to find all secrets, characters and instructions.
That you can skip between the different areas through a nifty portal rather than a menu is just another plus. One niggle is the inclusion of the old save system, that forces you to complete a full chapter else you'll resume right back at its start when jumping back in.
But that's a small thing. It's hard not to be excited by this title, one that feels so fresh compared to past games and is the best take on a movie tie-in we've seen in a while. Fans of the games will get something new, fans of the film won't feel like they're playing a retread, and fans of the Lego blocks have a game that feels totally Lego. Result.