E3 2015 – Remember that time Gandalf drove the Delorean across the yellow brick road? Yeah, LEGO Dimensions

Out of the many games we got to see at E3 2015, the one I took the most for granted was LEGO Dimensions. Surely it would be yet another Skylanders-styled collectible figurine game, but this time with a LEGO license tied to it, right?

To my surprise, LEGO Dimensions didn’t feel like just another rehash of the same collectible game concept under a new license. And while it isn’t the most original game by any stretch, it’s incredibly well polished game with an already strong fan base, most of which are kids who’re bound to nag their parents to death for. That and the millions of adults who grew up playing with LEGO.

I’m certainly smack in the middle of these cases. I had my love story with Traveller’s Tales LEGO series when they first started out, but eventually got a little tired of their repetitive nature a few games ago. That’s the main reason I wasn’t giving much to LEGO Dimensions as I got to test it out during Warner Bros’ showcase at E3.

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The big surprise there was how simple the core concept of introducing your figurines into the game really is. As with previous figurine portal games, Dimensions has its own little setup where the individual LEGO go. Up to six character or vehicle figurines can be placed in it, three at each side, with one separate space that gets some use in specific parts of the game.

The rep helping us test the game handed us a couple of figurines for the characters we would be using for the demo. In our demo station, we got to run through the game as Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle (from The LEGO Movie). The cooler bit, though, were the vehicles we got to pick to drive — a micro sized DeLorean and the Batmobile. The neat little catch in the demo was that each ride came with its own special set of builds you could use to pull off special abilities, such as a turret mounted cycle mode for the Batmobile, which was put into use in one of the levels we got to run around with.

Speaking of levels, our first was a visit to The Wizard of Oz’s yellow brick road. It’s a weird mix of properties, now that I get to sit down and think about it, but within Dimensions, it didn’t really matter, or by then, it was too late to, anyway. Gandalf was sitting in the DeLorean and we were blasting the Wicked Witch of the West out of the sky with Batman’s grappling hook, okay? We didn’t have time to think things were absurd when we bust through Aperture Science and ran into Homer Simpson. We were just there having a good time taking care of the puzzles that I knew for a fact were traditional to the LEGO games but felt a little different now that the portal was added into the mix.

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The portal takes your characters’ placement into account when figuring out one of the three types of puzzles found in the demo. For instance, one of them had us activating platforms in an specific color order that was not only shown in game, but also directly in the portal. The base unit lit up and we had to switch our figurines around in order to match the correct configuration in order to complete the puzzle and open the door to the next area.

While I’m aware that an E3 2015 demo is supposed to evoke a positive impression, and the one for LEGO Dimensions did wonders for that effect, it’s worth considering the possible negatives. Some come built-in with the business model behind this type of game. Characters have to be bought and aren’t unlocked through progression, something that’s been a stapple in LEGO’s previous games. You’ll need to hunt down the sets you want characters for, and much like Skylanders and Nintendo’s amiibos, some of those might eventually become hard to find, preventing you from having access to them in game. On the other hand, the possibilities are absurd for what could be added into LEGO Dimensions in the future, considering the vast amount of properties under Warner Bros’ umbrella, not to mention what’s already in the game out of the gate.

LEGO Dimensions is set for a September release for all current consoles. Prepare your wallets accordingly if you have kids.

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