distinguishes itself from other toys-to-life games with its lack of restraints on how its characters interact with each other. No matter what intellectual property they hail from–Lord of the Rings, , Back to the Future, Batman, and so on–characters and vehicles can be used anywhere and everywhere in Dimensions. It might sound relatively insignificant, but it’s hard to overstate how key this is to the game’s charm, as well as how it clashes to some degree with some gameplay limitations.
A presentation of the game at E3 today showed off a number of the game’s IPs all intermingling. A cutscene showed Gandalf’s famous Balrog bridge scene, only for things to turn out a bit differently when Batman saves him from falling to his doom. Afterward, those two and The Lego Movie‘s Wyldstyle wandered through Wizard of Oz, Portal, and Scooby Doo environments, and we also got to briefly see Scooby, Marty McFly, and even Homer Simpson. Developer Traveller’s Tales is insistent that there are no limitations on where these IPs can mix, something that was demonstrated when Wyldstyle and Scooby each took the Batmobile for a spin.
Each character has his or her own power that can be used to deal with certain obstacles, like Gandalf using magic to rebuild something and Batman latching on to an object with a grappling gun. You can also further interact with the world not by using your controller, but by physically interacting with your Lego game figures. Moving them around the game’s physical portal can have different effects, and you can also follow in-game instructions to upgrade and modify vehicles by attaching and moving Lego pieces on the toys themselves.
Most notable among the locations we got to see was Aperture Science. It was, at least initially, the most delightful part of the demo. GLaDOS and Gandalf had an exchange, cake was mentioned (without being grating–perhaps the game’s greatest accomplishment), and it was all very endearing.
You interact with the game using the physical game portal by moving figures from one area of it to another. Depending upon what power you have equipped in-game, this does different things, such as allowing the in-game character to be sent through an in-game portal. This lets you reach otherwise inaccessible areas and cues up some humorous comments from a befuddled GLaDOS.
There are also Portal-style portals that play a role in navigating these environments, and Chell was shown as a playable character, Portal gun in hand. Intriguing as this was at first blush, when we saw Chell use it, the options appeared to be extremely limited. There looked to be very little freedom with how it’s used–as the player’s cursor moved across the screen, there were a scant few highlighted spots where a portal could be open. While there are limitations on where portals can be opened in the proper Portal games, what was shown in Dimensions made it seem as if there might be less room for creative solutions to puzzles.
This is perhaps to be expected, given Dimensions is a family-friendly Lego game (and there’s now if you want a true Lego sandbox). This boils down to playing like Traveller’s Tales’ other Lego action games, and offering the same amount of control as in a Portal game wouldn’t make sense here. But this glimpse of what could be an exciting element does make me worry to some degree that there might not be as many opportunities to put the Portal gun and other in-game tools to use as I’d like. It’s entirely possible this particular area wasn’t indicative of what other areas have in store, and there might very well be more freedom elsewhere. Even if that doesn’t prove to be the case, I still find myself–despite being outside its target demographic as an adult with no children–eager to get my hands on Dimensions, which is the first time I’ve ever been able to say that about a toys-to-life game.