“LEGO Dimensions” is The LEGO Group’s first serious foray into the already crowded “Toys to Life” market, competing directly with the hugely popular Disney Infinity and Skylanders games. These games rely on a USB accessory containing RFID tag readers which plug into your gaming console. The game detects when compatible toys are placed on the sensor, and the video game responds to these actions by bringing the toy to live in the video game environment. The innovation with LEGO Dimensions is that the toys have some play value outside of the video game, since each character, vehicle, or accessory in LEGO Dimensions is built out of real LEGO bricks.
The gameplay in LEGO Dimensions will be very familiar to anyone who has played the popular LEGO Video Games by publisher TT, a Warner Brothers subsidary. (Such as the successful LEGO Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter games. My wife and I have played most of these games. We like that they are casual games which are easy to pick up and play for a short time, with a great co-operative mode, and the games have lots of little inside jokes for people familiar with the source material.
LEGO Dimensions is basically the same format as any other LEGO game by TT, except instead of switching between available characters using the gamepad buttons, you put the LEGO character or vehicle you want use on the portal, and it appears in the game. The starter pack includes three characters (Wildstyle, Batman, and Gandalf) and a single vehicle (Batmobile).
During the game, you are asked to construct the portal, modify the portal by manipulating LEGO elements, build vehicles/accessories, and modify them. The instructions will appear on your TV screen and are easy to follow. That said, there is literally no reason for you to build the models besides the joy of building LEGO! The sensor can only read the round disk – it can’t tell if you built the LEGO model correctly or not! These LEGO building moments are kind of fun when the game is played solo, but are pretty disruptive when playing the game with your spouse, since they needs to wait 10 minutes for you to build a LEGO model. (If you want to play this as a two-player game, I strongly recommend that one person builds the portal using the printed instructions before turning the game on. The smaller models like the Batmobile only take a minute or two.)
One surprise for me was that you need to keep the portal within reach at all times, since the game will ask you to put specific characters in specific locations from time to time. The portal has three sensors: one sensor in the middle which can hold only one model, and a sensor on each side that can hold up to three models each. Having to put your character in a specific spot to activate a special power feels gimmicky in a world where my controller already has about 10 buttons, but those puzzles where you need to move your characters between the three positions to complete a puzzle inside the game were pretty clever.
As you play the game, you will encounter obstacles which can only be completed using characters or vehicles with special abilities. The game tells you exactly which character you need to buy when encountering an obstacle. If these in-game advertisements don’t bother you, LEGO Dimensions seems to be an enjoyable game with lots of levels to complete and worlds to explore. (If you find this annoying, I would recommend some of the other excellent LEGO games such as the relatively new LEGO Jurassic World game which is a lot of fun.)
Additional characters / vehicles are sold in “packs” that cost between 14.99$ and 29.99$. Some characters allow you to access an additional game level or free play “adventure world”, while others simply allow you to unlock puzzles which require specific abilities. The rest of this guide will help you make good choices about which expansion packs will open up the most additional content.
Cost for Starter Kit & Expansions
The Starter Pack is 99.99, but often available for 79.99$ or less at Amazon and other stores. I haven’t completed the game yet, but I have been assured that there are about 40-60 hours of gameplay in the base game alone. That’s a lot of gameplay for a fair price, assuming that you can ignore the constant upsell moments. (I find it a bit annoying, but my wife finds them extremely disruptive.)
Since the LEGO bricks included in the base game and expansions can be used to build anything you like after completing the game, some people will want to consider what I call the “LEGO Brick Discount” for the basic game and expansions. Since the cost for each piece in most new LEGO sets is around 10 cents, we can be generous by subtracting the value of the LEGO bricks from the price for the video game experiences.
Adjusted “Price” for LEGO Dimensions game and expansion packs
|Name||MSRP||Number of LEGO parts||Value of LEGO Parts||Adjusted MSRP|
|Level Packs||29.99$||around 100||10.00$||19.99$|
|Team Packs||24.99$||around 100||10.00$||14.99$|
|Fun Packs||14.99$||around 50||5.00$||9.99$|
Maximizing your investment
The rest of this article explains how to get the best value with the LEGO Dimensions game. The recommendations are based solely on the lowest cost way to open up additional content or access secret areas, so these recommendations might not include your favorite characters. This list was derived from an incredibly detailed table of in-game abilities that I found at gamefaqs.com. (I’m sad to see that there is no reason to purchase “Benny”, since other characters can do all of his abilities. If you have an emotional attachment to one of the packs not included in this list, buy it anyways!)
I have proposed four practical levels of investment in LEGO Dimensions:
- 100$ – Starter Pack Only – Just buy the Starter Pack and play through the main game and three adventure worlds.
