Everyone knows it's tough to make a film version of a video game, but I'd venture it's also pretty difficult the other way around. You have to take a 90-minute movie with a three-act plot and stretch it into a 20-hour game without too much filler? Rather you than me. I remember Capcom's Aladdin on the SNES - designed by a pre-Resident Evil Shinji Mikami - and its lengthy platforming sections set within Genie's lamp that I'm pretty certain do not occur at any point within Disney canon. And if Mikami had enjoyed making that, I suspect, we would never have got Dino Crisis.
The Lego Movie 2 Video Game has a couple of answers to all that. Firstly, that each of the film's locations is its own hub world - the Genie's lamp of modern movie tie-ins. Starting in the Mad Max-inspired Apocalypseburg, you'll follow the film's story through each particular planet locale then be given free reign to explore much further, pick up side-quests spun off jokes from the movie script, mine Lego bricks for resources and hunt down collectibles. I got to go hands-on with this at an event this week, but if you've played Lego Dimensions - where each pack unlocked its own little hub bubble - you'll know pretty well how it all works.
Like the bricks themselves, Lego video games have long used an amalgam of ideas laid down in slightly different configurations before - and so it is with The Lego Movie 2 Video Game's other big feature, a sandbox style area to play around with and customise as you please. If it sounds inspired by TT Games' Minecraft-alike Lego Worlds, then it is - although you won't be painstakingly placing down items brick by brick.
Without spoiling any of the movie's plot, you'll be given a hub of your own to gradually populate with buildings, characters and props found throughout the story. How you arrange and decorate this space is up to you, but you'll also find an in-game shop there with more complicated builds to slot in, and redeem the now randomised character and item tokens you find hidden within levels. The area appears to offer a good deal of potential - robust enough to act as a bridge to Lego Worlds' more complicated building, perhaps - although I wasn't able to see how far you could take the area after completing the main game.
It's only by playing the campaign and exploring hub worlds that you'll be able to scan objects to unlock as blueprints. You can scan props from within levels - street lights, dust bins, hot dog stands and the like - but there are also entire Lego sets to unlock and plonk down, a garage of vehicles, and gadgets you'll need to craft to access hard-to-reach collectibles. And as well as knowing how to build the thing, you'll also need the bricks to do it. This means mining resources, or blocks of particular colours, an idea played with before back in the great Lego Hobbit, to then craft puzzle-solving items in the campaign or blueprints in your sandbox.
The number of characters, vehicles, builds, gadgets, and abilities to unlock in the game looks suitably enormous, while its sandbox area feels like it'll absorb plenty of play time. And that's all on top of the campaign, of course, which retells the story of the film and ropes in some of its voice cast. While Chris Pratt everyman Emmet is the star of the film, the video game tweaks the narrative a little to keep him united with Wildstyle throughout, preserving the Lego game series' long-running family-friendly co-op support. Further characters are unlocked quickly, and are now all customisable on the fly.
Just as the second Lego film deals with older, more complicated versions of its human characters, its video game counterpart feels a more advanced take on its predecessor's fairly straightforward origins. I'm yet to see some of the game's later levels, but with its more open world and creative gameplay, this latest TT Games effort already feels like it's learnt the right lessons from previous entries in the series which turned a single film into a game and came up a little short. Now, where's my Dino Crisis movie?