Lego Builder’s Journey was already a neat surprise when it hit Apple Arcade. Now bolstered by the power of some hugely impressive ray-tracing, it’s become an essential bit of zen amidst lockdown.
There are a lot of LEGO games out there, and they’re all great. But Lego Builder’s Journey is a completely different adventure, one with no text, none of the traditional LEGO gaming humour, and no tie-ins anywhere to be seen.
It’s fundamentally a simple puzzler between what looks like a LEGO parent and their little kid. (That’s how it starts out, anyway.) The LEGO parent crosses to one part of the map, and it’s your job to lay bricks in the correct order so they can hop on over safely.
The benefit of playing on PC is that you can at least use the mouse to direct blocks a little more precisely than with, say, your finger. Being able to see the action on a larger screen helps too, although Lego Builder’s Journey isn’t a difficult puzzler by any stretch of the imagination. As Luke noted, the experience is an exceedingly chill one, and the PC version comes with more levels than the mobile version. But what’s sweet about the experience is how it slowly grows over time. Early levels are straightforward, almost far too much so. Later ones offer you more variety in how you tackle proceedings, as any good Lego game should.
The RTX effects — especially if you’ve got access to a 4K monitor, or hardware that can suitably push all the various settings up — are a real treat. The game doesn’t scale down to 1080p particularly well, mind you, so if you’ve got the option, crank everything. You don’t need 240 FPS for a block builder like Lego’s Journey.
That said, the controls do take a little bit of getting used to. It’s not common on PC to use left-click for multiple actions depending on whether the button’s held or not. On PC, you pick up a block by left-clicking, and then place the block by holding down the left button. Left-clicking when a block is held rotates a block, while holding right click rotates the isometric diorama around to a small degree. It would have been a bit nicer to, say, have middle mouse for the camera and the right-click for block rotations.
You can’t rebind buttons, but for a game like this it’s not a criminal exclusion. It’s also really impressive how Lego‘s in-built devs, Light Brick Studio, has found a way to tell their own bits of story wordlessly. There’s a moment early on when you’re “playing” with your Dad, only for them to be called away by their work to complete some patently monotonous duties. It’s all completely unsaid, but the way the faceless Lego characters just solemnly bow — backed up with an appropriate soft soundtrack as you play with blocks alone — is magical.
Lego Builder’s Journey is a short game — you’ll finish it within a couple of hours if you’re good at puzzlers. But it’s a great game to share with family or friends, and especially children. I hope it gets more levels added on later, but if it doesn’t, I’d still recommend picking it up at some point. If $30 is too much now, grab it on sale later. It’s a wonderful technical showcase if you’ve got the hardware, and it’s a great spin on what a modern Lego game can be.
And if you’re stuck in this lockdown that is seemingly going on for another few weeks, it’s a sweet, adorable bit of nostalgic escapism. The best of Lego always strikes at the imagination, and Lego Builder’s Journey leaves me wondering what Light Brick Studio could do next.
Lego Builder’s Journey is out now on PC, iOS and Nintendo Switch, although the ray-traced effects are (obviously) only available on PC.