No joke, one of the Game of the Year contenders in 2023 could be a LEGO game. Seriously.
After years of TT Games churning out (admittedly beloved) but somewhat cookie-cutter LEGO games that assimilated various popular franchises, the latest LEGO release could, in fact, be one of the best things you'll play all year.
Surprisingly, it's not TT in charge this time, but Visual Concepts, who many will know better from their years of making WWE 2K and NBA 2K games. Unsurprisingly then, that's why it's called LEGO 2K Drive.
So what is it? Well, when you boil it all down, this is a LEGO racing game that mixes the best of Forza Horizon's open-world sense of adventure with racing that's comparable to the very best of karting titles like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Better still, LEGO 2K Drive offers robust co-op multiplayer, either through online play or via local, 2-person split-screen (yes!).
Naturally, though, this is a LEGO game, so it's chock-full of silly humor that will have kids and adults giggling in equal measure. I mean, it literally begins with two TV presenters named Vicky Wheeler and Parker Car.
One of the (five) unique biome regions within Bricklandia where the game is set, is called Big Butte, which leads to several 'big butt' jokes. From the outset, you know you're in for a good time even before you start (and build) your engines.
As for the world itself, well, take a look at the trailers and images. It looks great, and each biome feels pretty big, gorgeously detailed, incredibly vibrant, and wonderfully colorful (including the spooky Hauntsborough).
As we noted, it's got that Forza Horizon sense of adventure, so the more you explore the world, you'll come across plenty of races, minigames, challenges, and collectibles to keep you entertained and help you earn XP and progress through the story.
So far, so good, but how does it feel to drive? Well, again, it's pretty incredible. Driving across the open world is entertaining enough, with plenty of variety of terrain and big jumps.
It also helps enormously that a key feature of the game is smashing into the world to earn speed boosts. Bar big buildings, pretty much anything you drive into (trees, gates, traffic lights, etc.) will burst into bricks, meaning, accessibility-wise, this would be great for kids to play as there are very few barriers to entry.
Then there's the racing itself, which is enormous fun and spread across a broad range of tracks that are both simple enough to race, but also challenging enough from twisty corners and obstacles that make it a delight to race.
As you'd expect, there's the usual slew of unique power-up abilities available too, and even when you're having a right shocker, it never feels too ridiculous to think you could still win. It is, as we suggested before, comparable to Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing; the racing genuinely does feel that good and always leaves you with that 'one more race' feeling after every chequered flag.
The other thing to note is that there are also some pretty fun mini-games that work amazingly in multiplayer. We tried a 'red light, green light' minigame based on Squid Game, which was tremendous fun, and I'm certainly intrigued enough to want to know what other goodies the full release might contain.
As if that wasn't enough, LEGO 2K Drive also contains a fairly robust customization system inside 'Unkies Garage,' which is attended to by grease monkeys, as in actual monkeys in overalls (love it).
Essentially from the garage players can either a) customize any of the cars they've unlocked throughout the game, or b) create a brand new vehicle from scratch using a huge assortment of LEGO bricks, technic pieces, stickers, and plenty more attachments.
Better still, there are genuinely oodles of choice, supposedly over 1,000 unique LEGO pieces available to use, and countless options to make your own creation feel distinct. To the right of me, someone was making a sleek batmobile-looking thing. My hideous lime green and pink joyride was something more akin to the Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe from Wacky Races, but it was mine, and I loved it.
The only real issue I found with the garage is that it could prove a little too difficult for young ones. It's not that it's bad; it's just a tad fiddly flicking through the menus, rotating pieces, and so forth. Even I found it hard to master at times. But then again, maybe that's a 'me' issue. Maybe I'm the 35-year-old Essex equivalent of Will Ferrall's obsessive character from the LEGO movie. Devoid of imagination and only able to build to precise instructions. Maybe my own kids and their friends would take to the garage like a duck to water, not agonizing over every brick and making whatever bizarre creation they dream up.
Either way, I can't wait to see what other players create at launch, and even if I might be more of a Lord Business rather than a Master Builder, at least I know the driving side of the game is absolutely cracking.
LEGO 2K Drive will be available worldwide on May 19, 2023, for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam and Epic Games Store.