LEGO Builder’s Journey Review – PlayStation 5

I love LEGO.  I grew up with the plastic bricks, I own every single LEGO game, and I’ve seen every episode of LEGO Masters, so I was pretty excited when I heard about LEGO Builder’s Journey.  Created by Light Brick Studio, this new puzzle game sounded like a great idea, solving puzzles using LEGO pieces.  After all, every other LEGO game I had played up to this point was asking me to smash and destroy environments to collect bricks.

Despite a few camera and control issues, I really enjoyed LEGO Builder’s Journey when it released on PC last summer.  I’m sure part of my infatuation had to do with the RTX support for ray-traced graphics, which brought these plastic pieces to life unlike any LEGO game before it, and now the game has made its way to the PS5 with most of those visual flairs intact.  Some sacrifices had to be made on the console such as a native 1662p for 60fps mode, while activating ray-tracing knocks things down to 30fps; admittedly, not a big deal on a game such as this where you are playing mostly static screens with a bit of camera rotation available as needed.  Rather than the typical Performance/Quality choice we often see in PS5 video options, now we only get a toggle for raytracing to determine FPS, resolution, and quality.  While a powerful PC was able to render this game at native 4K with raytracing, the PS5 still manages to do an admirable job of upscaling to that same resolution even if the ray-tracing quality is only able to match the “medium” settings of the PC.A few of the issues I had on PC are still lingering on the PS5; namely a camera system that will always snap back to a default isometric view of the scene.  In a 3D game such as this, being able to see the level from any angle is important, and I really want a totally manual camera, at least during the build process.  And the control issues are also back.  I found the PC version unplayable with an Xbox controller and resorted to mouse input for my time on the PC.  Now that the game demands a gamepad, I was hoping the developers had sorted this out.  Sadly, only a few levels into the game, the same issues arose, and I was unable to precisely pick-up and place pieces reliably.  This leads to increasing frustration as more pieces are added into the mix and certain timing puzzles come into play that require fast and accurate placement of the stepping pieces that allow character movement.  I’m also not a fan of using the same button for multiple actions such as using X to pick-up, rotate, and snap pieces based on tapping or holding the button.

If you are able to overcome these visual and control issues, then you are likely to enjoy your time with LEGO Builder’s Journey.  Compared to the more action-oriented LEGO adventures out there, this one comes off as slightly boring with puzzles that were overly simplistic or not even puzzles.  The game provides you with all the pieces needed to build whatever object or bridge you need to get from A to B and advance to the next scene.  It was really weird to see these lovingly crafted dioramas swept away after only one or two clicks on some of the easier puzzles; the time of their creation versus their appearance onscreen vastly different.

There appears to be a story being told in LEGO Builder’s Journey, but I’m still a bit unclear on what it is.  Presented as a silent movie of sorts we have what I assume to be a father and son on a camping trip, and once they return home dad keeps getting called into work at the nearby LEGO factory, meanwhile the son builds a LEGO robot in the basement then gets stuck in the factory so dad has to rescue him but then the son and his robot have to rescue dad…it’s all very confusing and quite unnecessary to the enjoyment of the game, which is all about solving a few dozen puzzles.

The basic premise of the game quickly became boring about ten levels in and only started to get interesting when the game introduced new concepts like playing in the dark having to position a LEGO spotlight in certain positions and angles to reveal the level.  Much later in the game there are some cool puzzles involving creating your own LEGO pieces using a machine to duplicate whatever piece you have on a scanner.  And my favorite puzzles were at the very end where your robot would only dispense single stud pieces and you had to place them on the level adjacently to create bigger and more useful pieces.

Despite the charming visuals, soothing music, and almost Zen-like approach to gameplay I was always taken out of any joyous moment with the controls and my inability to accurately place pieces.  There were a couple of puzzles that required very fast timing and precise LEGO placement to get your character across muddy sinkholes or moving machine parts.  These would have been great if I hadn’t died so many times due to poor controls.  Even moving your character can become quite tedious since you have to place these orange stepping bricks one after the other to move him along.  On one level I manufactured a dozen of these bricks and had the entire path lain out but the character only moves after placing the piece, so I literally had to pick up and reattach each piece to move him forward.  There are a few levels where your character is wearing skates and you get to build a train track-like path from start to finish out of smooth tiles then watch him skate to the end.

LEGO Builder’s Journey is equal parts pain and pleasure.  I love seeing how realistic LEGO blocks can look in a game and I hope to see this level of quality in future LEGO action games, but for me this was more of a proof of concept tech demo.  You can finish the game in 3-5 hours, and thanks to the new Creative Mode you now have reason to stick around after the story.  I even mentioned in my PC review that this game was in desperate need of a sandbox mode, and somebody must have heard me.

The new Creative Mode allows you to construct your own dioramas using a collection of themed scenes as a base then offers you a curated selection of bricks that fit with those themes.  This mode even assists you by automatically “suggesting” your next piece based on your last, or you can just dive into the toy box for whatever piece you want, and the handy paint tool lets you recolor the scene to create the perfect masterpiece.  Naturally, the game offers a fun photo mode where you can adjust lighting and camera angles to snap and share images of your creations.  While not exactly as freeform as dumping a few thousand bricks on the carpet and going wild, this Creative Mode is just the breath of fresh air LEGO Builder’s Journey needed.

Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with this game that can’t be fixed in a future patch or update, but if they haven’t done it yet then I doubt they will.   $20 for a few hours of awkwardly snapping LEGO pieces into environments somebody else had all the fun making seems like a bad idea.  The new Creative Mode is certainly a step in the right direction as far as content is concerned, but when the game is fundamentally flawed at the control and camera level I am cautious to make a recommendation. Even diehard LEGO enthusiasts such as myself might want to wait for a sale because LEGO Builder’s Journey still seems to be a better raytracing tech demo than an actual game.

You can check out the first half-hour of the game in our PS5 First Look video to see the graphics, hear the music, and watch me struggle with snapping pieces together fast enough to get out of a mud pit.

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