LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey (Review)
LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey is the third release (following the two LEGO City titles) this year to focus on one of LEGO’s own properties, as opposed to a license such as Star Wars or Harry Potter. Based on both the line of toys and the TV show of the same name (sans the Laval’s Journey subheading), the game, which is released for Nintendo’s DS and 3DS and Sony’s PlayStation Vita, tells the story of Laval of the Lion Tribe and his attempts to ensure the continuation of the balance of power on the floating island of Chima. Laval’s Journey plays much like any of the other LEGO games released up to this point, in that players take on the role of various different characters, and smash their way through a number of levels, collecting studs and progressing through the storyline along the way. Does this handheld exclusive do enough to drag LEGO fans away from their consoles?
Laval’s Journey starts with Laval, our main hero, discovering that Cragger, previously his best friend, has discovered the secret of triple CHI, which, if activated, will provide him with unmatched power on the isle of Chima. CHI is essentially a liquid-based element that gives the animals of Chima superpowers when used, increasing their speed and strength, and allowing them to perform amazing deeds. In terms of gameplay, it is used in much the same way, making enemies easier to defeat, causing characters to run faster through levels, and allowing for certain pre-assigned actions to take place, such as Eagles flying to otherwise unreachable heights. Laval’s quest takes him through a number of Chima’s regions – including those belonging to the Eagles, the Gorillas – and the Rhinos and along the way, Laval will recruit allies to his cause, who will, in much the same way as previous LEGO games, combine to create a fairly sizeable party, each with their own particular set of powers and abilities. Eagles, for example, can glide for short distances, while Rhinos can smash their way through traps.
The main narrative of Laval’s Journey takes place through ten levels, each of which is viewed from a side-on perspective, with a certain amount of depth to explore, creating a quasi-2D/3D platformer effect. These levels are all quite varied in terms of theme and visuals, with some taking place in mountains, others in ancient cities and others still in treetops. What’s required of you in each level is quite diverse as well, even if the tasks don’t stray too much from what we’ve seen in previous LEGO games. As per usual for the LEGO series, there are plenty of reasons to revisit each level as well, because returning with characters unlocked later in the game allows for previously inaccessible areas to be reached by using the new abilities available to you. You’re well rewarded for doing so, with further extra characters, bios for tribes and locations, and a selection of cheats becoming available when you take the chance to explore a little beyond the initial offering.
As a handheld title, LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey isn’t afforded quite so much scope and range as titles such as last year’s LEGO The Lord of the Rings, mainly due to platform constraints, but this actually plays in Laval’s Journey’s favour, as the game seems to have a good deal more focus than certain previous entries in the LEGO series. While the narrative levels are still quite long, it certainly feels like there is less aimless wandering while in the world map, and less chance of losing your bearings and the idea of just what you’re supposed to be doing next. Laval’s Journey is still fairly sizeable, though, with a six to eight hour long story, depending on how familiar players are with the mechanics of LEGO games, and a 12-15 hour total for those who wish to unlock every optional item in the game.
However, Laval’s Journey still suffers from the variety of issues that seemingly plague LEGO titles. The camera, though fixed through levels, is quite unwieldy during out-of-level sequences, and there is a fair amount of texture pop-in, on textures which themselves aren’t particularly impressive. There are also mechanical issues, such as characters refusing to act out abilities assigned to them (Laval’s wall-climbing is the most common), wall-running or ledge-walking sections ending with your character falling to his death (after seemingly getting caught on invisible scenery) rather than reaching the far side successfully, and one section where getting caught behind a closing door leaves you unable to progress, requiring a level restart.
Despite its issues, LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey is a solid entry in the LEGO series of games, particularly for those looking for a title that they can take on the go. The game should appeal to both fans of the show/toy line and fans of the LEGO games, as Laval’s Journey closely matches the tone of both. Though the writing is quite obviously geared towards a younger audience, there’s a lot here for older fans of the LEGO series to enjoy, with the same addictive stud-collecting and finding of unlockables that has made the series so successful to date. Considering that the LEGO series built its name on adaptations of already well-known franchises, the fact that its most recent titles have been based on its own franchises, and have been successful in their own right, is perhaps an interesting pointer for the direction of the series. Though there is a Marvel game in the works, and due for release this year, there is also a game based on the Friends line of LEGO sets, meaning that we may yet see a further shift in the focus of LEGO’s games. Whatever the future holds for this series, LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey is an enjoyable experience aimed at both fans of Legends of Chima and LEGO games, and comes recommended to both.
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