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Lego Horizon Adventures is a perfect match - a breezy, light-hearted approach the series has perhaps always needed

Hands-on with the bold PlayStation experiment also coming to Nintendo Switch.

Lego Horizon Adventures screenshot showing Aloy posing with a spear.
Image credit: PlayStation

While chatting with Guerilla's narrative director James Windeler shortly after my time with Lego Horizon Adventures, I was reminded that Horizon Zero Dawn's signature robo-dino creatures have already had ties to Lego for some time. "The story goes that we prototyped the first machines in Horizon Zero Dawn from Duplo," he said, "so it's always been a part of the studio."

The reality of course is that the relationship between Horizon and Lego probably began and ended there, for a while, but it's a nice anecdote - and maybe explains just a little of why these two series feel like such a natural fit. Lego Horizon Adventures, unlike the usual, ever-enjoyable Lego games, carries over a concentrated version of the main series' mechanics as well as the set dressing and core of its story. Combined with a surprisingly luxurious graphical spin on its game world, it all feels like a very new take on the Lego game formula. This is less Lego Horizon and more of a reimagined family Horizon game, crossed with something akin to a playable Lego Movie.

There are two reasons for that, the first and most immediately obvious being the change in how Lego Horizon Adventures' world has been made. This is a video game where every single asset is made out of Lego bricks, from the enemy creatures down to the very floor tiles, even the self-propagating fire is made of little licks of Lego flame, washing across waving strands of Lego long grass.

Lego Horizon Adventures reveal trailer.Watch on YouTube

It's brilliant in action, with a subtly brilliant stop-motion effect to movement pulling it all together. It's also a reminder in itself of how prominent a part visual fidelity plays in the Horizon games' identity. These have always been games where the sheer wow factor of graphical detail on a big, shiny dinosaur and its reams of particle effects, or the little freckles across Aloy's nose, is almost the purpose of the game in itself. In the main Guerilla games that can at times leave them feeling just the tiniest bit shallow, almost masking the lack of major invention to its fairly typical light-touch, blockbuster RPG staples.

Here, it plays in Lego Horizon's favour. I'm not sure about you, but I very much did not go into my first experience with this game in expectation of a showcase in fidelity. More than that however, its visuals tie in far more directly and cohesively to what the game itself is trying to achieve. That clever fire, for instance, is used for solving simple environmental puzzles, in ways we've seen elsewhere of course, but feel perfectly pitched for the audience here: shoot your bow through a campfire to set some grass alight, then reposition to shoot through that fire - or have your drop-in co-op partner do it for you - to eventually clear something flammable that was blocking your path.

Simplicity here is also just far more obviously a strength: Lego Horizon Adventures is explicitly a family game. Windeler describes trying to find the balance between the different "levels" to its humour: "there's elements of slapstick and silliness, banana costumes - and then there's more self-referential comedy that's recognisable from the movies, where we're poking fun at the franchise, we're poking fun at kind of storytelling conventions in general - and video game conventions as well."

Lego Horizon Adventures screenshot showing a large robot dinosaur.
Lego Horizon Adventures screenshot showing Aloy outside a longhouse in the snow.
Image credit: PlayStation

The gameplay, at least in the brief time I had with it, operates in much the same, two-tiered way. A regular game-player will find it a pleasant breeze, while youngsters will likely see it as the perfect challenge - or the perfect challenge to have a parent or older sibling guide them through as they go. Co-op is, nicely, a drop-in-drop-out experience, be that locally on the sofa or remotely online. "I feel like there's a huge demand for co-op," Windeler said, "gamers have grown up, they want to play games with their kids."

The natural observation here of course is that Lego Horizon Adventures is alsoquite an explicit attempt to get new players into the Horizon series - and no doubt by extension of that, into the PlayStation ecosystem itself.

"I can't comment on the broader Sony strategy," Windeler evades, when I asked him about that, but explains that the team's focus was to try to "broaden the appeal and make it approachable." That of course informs the decision to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch, a surprise detail from its unveiling last week. "The Switch was kind of perfect for that. The control scheme is simple, it's designed to be played on a Nintendo Joy-Con, and of course they have a very family-friendly audience, so it's just a really good fit."

The Switch, Windeler continued, "is absolutely there to help us bring in and get that younger audience and we're so excited about that - but the game itself does also appeal to Horizon fans who expect a certain amount of tactical combat experience, so that's in there as well."

Lego Horizon Adventures screenshot showing a glowing red robot dinosaur in a cave.
Lego Horizon Adventures screenshot showing a buildable Lego construction amongst a small village.
Image credit: PlayStation

Again, the running theme is a natural fit. You could even draw connecting lines between the dots of Windeler's writing career - before Guerilla he was at Telltale, and before that a screenwriter, and now briefly "contributing on the Guerilla side of things to the Netflix show" Guerilla announced for Horizon back in 2022 - and the strong Lego Movie vibes that come from Lego Horizon Adventure's aforementioned moments of quippy, fourth wall-breaking meta commentary.

A more realistic connection, though, comes down to the actual gameplay itself. As you sneak through long grass, click your Focus to highlight robo-weak-spots for picking off with your bow, rappel down ziplines, scrabble up yellow ledges towards chests, and build out your little hub towns for a range of fun little customisation options for villagers and player characters alike - and above all, lob some good old explosive barrels at hapless cultists - it all starts to become brilliantly clear.

Horizon was always the most approachable, broad appeal take on a triple-A action-adventure game. At times, at least for me, that could be somewhat to its detriment, the mechanical and thematic simplicity failing to match the visual sophistication of its world. Distil that down to a concentrated core though, as Lego Horizon Adventures does here, and you get the opposite, to lovely effect: a game and its world that make for a perfect match.

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