- 315$ – All Levels and Adventure Worlds – By purchasing the right sets, you can unlock the entire game. You will still miss some puzzles which require a specific character.
- 390$ – All Levels, Adventure Worlds, and Character/Vehicle Abilities – A carefully selected set of Fun Packs will give you every in-game ability.
- 565$ – Everything – If you want every character, vehicle and Accessory, it’s going to cost a premium!
100$ Starter Pack only
You can play all of the levels in the basic game, plus three adventure worlds using just the starter pack. This is probably the best value, as you get a ton of content for a relatively small initial investment.
The Starter Pack comes with Gandalf, Wildstyle, and Batman. Those three characters give you the following 12 abilities:
- Accelerator Switches: Batmobile
- Acrobat: Wildstyle
- Boomerang: Batman
- Grapple: Batman
- Illumination: Gandalf
- Magic: Gandalf
- Magic Shield: Gandalf
- Master Building: Wildstyle
- Relic Detection: Wildstyle
- Sonar Smash: Level 2 or 3 Batmobile
- Stealth: Batman
- Towbar: Level 2 Batmobile
This leaves nearly 40 in-game abilities which require additional purchases.
315$ – Every Level and Adventure World
Level packs allow you to play a single new game level, and adventure worlds are opened by having a character from that world. This recommendation is based on information I first read at kotaku.com.
In summary, you can enjoy all of the current content by purchasing the following Level packs, Team packs, and Fun Packs:
|Starter Pack||100$||Main game, three characters, three adventure worlds (LEGO Movie, Lord of the Rings, DC Comics)|
|Portal Level Pack||30$||Portal Level & Adventure World|
|Back to the Future Level Pack||30$||Back to the Future Level & Adventure World|
|Simpsons Level Pack||30$||Simpsons Level & Adventure World|
|Dr Who Level Pack||30$||Dr Who Level & Adventure World|
|Scooby Doo Team Pack||25$||Scooby Doo Level & Adventure World|
|Jurassic World Team Pack||25$||Jurassic World Adventure World|
|Wicked Witch of the West Fun Pack||15$||Wizard of Oz Adventure World|
|Any Chima (Cragger, Eris, or Laval.)||15$+||Chima Adventure World|
|Any Ninjago (Team Pack, Jay, Nya, or Zane who also has rare “Ice Breath” ability.)||15$+||Ninjago Adventure World|
The characters and vehicles included in the 10 packs listed above will give you the following additional abilities:
- Ball Switch: Gyrosphere from Jurassic World Team Pack
- Big Transformation: Homer from Simpsons Level Pack
- Chi: (Any Chima Character)
- Dig: Scooby from Scooby Doo Team Pack
- Dive: Scooby from Scooby Doo Team Pack
- Electrify: Delorean from Back to the Future Level Pack, or ACU from Jurassic World Team Pack
- Fix it: The Doctor from Dr Who Level Pack
- Flying: Delorean from Back to the Future Level Pack, and others…
- Flight Hook / Cargo Dock: Level 3 Delorean from Back to the Future Level Pack, and others…
- Growth of plants: Level 3 Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo Team Pack
- Hacking: The Doctor from Dr Who Level Pack
- Hazard Cleanup: Level 3 Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo Team Pack
- Laser: Level 2 or 3 Sentry Turret from Portal Level Pack, and others…
- Laser Deflection: Level 2 Companion Cube from Portal Level Pack
- Mind Control: Wicked Witch from Wicked Witch of the West Fun Pack
- Portal Gun: Chell from Portal Level Pack
- Silver Destruction: Taunt-O-Vision from Simpsons Level Pack
- Speed: Gyrosphere from Jurassic World Team Pack
- Spinjitzu: (any Ninjago character)
- Super Strength: Homer from Simpsons Level Pack, and others…
- Target: Owen Grady from Jurassic World Team Pack
- Technology: The Doctor from Dr Who Level Pack
- Time Traveler Switches: Delorean from Back to the Future Level Pack
- Tracking: Owen Grady from Jurassic World Team Pack, and others…
- Vine Cutting: Owen Grady or Velociraptor from Jurassic World Team Pack
- Weight Switch: Companion Cube from Portal Level Pack
Even with those 10 packs, you still won’t have the following abilities:
- Drill: Emmett from Emmett Fun Pack, or ‘Drill Driver’ from Bane Fun Pack (May 31, 2016.)
- Ice Breath: Ninjacopter from Zane Fun Pack, or Superman from Superman Fun Pack (March 31, 2016.)
