After more than a decade filled with branded puzzle platformers that play nearly identical to one another, it’s been refreshing seeing a mix of varied Lego video games. While Traveller’s Tales has updated the core gameplay of its series with the latest Lego Star Wars game, Light Brick Studio used the iconic building bricks to create stories of parenthood and growth and ClockStone is embracing Lego’s creative DNA with the upcoming Lego Bricktales. The latest brick-based offering is a multiplayer brawler that focuses on unlocking customizable Minifigure parts so you can build ridiculous Lego characters. Unfortunately, similar to the aforementioned Builder’s Journey, Lego Brawls‘ mobile roots are still readily apparent and hold it back from becoming a compelling experience on consoles.
The core gameplay is quite simple, as players can mash an attack button to unleash melee attacks that can change depending on what weapon they have equipped but they essentially do the same thing regardless if said weapon is a sword or pair of boxing gloves. By traversing the small stages that are built to fit up to eight players, players can store up to two special moves by destroying orbs. These can range from pizzas that will refill their health during a combat exchange, potentially giving them an edge by allowing them to outlast their foe, or summoning items for more powerful attacks (such as vehicles or powerful guns).
Each stage is themed, although only Jurassic Park is included as an outside intellectual property, which causes some unique gameplay elements to get thrown into the mix. For example, in the Atlantis-inspired level, you can get a powerful trident and can summon a mythical creature to help fend enemies off of the control point. These are pretty fun additions that add some much-needed variety to the core gameplay as matches get rather repetitive quickly because of its straightforward combat. There’s just not enough depth on offer for it to be entertaining for prolonged gameplay sessions. The thrill of controlling a Lego-made dinosaur for a bit will inspire some smiles, so even though Brawls has its moments, they’re usually surrounded by simplistic valleys.
There are two main modes on offer: a free-for-all deathmatch that is pure chaos and the main team-based mode that focuses on taking over certain spots of a map where sometimes the control point will move on a timer or be located in the center. It’s all very simple, with no real side objectives beyond the special orbs that will appear, like the trident, and players just run toward the location head-on after collecting a few power-ups. The only real drive to keep playing is to unlock more Lego Minifigure features to deck out your created characters and there are different unlock trees you can choose from (although nearly everyone online seems to use Jurassic Park characters since the allure of playing as Lego Jeff Goldblum beats Ninjago characters or generic pirates or knights). Given the magic of seeing Lego crossovers, it’s disappointing that there weren’t more of them here.
There’s also very little in terms of gameplay options. If you don’t want to play online, which operates on a group-based voting system that determines the map and mode you experience, you can also play against others locally or against bots in the same modes. However, no experience is earned in the offline party mode, so solo players will want to stick to online multiplayer. Sadly, local users can’t go online together either, so the options of playing a meaningful match with a friend are weirdly quite limited.
While the simplified gameplay and streamlined experience work well enough on mobile where you’re more likely to just play a quick five-minute match to temporarily cure boredom, it doesn’t hold up for longer console sessions. Its mobile origins are everywhere, especially in its ugly user interface that sees huge icons for the different power-ups on the side of the screen that are clearly remnants from its touch-based lineage. Everything from the combat to the means of distribution (it’s available as part of an Apple Arcade subscription on iOS) show how this title is better suited for phones and tablets.
Once the Lego charm expires, you’re left with a console game that requires a lot more of a financial investment than free-to-play titles that have significantly more content. And as such, Lego Brawls is stuck in a strange space where it can’t quite reach its intended audience. It either needed to be fleshed out further into a fully priced multiplayer game with more modes and depth or retrofitted into a free-to-play title with battle passes full of themed unlocks. It’s not too late for the latter to occur in the future, and maybe a pivot (plus more branded content) will save the game’s long-term prospects, but Lego Brawls just currently isn’t a good fit for other bigger systems since the gameplay is only mildly entertaining in short chunks.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 6 equates to “Decent.” It fails to reach its full potential and is a run-of-the-mill experience.