I’ve had my eye on Lego Bricktales since it was initially revealed. While other Lego games have partially incorporated Lego mechanics, the promise of a game that let me fully realize my digital Lego-building skills was beyond enticing. In fact, it seemed like my dream Lego game (though I still adore Lego Star Wars). My expectations were admittedly very steep, so I’m ecstatic that it mostly lived up to my own hype.
Lego Bricktales emphasizes the creative freedom that Lego allows to an extreme degree. Though Bridge Constructor developer ClockStone plays things a bit close to its roots with this title, it still manages to offer a game that makes clever use of Danish plastic in its puzzles, designs and environments. While I occasionally found myself growing weary of building bridges (or bridge-like structures) with vague directions and requirements, solving puzzles and exploring the gorgeously-detailed environments in the overworld bridged the gaps left by repetitive builds.
Bricktales sees you — a nameless, helpful Lego Minifigure — stumble upon your mad scientist uncle’s disheveled lab. You and a robot companion agree to help him rebuild and save his run-down amusement park from foreclosure by harvesting the energy of pure happiness. The story’s about as goofy as you’d expect, and the writing steps up to the occasion with enough charm and occasional witty pop culture references to keep you from mashing through the dialogue. Along the journey, Lego Bricktales carries players through five different environments consisting of jungles, deserts, medieval structures, a city, and the Caribbean. All the while, you solve people’s problems with the magical power of building with Legos. While every build is situationally different, a majority of the building-focused puzzles generally require you to build some form of bridge or staircase. Each one requires different paths and heights and provides different challenges but I did find myself disappointed every time another bridge popped up. There’s nothing inherently wrong with ClockStone sticking to what it knows, but I really would’ve liked to see more build diversity with a property whose potential is so open-ended.
Bricktales isn’t all building bridges, though. On top of the standard fare, players will also construct cars, mini-helicopters, perches for birds, statues, sandcastles and plenty of other fun stuff I won’t spoil. Bricktales really begins to shine brightest when it starts embracing these other goals. Some are hyper-specific builds that require some laser-precise plastic wizardry, but others let you run wild with the prompt. Unfortunately, the more specific prompts tend to give too little and require too much, so much so that more complex builds can even get frustrating. For example, later on in the game, you’re presented with a prompt to build a pier for someone to fish off of. You’re required to leave a path that allows you to walk to the end of said pier, but doesn’t say anything else. The game’s rules dictate that a walkable path is two units wide, but I found the game didn’t accept a path I’d made that fit those rules. It took lots of random-seeming trial and error until I had something that was acceptable, but it wasn’t very different from what I’d been already doing.
Despite these annoyances and the persistence of repetitive builds, I always enjoyed myself, and was left doubly impressed by ClockStone’s ability to seamlessly blend hyper-realistic physics with Legos. Whether it was balancing a helicopter, or ensuring a car functioned properly, each detail is satisfyingly accounted for in the final version of a puzzle.
Bricktales’ attention to detail and presentation is impressively consistent on every level, and well-served by contemporary hardware; I’m glad I played it on a nice PC. With each environment more gorgeously rendered than the last, Bricktales is a feast for the eyes and easily one of the best-looking games I’ve played in a long time. Even compared to this year’s stunning Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, the scale and detail on display in each level are astonishing. Everything — and I mean everything — aside from the game’s user interface, menus, and text bubbles is made out of Legos. From the bedrock to the birds in the trees, each element and piece, even particles left by explosions or light sources, are made out of the bright little bricks. The environments aren’t just detailed either, they’re deeply creative. Ripples in the sand could easily be illustrated by putting a texture on a piece of lego, but instead, they’re displayed using a well-placed curved brick. It’s the absolute smallest detail that’s hard to describe without showing a complete picture, but a great illustration of how Legos are used to their fullest extent in Bricktales’ environments.
Underneath these environments are layers of secrets, well-devised puzzles, caves, and shops where you can unlock new outfits. There are even smaller puzzle-based dungeons reminiscent of a Zelda game that make use of unlockable abilities, which allow for some fun backtracking if you want to nab every collectible in the game, too. None of the overworld’s puzzles are brain-busters, but they do provide some pleasant, palatable challenges in-between building puzzles.
A lot of other reviews I’ve read noted that Bricktales’ biggest issue was its controls, citing using a controller as a specific pain point. I dabbled with both a gamepad and keyboard and mouse before settling on sacrificing the minuscule improvement in precision that a mouse brings for playing on my couch. In the end, it didn’t make much of a difference because the unfortunate truth behind Bricktales’ — and plenty of other Lego games and digital Lego-building tools’ — imprecision is that nothing will be as intuitive as holding the pieces in your hand. Sure, it might be easier to have each piece neatly laid out by category, color and shape, but chances are that your eyes and hands will grab them faster out of a pile and snap them together more easily than filtering the process digitally.
That is, of course, until you enter the 3D space yourself. I know it’s an extremely unrealistic ask, but nearly every problem with Bricktales’ controls would be solved if this were a VR game. Especially now that hand tracking and AR technology have come far enough that you could easily just play the game with your hands. It’s not fair to judge the game for something like this, especially since this is a problem that’s been around for years, but I do think VR or AR could provide at least a partial solution to the issue of building Legos in a digital space.
Lego Bricktales’ sumptuous environments and largely clever puzzles shine despite its occasionally safe, repetitive design and difficult controls, though. This isn’t just the ideal game for anyone looking to get their Lego fix, but for anyone who loves a good puzzle game. Its mind-tickling puzzles and cute writing serve as icing on the cake for what’s already one of the most memorable and creative uses for Legos in a videogame period. I only hope ClockStone has the opportunity to make more games like Bricktales.
Lego Bricktales was developed by ClockStone Studio and published by Thunderful Games. Our review is based on the PC version. It’s also available for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Charlie Wacholz is a freelance writer and college student. When he’s not playing the latest and greatest indie games, competing in Smash tournaments or working on a new cocktail recipe, you can find him on Twitter at @chas_mke.