If there is one thing that Lego City Undercover proved is that there is plenty of room for not only new ideas within the Lego video games themselves but that it doesn't necessarily have to rely on existing properties to be entertaining. It featured enough charming humor that appeals to kids and adults in a world that was interesting and fun enough to explore without having to rely on people’s nostalgia. What Legends of Chima: Laval's Journey does is drive that point home because instead of moving the games forward, it actually highlights the formulaic gameplay and safe design that people have been harping on for a few years now.
Lego Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey is an original property from the house of Lego and started out as a cartoon featuring anthropomorphic animals who reside in a mystical land that debuted earlier this year. As the titular lion prince Laval, players have to uncover the mysteries behind the powerful Chi that essentially acts as a power source of Chima for just about everything all while trying to battle against rival tribes and figuring out went wrong his former best friend, Cragger from the Crocodile Tribe. Cynical corporate synergy aside, the characters themselves are charming and whimsical enough for the under 10-year old set, but the parents or older siblings who were hoping to find something to latch on to and connect with the younger ones – save for a few Back To The Future and Indiana Jones jokes – will probably not find the same joy they did playing something like Lego Batman or Lego Star Wars.
Within the first level of the game, all the familiar tropes that populate the Lego games are there, whether it was the simplistic puzzles that anybody who has played a Lego game has seen executed multiple time to the repetitive enemies that offer little resistance or challenge or the out-of-reach doodads that can only be achieved after countless hours of grinding and gathering enough bolts to buy unlockable characters and items. Even the first boss battle felt like a rehash of every Lego boss battle ever with its avoid, swipe, avoid bigger attack, swipe, repeat pattern.
The hub world that opens up after finishing the first level is a little bit more expansive and free form than in previous games and the characters that do join Laval on his journey offer a bit of variety with how can tackle a level, but it all feels like padding. And the improvements that do come in the form of multiple weapons and simple combination attacks can be fun for the first few times, but they ultimately do to offset the feeling of a game that most people have played before but with far more appealing source material.
Even though Lego games all tend to look the same because well, Lego blocks, when the games made the leap to the Xbox 360, Playstation and their portable equivalents, there was a noticeable leap in the visuals and the frame rate. For whatever reason, Laval’s Journey looks like a game that could have passed as a pretty game on the PSP game. The environments were blurry and the character models were quite jaggy and not really indicative of what a Vita could do. Even the cinematic cut scenes feel a bit compressed and sub-HD quality. Thankfully the same could not be said for the music that shines through as one of the game’s highlights. Even though the game is essentially based on a Saturday morning cartoon, the score is breathtaking and makes the world bigger and gives Laval and friends a more heroic quality.
So the question with Laval’s Journey is who exactly is this review for? What is amazing is that it actually took this long for the dichotomy between the kids and adults to emerge. The touchstone of easy gameplay mixed with a beloved franchise made it easy for everyone to relate to the Lego games somehow. The gameplay might be tired for anybody above the age of 10, but it is a tried and true formula that has managed to endure for eight years and counting. A kid that loves Legos and is a fan of the cartoon is going to adore this game because they have not been subjected to the other games in the series that do a lot of the same things but with better characters.
If not for Undercover’s presence, Laval’s Journey would feel even more of a missed opportunity for the Lego and Warner Bros. to move the brand forward, but in all honestly, who’s really missing out?
- Combination attacks and special moves are fun diversions to the combat.
- Unlockable characters help flesh out and expand the game with new areas to explore.
- Epic music gives the game a grander sense of scale.
- The dialogue is boilerplate and groan-inducing.
- Graphics do not feel like a game that was made with the Vita in mind
- Some levels feel like copies of previous Lego games.
The following was based on a copy of Lego Legends of Chima: Laval's journey that was sent to Examiner by Warner Bros. for review purposes.