Before 2005, Lego’s foray into the video game world had been an entirely underwhelming affair. That all changed when the world’s most popular construction toy joined forces with one of the world’s biggest film franchises. Lego Star Wars was born, setting the standard for all future Lego-themed titles. The formula seemed malleable to other popular series such as Batman, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean. Well-received by both children and adults alike, Lego seemed to have concocted a foolproof recipe for video game success.
TT Games have taken a bit of a gamble with Lego Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey, the next entry in the series by this time focusing one of Lego’s own emerging franchises. Legends of Chima was introduced just this year and has already spawned a spin-off television series and various other toys to coincide with Lego’s latest range. Set in a world ruled by eleven anthropomorphic tribes, the series focuses on Laval, the young prince to the king of the Lion tribe. As the oldest of these tribes the Lions are tasked with maintaining a balance to the world’s Chi, the substance that caused them to evolve from wild beasts into biped chatterboxes in the first place. However, when the sinister crocodile clan steal the all-powerful Golden Chi orb it’s up to Laval and his friends from the other tribes to take it back and restore balance to their world.
The obvious criticism would be that Lego Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey doesn’t carry a big name licence like the previous instalments in the series. Gone are the Chaplin-esque in-jokes and child-friendly re-enactments of iconic film scenes, instead replaced with voice acting and cutscenes that focus heavily on the story. However, the title is purposely aimed at children so you can’t expect the same level of humour you’d get from the likes of Lego Indiana Jones or Lego Lord of the Rings. Better yet, even if the world may seem completely alien to adults, the classic tried and tested Lego video game formula remains.
For those who are new to the series, a quick recap on how the building bricks of a Lego game slot together. A 3D platformer at heart, the level designs are usually fairly simple to navigate. Once in a while an obstacle will block your path, but in keeping with Lego tradition, these characters can traverse these by searching the area for glittering piles of Lego and building the necessary tools in order to proceed, such as switches, levers and bridges. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of an adventure without enemies and much of the combat relies on bashing the Vita’s action buttons.
Each character also comes with their own special ability which can either be used to deal extra damage to the enemy or navigate seemingly impassable obstacles, particularly later in the game. Starting off with Laval, the game soon opens up to the other realms of the animal kingdom, with characters such as the high flying eagle Eris or the friendly yet rage-prone gorilla Gorzan being added to the roster. Characters can be switched by simply tapping the shoulder buttons, with their special abilities available by using the Vita’s touchscreen. However, these special abilities rely on Chi, which collected throughout your adventure.
Scattered around the world of Chima are an assortment of Lego pieces that accumulate to give players a high score at the end of each level. These can be found on the hard road ahead, or by destroying enemies and various parts of the environment. They can also be used to purchase extras for the game and are essential in unlocking the game’s offering of over sixty characters, available in the game’s central hub, located in the Lion kingdom.
Whilst many of these characters share their special abilities with the main cast, it gives the game plenty of replay value, especially if you consider the main story takes around six to eight hours to complete. The world of Chima opens up via the game’s main hub, located in the Lion Kingdom. It gives players the chance to revisit earlier levels which contain secret paths and treasures that can only be accessed by certain characters so in order to achieve one-hundred percent completion, you’re going to have to seriously build up your in-game Lego collection.
The world of Chima, and Laval in particular all comes across a bit Game of Thrones meets Thundercats, all toned down to be child friendly. The Vita handles the graphics with ease, giving the game a glossy, colourful finish much like its older brother, the PlayStation 3. However, it’s become somewhat of a recent tradition for these Lego titles to give otherwise colourful palette a unnecessary washed out finish. Same goes for the cut-scenes which also aren’t quite as light-hearted as the big franchise adaptations, focusing less on the parody associated with the other games and more getting the nuts and bolts of the story across. Balanced with better respect for voice acting than these titles normally receive, It certainly makes the game much more appealing to children, who perhaps wouldn’t quite understand the parodies and homages that come with the big name titles.
The success of the Lego franchise has always banked on trying to appeal to both the young and the young at heart. Lego Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey doesn’t add a new dimension onto the how Lego games work and doesn’t immediately stand out amongst the heavy hitters such as Lego Batman or Lego Star Wars, but that doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable platformer. The summer release is perfectly timed for parents looking for a way to keep their kids occupied over the break, but after they’ve gone back to school, have a little go yourself and you might just find yourself getting sucked into the mystical realm of Chima.