Lego Bricktales is the sort of game that would’ve been seismic to me as a child. Lego obsessed from the moment I held my first set, I’ve nevertheless felt that Lego video games have more often than not deliberately dodged or accidentally avoided the freedom of expression and creativity that these magical little bricks allow in the real world. When a game embraces that angle, it’s often gold, as was the case for many of the classic Lego games of the nineties. In Lego Bricktales, we finally have another such game – and it’s brilliant.
Bricktales is a clever, casual, and devilishly challenging experience. It’s a low-key genre mash-up bringing together puzzle-solving curios with light adventure and exploration elements. Rather than a franchise tie-in action game where the Lego aesthetic is… well, an aesthetic, here it’s at the heart of the experience: this is a game about building.
Bricktales essentially takes place inside small dioramas, many of which are based on classic Lego themes like Pirates, Castles, and Theme Parks. Your protagonist travels through this world with a superpower: the ability to build. Your job is to travel through each of the game’s stages by building items and structures that’ll help solve puzzles and open up new areas. Along the way, you’ll also acquire a few non-building abilities and tackle some light traversal puzzles.
If you know this game’s development pedigree, the focus on brick building won’t perhaps be quite as surprising. Developer ClockStone is the same studio responsible for the Bridge Constructor series, which is honestly a genius fit for the Lego universe.
Building in Bricktales is the closest approximation to experimenting with real bricks that I’ve seen in a licensed Lego video game, though it is different in one key way: in story progression, it isn’t entirely freeform. Instead, you’ll have clear-cut goals: you might need to build a bridge, for instance, to cross a gap and reach a new area. Given the Bridge Constructor connection, a bridge is a perfect example to explain what makes this experience so wonderful. It’s also one of the earliest things you’re challenged to build – and they crop up repeatedly, in slightly different formats.
So, let’s say you need a bridge. The game will give you an appropriate selection of bricks to work with, but what you build is entirely up to you. There’s no ‘right’ answer to these puzzles - in the case of a bridge, so long as it’s structurally sound – you have to test if it’ll really stand or collapse under pressure when crossed – it’s accepted as a victory.
That’s what makes this feel like Lego. It’s also what makes this game accessible to all – difficult though some of its challenges are. Your creation can be utilitarian: ugly, and simple, and a structural behemoth. The sort of thing a kid cobbles together out of a disparate smattering of bricks. Equally, you can spend hours on a single, simple build, perfecting it. Your creation is dropped into these beautiful diorama worlds and stays there, however – which is incentive to go back, edit, and do something I never thought of in Bridge Constructor – make it nice. Why have a bridge that’s just a heavily reinforced slab? What about a truss bridge, or a beam bridge? Is a Cantilever possible in Lego form? Bricktales gleefully invites you to speculate.
I’m the sort of Lego nerd that builds a lot of customs (MOCs, as us AFOL – adult fan of Lego – nerds call ‘em), and this captures the exact feeling I have when I’m trying to create with real life bricks. When I look at my works, I’m pleased… but then I go back. I tinker. I tweak. The desire for aesthetic perfection in this blocky form is a constant companion – and when something clicks, the feeling is exhilarating. Lego Bricktales has that energy in spades. It’s wonderful.
You’re not just building bridges, of course. In fact, you’ll be building a huge variety of stuff – all of it with its own requirements you must satisfy to progress. A Helicopter needs to have its propeller in the right place and be well balanced, for instance, or it’ll tip over as it takes off. Sometimes you’ll build vehicles, other times it'll be pathways to help those vehicles traverse the world. I could give more specific examples, but I’m keen not to: part of the joy of the game is discovering what you’ll be asked to build next.
All of this is only really soured by one key issue: fiddly controls. I started out playing Bricktales on the Steam Deck (where it runs great, by the way), but I found building with a controller to be a little frustrating. I switched to PC, but keyboard and mouse had similar results; a fussy camera, and bricks not slotting in exactly where you want them easily enough. The fine controls are there, so you can always get the desired result, but sometimes things just take too long to get where you want them, as the auto-snap will make incorrect assumptions. This is especially true if you approach the build in a slightly non-linear way; the game wants you to build bottom-up, and anything else seems to confuse the auto-snap.
This is a relatively small thing, however, and over time I definitely got used to the slightly cumbersome controls the more I played. What’s more important is the breezy energy and engaging challenges of the game. Even when the controls are playing up, this is a blissful, relaxing experience, a fluffy blanket of a game ideal for wrapping up in over the colder Winter months.
Lego Bricktales is also, crucially, more like those experimental licensed Lego games of the nineties. That this game comes so soon after I declared that I missed those games feels like this game and I were just meant to be. The fact this title is so steeped in the energy and ideas of the real life plastic bricks also makes this an utterly perfect tribute for Lego’s 90th anniversary, which took place this year.
Lego Bricktales is a breath of fresh air, and a tremendous surprise. It’s not the longest experience in the world – but I loved every minute of it, and still feel compelled to go back and improve some of my less satisfying builds. Tricky controls be damned – it’s a low-key game of the year contender.
Disclaimer: Tested on PC, including on Steam Deck. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.