When I think of Lego today – the toy itself, as well as its many video game versions – it’s easy to get distracted by the decades of licensed properties now immortalised in plastic bricks. I think of building my Lego NES console, or the looming Lord of the Rings Tower of Orthanc which sits next to my telly. In Lego video games, I think of the time I spent roaming round Hogwarts or the Batcave, or the enormous Star Wars galaxy in the recent Skywalker Saga. It’s only after more thought I remember the older models I began with, as a child in the rather distant past.
That’s not to say those early sets were forgettable! I still have the bricks from those castles I cobbled together, or from the rockets I launched from secret bases built under the coffee table. But when I think of those times, I think less of the discrete sets you could buy (or wait for each birthday) and more of the whole mess of Lego I was slowly accumulating – constructing and then deconstructing each model into one huge heap that lived in a big storage box. Dipping into it, pulling bits out, seeing what I could make of it – that was playing with it beyond just building with it. And while Lego Bricktales is somewhat limited in this level of creation, and especially so at first, it eventually offers the most Lego-like experience in video games since the fully sandbox Lego Worlds.
Via a rather vague story of your avatar and their grandpa, you’ll slowly unlock a miniature hub world featuring portals to various classic Lego settings: pirate beaches, medieval castles, and of course City. Each area features its own network of Lego dioramas to explore, light puzzles to solve, and a range of mini Lego builds to put together. I loved seeing these themes brought to life using nothing but virtual Lego bricks – something the licensed TT Games titles often strayed away from in their environments – and in cutaway chunks which reminded me of various other isometric puzzlers, or the earliest real Minecraft Lego. I also enjoyed the way my hero minifigure wobbles around these worlds, head sometimes spinning in excitement like a character from the Lego Movie. But it’s that last point – the mini builds themselves – where Lego Bricktales really stands on its own.
For too long, Lego games have used Lego itself as a backdrop – a filter through which you can make a funny licensed parody. Here, instead, Bricktales offers genuine building, in a mostly-competent creator mode that gives you fully physics-balanced bricks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since Bricktales is made by Bridge Constructor series developer ClockStone, you begin with bridges. Here’s a ravine you must cross, the game says, and here are the bricks you have to do it. Will it stand up? Will it hold the weight of a Lego car? To complete your build, you frequently have to sit back and watch and hope that it does.
Sometimes you’re tasked with building to an exact design, but more often you’re given a mound of bricks and allowed to work out your own solutions to a problem: a ramp, a winding walkway, a multi-level fire escape. I’ll happily say I solved some of these within minutes through quickfire play, but then spent the next half hour finessing what I thought was probably the absolute best-designed solution. It’s immensely satisfying seeing some of the models you build then come to life: cars, trucks, or cranes to transport other minifigures (or yourself) to the next area. At all times, you can see clearly how many pieces you have left to complete a building puzzle – and this number is sometimes quite limited, meaning you’re constantly trying to see the bigger picture. It reminded me of scooping bricks from that storage box as a child, and knowing my brick collection didn’t go on forever.
As the game goes on, things do get trickier – to the point I was left wondering what audience this was aimed at. (Do not expect something as simple as TT Games’ Lego fare, where often you only need to wander around, bashing things to progress.) And in its trickier builds, Bricktales’ rather simplistic construction mode does show its rougher edges. Playing on a console – where I’d imagine many Lego fans will be – I found the manoeuvring of pieces into place was sometimes too slow. Editing can also feel arduous, and unlike real Lego there’s no option to break off multiple bricks at once as you test and rebuild. The game can get fussy about how its own logic runs – notable in the puzzles that see you building paths for robots to follow. You’ll need to work out how these automatons will interpret the bricks you’ve set down, lest they begin U-turning into their compatriots and get completely stuck. It’s here the shine of this creative mode dims.
But then you’re back into Bricktales’ sort-of open world, and there’s your creation: seamlessly now part of the game’s environment for you to walk across or simply marvel at! And while Bricktales itself is relatively short, there’s a very welcome option to revisit any build and try alternative designs, this time with further customisation available via additional colours and brick themes you can buy using collected in-game currency.
Rather like the models I made on my bedroom floor, there’s something still to be refined in Bricktales. It’s a simple adventure game with a fun creative mode – but one I’d love to see developed further: made as intuitive as the bricks it emulates, and with the option for more boundless play, the kind that owning rather expensive physical bricks sometimes limits. For now, though, Bricktales has made me rethink how I remember Lego in general, as well as how Lego can be used in video games overall – and that’s a strong platform to build on in future.
To see this content please enable targeting cookies.