When I was a child, I only wanted one thing for Christmas: Lego, and preferably a lot! So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the many licensed video games such as the recent Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Yet for all their fun, Traveller’s Tales never managed to recreate the childhood experience of playing with Lego bricks because, other than a few automated puzzles, you never had to build anything. Granted, Lego Worlds gave you plenty of tools to do just that, but it still ended up looking more like Minecraft.
Now it finally seems like my childhood memories will be reconstructed in the digital realm. At least that’s the intention with the upcoming Lego Bricktales, which is being developed by Innsbruck-based studio ClockStone. “Head Up, now Thunderful, was approached three years ago by Lego. They wanted to make a game where building with bricks would be central to the game.” explains Mathias Hilke, project manager at Clockstone Studio.
This destruction was exchanged for construction, it is felt from the start of the Gamescom demo where I was tasked with fixing a broken generator. First, I needed to build a staircase for my mini figure to move up. Later I also had to build the missing parts of the generator. The game provides you with some hints and tips, but nothing like the detailed instruction booklets that come with the physical toys. Here you are left to your own devices and the initially quite simple task quickly begins to look like real puzzles.
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Luckily, the game gives you a crash course in civil engineering that I’m sure anyone can pass with intuitive controls and a balanced learning curve. The first builds are already nearly complete, and you’re just applying the finishing touches, while learning how to rotate bricks, navigate the three-dimensional build space, and other useful tricks. Once the generator completes, I’m sent through a portal and taken to my next destination, a lush jungle environment that serves as one of the game’s five levels or hubs. “You travel to the desert, the jungle, medieval times, and also to the pirates of the Caribbean”, Mathias Hilke tells us. “As the game progresses, you will also get more and more bricks, with a ton of different colors and decorative elements.”
There’s a story that ties it all together involving your eccentric grandfather and his neglected amusement park. By helping people, you can collect so-called crystals of happiness, which can be used to restore the park to its former glory – you can even visit the theme park and decorate it yourself. I think it’s fair to say that this setup probably won’t 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 encountered on my jungle expedition all had lots of personality and fun dialogue.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, as the developer previously created Bridge Simulator, where physics plays a major role in the game’s puzzle design. Thanks to the modular and flexible brick design, you’re pretty much free to build as looks good to you – but how your builds hold up is a whole different story. Your carefully constructed bridge or ladder will quickly turn into a pile of bricks if you neglected to provide adequate support.
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As I went deeper into the jungle, my abilities grew. New powers such as a whip and a ground stomp allowed me to scale cliffs and clear 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 became more complex.
The last one was by far the most exciting, as I was tasked with building a helicopter. From zero. This proved quite a challenge, as I not only had to make room for the large propeller, but also made sure the helicopter was probably balanced. My first attempt turned out to be a disaster as my homemade helicopter had barely left the ground before it started rolling backwards due to an excessive number of bricks on the back. A few tweaks later and my helicopter soared straight into the air: And into the game too, because your finished builds are transported straight into the game world with all their little quirks and all.
All this building would probably seem a bit unfair (after all, the developer is supposed to design the assets, not you) if it weren’t for the fact that Clock Stone did a wonderful job building the environment themselves. Everything, as in everything, is made of Lego, and the characters move in an exaggerated way, in stop motion. Yes, Lego: The Movie did the same thing, but it feels a lot more like an actual playset thanks to the overhead perspective and limited play space. Pause the game, zoom out, and you might, for a moment at least, feel like the whole game is happening on the floor of your childhood bedroom, not your computer screen.
With its gorgeous art and intriguing concept, Lego Bricktales had already caught my attention before Gamescom. Now, after playing it, I’ve fallen a bit like a kid again with Lego, for the first time in almost twenty years, right at the top of my wish list.