Mix It Up

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, The Doctor, Peter Venkman, and Batman are making their way through the Aperture Science Testing Facility while being taunted by GLaDOS.

Sounds like someone’s insane fan fiction, doesn’t it?

But this is a thing that happened in my house last week.  And even better, they were all made out of Lego at the time. 

This madness was brought to me by the video game Lego Dimensions.  In the game, characters from the various properties I mentioned above and many more all work together to save the Lego multiverse from a villain intent on controlling everything.  Gameplay-wise, it’s very similar to the many Lego video games that have come before, such as Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones (Although, those two IPs do not appear in Lego Dimensions).  Lego Dimensions is separated from previous Lego games in two major ways: one very cool and one, in my mind, decided not.

The cool one should be obvious from what I’ve discussed up to now: the ability to play as characters and visit worlds from many different properties.  The base game comes with Gandalf, Batman, and WyldStyle (from The Lego Movie), and in the levels my kids and I have played so far, we’ve encountered characters and locations from The Wizard of Oz, The Simpsons, Ninjago, Doctor Who, DC Comics, Back to the Future, and Portal.  We’re only about halfway through, so I know more is coming. 

In addition to the actual game levels, there are open world play levels associated with each of the properties.  The Back to the Future world allows you to use the Delorean to travel to the various eras of Hill Valley, California.  The Doctor Who world gives you access to each of The Doctor’s incarnations and associated TARDIS control rooms.  I expect to have a lot of fun running around these worlds once we complete the base game.

But there is a downside to all of this fun, and this is the part that I don’t like about Lego Dimensions.  The game is in the same category as Skylanders and Disney Infinity, which means that there is a physical component to the game.  Like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions base game set comes with a platform that plugs into the video game console as well as figurines of the base characters.  In this case, Lego minifigs of Gandalf, Batman, and WyldStyle as well as the Batmobile.  The minifigs sit on bases containing a chip that identifies the character or vehicle to the platform and allows them to appear in the game.  Put Batman on the platform, and he pops up on screen as well. 

Since I’ve already explained that only Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle come with the base game, you can probably guess where I’m going with this.  The base game costs $100, but if you want to play as Marty McFly, The Doctor, Scooby-Doo, or the Ghostbusters, you have to buy the minifig packs.  And there are several kinds of packs.  If you want Wonder Woman, for example, you can get her in a Fun Pack that includes her and her Invisible Jet.  That will run you about $15. 

There are also Team Packs that include several characters, such as Owen and his trained velociraptor in the Jurassic World pack.  Those will run you around $25.  One step beyond that are the level packs, which include new game levels along with minifig.  For example, the Back to the Future level back includes Marty McFly, the Delorean, and a hoverboard as well as a series of levels that take players through an abbreviated version of the first Back to the Future movie.  One of these level packs costs about $30.

The base game can be completed with just Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle, but to get access to all of the content, you have to put out more money. 

A LOT more money.

Those open worlds I mentioned earlier?  You can only get access to them if you own a character from that world.  Want to run around Hill Valley?  Then you have to buy one of the packs including a Back to the Future character.  Also, each of these characters has abilities that can get you into parts of the game that you can’t reach with the base three.  Sure, you can complete the story with the base pack, but there will be a lot that you cannot reach.

A new video game usually costs around $60, but Lego Dimensions runs a lot more than that just to get started.  Every game has started charging players for additional content, but the model of games like Skylanders and Lego Dimensions is particularly insidious, since players are shelling out lots of additional bucks just to get one or two additional characters.

But we’re paying it.  Granted, in our case my parents gave my son the base game and two add-on packs for Christmas.  Since then, though, I’ve bought several more packs.  I’ve probably put out at least as much as they did, which is a stupid amount to pay for a single video game.

What the hell am I doing?

I don’t know what young kid was gung-ho to play the Back to the Future or Ghostbusters levels, but it sure worked on my nostalgia.  And with Doctor Who available as well, there was no way I could resist.

I had just better hope that Lego never gets the Star Trek license, or my bank account is completely doomed.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter