Lego has always had this innate ability to capture the magic of your childhood. The bright colours and creative builds help, but there's also this tone, both blisteringly sincere and incredibly goofy, which gives the toy a unique charm. Though Lego 2K Drive has this magic in spades, a poor in-game economy and technical hiccups hold it back from being as good as it can be.
Lego 2K Drive is the kind of game I was desperate for as a kid. Though racing games took a while to fully click with my adolescent brain, the more arcadey open-world titles like Burnout Paradise captured my imagination and have never fully let it go.
Long story short
Set in Bricklandia, a world made up of many Lego regions, the game starts off by establishing you as a hopeful Minifigure who wants to make their way up the ranks and become a legendary driver. Your path to achieving this status will see you compete in races, discover secrets, and show off how fast you can drive. As a result, the plot is incredibly basic, but, to be honest, it never really feels like it would benefit from being any more complex.
Ultimately, the main objective of the game’s story is to explore the massive Lego world on offer. You’re left free to roam within a few short minutes of loading in and this works well in its favour. As a player, you are given a level of agency that is refreshing. Though the first hour or so does suffer from a stop-start tempo until everything is explained, the tutorial doesn't overstay its welcome for the most part.
As I alluded to, our goal in the game is to rise through the ranks as a racer, with your progression being rewarded via the unlocking of new themed sections of the world to explore. You do this by finishing central tagged races in each biome, complete with unique challenges and ways of exploring the world. Where the more spooky world has traps and spiders jumping out at you, the more tropical world has water sections and deserts, making for some interesting variety.
For the most part, the mechanics of racing feel great. As you negotiate each of the main types of terrain making up the routes of races your car will change on the fly to suit them as you approach. For example, if you sense yourself hitting the water, your car automatically turns into a boat. If you are approaching a harsh desert, a car with four-wheel drive is enabled.
This very arcadey mechanic makes races feel fast and smooth - with wins really relying on your ability to predict your opponent's moves, rather than concentrating on your own. There's a noticeable skill ceiling to the game, but it’s also incredibly approachable, a great combination for a Lego game. For example, it's the type of game I could hand to my little brother and know he’ll still have a good time with it.
Unfortunately, in order to level the playing field, it can occasionally employ some aggressive rubber banding. Essentially, if you find yourself especially ahead or behind in any given race, the game equalises the distance, shooting enemies ahead or slowing them down in a jarring fashion. This is a problem that affects a lot of games that strive to be very approachable.
One size fits all
Wins feel unsatisfying and losses often feel unearned in the more egregious examples of rubber banding. Fortunately, when races land in the Goldilocks zone between the two extremes, they’re mostly pretty great. Many of the tracks are well-designed and interesting, with Mario Kart-style attack mechanics providing an arsenal of weapons to take down opponents with.
There are some noticeably poorer tracks with poor collision mechanics, strange AI, and unsatisfying loops, but these are the exception, not the rule. This being said, the side objectives and special races are my favourite part of the game. Littered around the map, these challenge you to make extreme jumps, hit targets in a time frame or complete some other optional objective.
Ultimately, the game's races are just a tool to get you to explore the map and the many mini-quests tend to do this better in more interesting ways. It also helps that Lego 2K Drive looks fantastic while you are driving around.
For the aesthetic
Not everything in the world of Lego 2K Drive is made out of Lego bricks. Many landmarks and roads are made from a hybrid fusion of realistic material and Lego, making you feel like you’ve placed bricks on your bedroom carpet or outside the house. The aesthetic this creates is charming and works to add to the very homely feel of the game.
As well as this, the music and sound design are decent, feeling heavy when needed but also quieter in the less tense parts. It strikes a balance that works well without feeling overbearing. Unfortunately, the game does slow to a little bit of a halt as you get on, with races feeling samey and many of the activities repeating.
A few bricks shy
Now we get to Lego 2K drive’s microtransaction system, which regularly feels annoyingly grindy. Within just a few minutes of loading in, you’re encouraged to visit Unkie's Emporium, the Lego 2K Drive store. Here, you can spend currency earned from races to unlock new cars and racers. Brickbux are the currency earned in-game and these trickle in incredibly slowly. Some races may give you a couple of hundred at a time, but the rarer cars can cost you all the way up to 10,000 Brickbux.
This means you can play through the entire game and only end up with enough currency to buy one car. If you don't like this option, you can buy coins with real money, which can then be converted into Brickbux. This means you could play the game for 15 hours to get a car or just spend 5 to get it right now.
These cars have stats and unique hitboxes, giving you a tangible advantage when playing the game, meaning the microtransactions extend beyond optional cosmetics. Given that Lego 2K Drive is largely a game targeted at kids, the implications of this kind of monetisation scheme are worrying at best.
Sadly, there's a duality to Lego 2K Drive that leaves it feeling both overwhelmingly sincere and incredibly cynical - a huge divide between the predatory way games keep you hooked and the natural instinct to lose your Friday nights to it. Lego 2K Drive offers both the best and the worst Lego has to offer.
A copy of Lego 2K Drive was provided by the publisher.