- Invulnerability: Wonder Woman from Wonder Woman Fun Pack, Superman from Superman Fun Pack (March 31, 2016), or Gamer Kid from Midway Arcade Level Pack (March 31, 2016)
- Mini Access: Bart Simpson from Bart Simpson Fun Pack, Gimli from Gimli Fun Pack, Gollum from Gollum Fun Pack, or Slimer from Slimer Fun Pack (May 31, 2016)
- Pole Vault: Legolas from Legolas Fun Pack, or Sensei Wu from Sensei Wu Fun pack (Jan 19, 2016)
- Rainbow Bricks: Unikitty from Unikitty Fun Pack.
You also won’t have the following abilities which are coming soon:
- Atlantis: Aquaman from Aquaman Fun Pack (March 31, 2016.)
- Drone: Doc Brown from Doc Brown Fun Pack (Jan 19, 2016), or Cyberman from Cyberman Fun Pack (Jan 19, 2016.)
- Suspend Ghosts: Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters Level Pack (Jan 19, 2016)
- Trap Ghosts: Ghost Trap from Ghostbusters Level Pack (Jan 19, 2016)
- Xray Vision: Cyberman from Cyberman Fun Pack (Jan 19, 2016.), or Superman from Superman Fun Pack (March 31, 2016)
390$ – Every Level, Adventure World, and Ability
As of December 2015, you can access every level, Adventure World, and will have every ability for 390$. That’s a savings of 175$ compared to buying every set released so far!
If you want every ability, the cheapest way is to buy all of the sets from the previous list (making sure that Zane is your Ninjago Fun Pack for the ‘Ice Breath’ ability), plus the following Fun Packs:
|Name||MSRP||Ability / Availability|
|Emmett Fun Pack||15$||Drill.|
|Wonder Woman Fun Pack||15$||Invulnerability, and Xray Vision.|
|Legolas Fun Pack||15$||Pole Vault.|
|Unikitty Fun Pack||15$||Rainbow Bricks.|
You also need to pick one of these characters for the “Mini Access” ability:
|Bart Simpson Fun Pack||15$||now|
|Gimli Fun Pack||15$||now|
|Gollum Fun Pack||15$||now|
565$ – Every Level Pack, Team Pack, and Fun Pack
As of December 2015: There is the Starter Pack (100$), 4 Level Packs (4×30$ = 120$), 3 Team Packs (3×25$ = 75$), and 18 Fun Packs (18×15$ = 270$). That’s a total of 565$.
As I noted earlier, some of the Team Packs and Fun Packs serve no purpose in terms of opening up new gameplay. That said, many readers will want to buy some or all of them, as you will be missing out on a lot of really fun characters, including my favorite option: Benny from The LEGO Movie.
Tips and tricks
- An October 25 update to LEGO Dimensions allows you to pay gold coins (the in-game currency) in order to use a character you don’t own for 30 seconds. This costs 50,000 coins, which is about 1/6 of the coins you receive in a typical level. This should allow you to access 100% of the basic game without buying any additional minifigures, but it will take a lot more time since you need to spend a lot of your gold coins to do this. In practical terms, this allows you to skip purchasing a couple “fun packs”, and you can still access all areas of the game and it’s expansion content. (You will still need the Wicked Witch, a Ninjago character, and a Chima character to access all of the Adventure Worlds.
- Right now, Zane is your best bet for a Ninjago fun pack because his Ninjacopter has ice breath.
- If you can wait, you might be able to save a few bucks… For example, in March you can skip Zane (Ninjago & ice breath), Wonderwoman (Invulnerability), and Legolas (pole vault) by getting Superman (Invulnerability & ice breath) , Sensei Wu (pole vault & ninjago).
More to come…
There are several additional packs which have been announced, and LEGO has indicated that the LEGO Dimensions products will remain compatible for three years. So far they have released a new Level pack and/or Adventure pack, and three new Fun packs every other month. If you only want to open every Level and Adventure world and don’t need to find every secret, you will probably want to set aside 40$ every other month to keep up with the latest new content.
I’m fairly certain that the existing gameplay levels and adventure worlds can be completed using only those characters which have been released so far, but I would expect that future new Levels and Adventure Worlds will require that you keep up with the latest characters to access all of the secret areas. If you are a completeist, you might end up spending around 100$ with each new wave.
I am very confident that the team at LEGO went out of their way to ensure that players need to spend a lot of money to access every area of the LEGO dimensions game. My best guess is that LEGO Dimensions contains twice as much gameplay as a typical AAA title, but it will cost you 315$ or more to unlock all of it. Even if you write off 33% of that cost as free LEGO bricks, we are talking about 200$ or more for the equivalent of two 50$ games worth of content.
As such, my strong recommendation after doing all of this analysis is that the best value is to stick with the Starter Pack, and only buy those additional packs which you are really excited to play. Be careful, these “Toys to life” products are carefully designed to be addictive!
Help me improve this article by leaving a comment below!
Updates and Corrections
- December 15, 2015 I added some basic info about “Hire a Hero” to the tips and tricks section.
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