Everyone knows the Traveller’s Tales Lego game series — those wacky 3D platformers starring every character in pop culture history. The zany humor and colorful action has kept players amused since 2005. Light Brick Studio felt there was room for a different approach, however, and developed Lego Builder’s Journey: a calm, contemplative take on the brick-building toy franchise. Originally an Apple Arcade exclusive, the Nintendo Switch port of Lego Builder’s Journey brings HD Rumble, a bunch of new levels, and, most importantly, a tiny moment of zen.
Lego Builder’s Journey is about a father and son bonding over building. It’s also about the importance of balancing work and play in life. The game presents you with a series of diorama-based puzzles that you solve by using the bricks that are on hand to let father and son reconnect on the stage. Sometimes you’ll even be able to take apart pieces of the stage to advance. In fact, your character won’t be able to move at all unless you place a specific brick in front of him first, which is an interesting gimmick.
A strong foundation
I absolutely adored this game. I loved building with Lego bricks as a kid, and this brought back a lot of those memories. However, it reminded me of the big blue bucket of basic bricks, as opposed to the themed sets. The characters are represented by narrow stacks of bricks instead of minifigs, and everything in the world is made of non-specific pieces.
Solving puzzles brings a sense of joy from beginning to end. I found myself invested in the fate of the young builder, as well as his father. The look of the world is a masterpiece of design, and the soundtrack is likewise welcoming, with quite a lot of nature sounds for a game about plastic. The HD Rumble is a surprisingly nice touch, adding a bit of tactile depth. The developers set out to capture the joy of playing with Lego, and I think they did a great job of it… mostly.
Short end of the brick
As a minor nitpick, I didn’t think either the traditional control style or touch controls worked particularly well in Lego Builder’s Journey on Switch. There are many times where your piece hovers at a level where you don’t want it, or it doesn’t slot in where you think it will, which is slightly annoying in normal stages and frustrating in timed challenges. There’s also no mouse support.
However, the game’s biggest issue is its length. Frankly, the core experience is far too short. It takes about an hour or so to finish from beginning to end. As part of a subscription service it’s fine, but when selling it as a standalone title, the price has to be considered. At $19.99, I’m not sure it’s worth it, which is a shame because it’s such a good gaming experience. However, there are also new levels that are being made available as the game officially launches today, and the developers assured me that these new levels double the game’s length. That’s still quite short for the cost.
Building an experience with Lego Builder’s Journey
All that said, I’m not docking points for the length-to-price ratio. I maintain that Lego Builder’s Journey is a fantastic title on Nintendo Switch. Between the look and the feel, this game comes as close to capturing the joy of playing with Lego as you can get without a full VR rig. It also weaves a compelling story through gameplay and motion, all without dialogue. I highly recommend playing it if you can, even if that means waiting for a sale.
A review code for Lego Builder’s Journey was provided by the publisher.