Lego Horizon Adventures is not your typical Lego game

The basic elements of the Lego game have remained largely unchanged for over 20 years: smash everything into bricks and studs, collect characters by the dozen, then use those characters to jump back into levels to solve previously locked puzzles. Lego Horizon Adventures has a bit of that DNA, and the return to a fixed camera like the pre-Skywalker Saga games makes it feel like a classic Lego game from yesteryear, but after playing for 30 minutes in single-player and co-op mode, I came away thinking this is a Lego game Most cinematic yet. Instead of focusing heavily on smashing and collecting things, the focus is on Guerrilla’s story – putting that story through a kid-friendly filter.

“We were determined to make a Lego game unlike any other Lego game,” James Wendler, Guerrilla’s narrative director, told me after the hands-on session. “From a visual perspective, we wanted to make a statement in the sense that we wanted to create a playable Lego movie in terms of visual quality. But one of the things that’s really unique about it and very different from other games is that everything as you can see is made of individual bricks, each asset could theoretically be Made of physical matter, like Legos.”

Lego Horizon Adventures stands out from other Lego games in many ways, with the visuals being a clear example of this.

He’s right, of course. Traditionally, Lego games have bricks in the playable area and backgrounds designed to look more like traditional video game environments, and this difference here, combined with the gorgeous visuals, makes Lego Horizon Adventures immediately stand out when you see it.

But playing with it feels a little different than the classic Lego games, too. Sure, you can smash some of the environment to collect studs, but not as much as in other Lego games, and there doesn’t seem to be a stud counter prompting you to open certain cases like “True Adventurer.” That’s because this isn’t really a party game like Lego Batman or Lego Star Wars. It’s, Winderler says, like playing a Lego movie starring Aloy, Rost, and other Horizon Zero Dawn stars.

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And I mean Zero Dawn specifically. Lego Horizon Adventures reshapes the 2017 game in key ways to be more engaging and kid-friendly, but without completely reimagining its story. “It’s not a faithful retelling, and it’s not a parody,” explained Windeler, who said the game will take players about 7-8 hours to complete, though there are replayability elements that will be revealed later. “We wanted to make fun of the IP; we wanted to use all the self-referential humor of the Lego properties.”

“We also really wanted to make sure the game had broad appeal […] We didn’t make an entire open world game and put it here. We told a story that we felt captured some of the spirit of the original, some of the themes […] “It’s more than just an inspiration.”

Lego Horizon Adventures can be played alone, but is designed for co-op between family members or friends, either locally or online.
Lego Horizon Adventures can be played alone, but is designed for co-op between family members or friends, either locally or online.

Given that these themes originally included things like climate change and companies’ habits of taking control of a dilemma to offer a solution before things get worse, I wondered how much of the game would be devoted to these beats specifically. “We definitely pushed some of the more complex, really dark themes to the background a lot. Those ideas are in the game, but they’re very subtle,” he said. “As you know, the story is set in the present and is very much centered around the more emotional story of a girl searching for her mother who is drawn into an adventure with existential risks.”

Just as it translates the story and world into cubes and figurines, one of the coolest parts of my demo was how it turned the series’ weak point targeting system into a simpler version that less experienced players can handle more easily, especially on the smaller Nintendo Switch consoles. “A lot of thought went into it,” Wendler revealed.

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“But we also wanted to make sure we kept the kind of tactical thinking and combat that fans of the series might be familiar with as well. So, even though the control schemes are very simple, you’ll get to know the mechanics, like [focusing] At the point of weakness, but there is also something like complexity; There’s a difficulty slider, and if you move it up there’s a need to really get involved at a tactical level.”

In practice, this involves holding down the aim button on parts of the machine where they glow a vibrant yellow, just like in the traditional Horizon games, and then releasing it to hit the robot monster in that spot. Players can also sneak through tall grass and even start forest fires that spread across the brick-strewn landscape, causing mayhem and even sometimes solving environmental puzzles.

Mother's Heart is a customizable hub that you'll return to, perhaps to build things like hot dog carts or roller coasters.Mother's Heart is a customizable hub that you'll return to, perhaps to build things like hot dog carts or roller coasters.
Mother’s Heart is a customizable hub that you’ll return to, perhaps to build things like hot dog carts or roller coasters.

And of course, in two-player co-op, all of these elements can be doubled, creating a kid-friendly combat system that still feels more like an action-adventure game rather than a traditional, button-mashing Lego game. Brave walking. In short, Winderler described Lego Horizon Adventures’ combat systems as “frenetic.”

With Lego Horizon Adventures reimagining the story, whether it’s for a visual gag or just to make it a better family gaming experience, I asked if Guerrilla was shying away from the task of taking a character like Aloy, who the studio has always praised, and turning her into almost a caricature of herself. But Wendler sees no conflict there.

“We have single-player games, you know,” he said. “We remain very protective of the characters in this law; [but] Everyone involved wanted to enjoy it. There are still some painful moments in the story. As if we don’t completely skip the emotions of the original story. But it is certainly intended to bring happiness to people.”

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Lego Horizon Adventures is coming to PS5, PC, and — yes — Nintendo Switch this holiday season.

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