Lego Legends of Chima: Laval's Journey - A Ryodo Review
Lego has played an important role in my life when I was a kid, and I'm very sure just about everyone has at least played with these building blocks at a certain point in their lives. When I had nothing to do, I would pour out the whole container of Lego blocks and create all sorts of crazy things, from houses to race tracks and even weapon-mounted vehicles. After that, I was introduced to Lego Bionicle, and that was where I stopped following the franchise.
To me, Lego is about using your creativity to build awesome things with the limited resources you have (hence their slogan "Just Imagine"), but when they start coming up with themes to these simple building blocks, the creativity just isn't there anymore. So when I first received Laval's Journey (let's just call this game as such), I gotta be honest I did not have any high hopes for this game the same way I do not have any high expectations from any other Lego games like Lego Batman, Lego Harry Potter, and so on. But I'll give myself and everyone else the benefit of the doubt and dive right into the review!
Lego Legends of Chima: Laval's Journey (not to be confused with China) is a sandbox-styled action-adventure game developed by TT Games for the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita. From what I understand, both versions do not have much difference other than the 3DS utilising the touch screen more.
The story, and a very simple one at that, is about the leader of the Crocodile tribe Cragger who stole the Triple CHI armour and it's up to Laval, the prince of the Lion tribe and the main protagonist of the game, to take back what has been stolen and save the world of Chima.
Yeah, that's about it. A very simple story. But what about the gameplay?
At the start of the game you control Laval as you navigate around Chima, fighting enemies, solving puzzles and collecting little Lego bolts (they're used as currency in this game to purchase unlockables). Along the way, your friends will join you in your journey to save Chima, such as Eris the Eagle, Gorzan the Gorilla, Worris the Wolf, Rhogon the Rhino and so on. In case you haven't noticed, the name initials correspond to their tribe initials. Minor and cheesy, but works nonetheless.
The controls of the character are fairly simple, but they feel a little awkward at times, partially because of the camera angle. At some important parts of the game, the camera is orientated in such a way that it becomes hard for the player to judge distances, thus ending in a missed jump or missed attacks. Trust me, these can be really annoying.
Once a new member joins your team, the controls become even more annoying. In-game, you're told that you can change your characters by pressing the Triangle button. What you're not told, however, is that the L and R buttons ALSO change the characters, and these two buttons when pressed together draws in any nearby CHI power ups or Lego bolts, so expect to see tons of "change a character before picking up items" moments.
Even though you're able to play with over 60 characters (according to the box, at least), I don't see much difference in them other than the weapons as their unique abilities are strictly tribe specific. For example, the Eagle tribe can glide in the air for a short amount of time, or the Gorilla tribe can do some brick gardening to grow plants in order to access certain routes. Because of the lack of difference between each character in the same tribe, I normally just stick with the usual party. Oh and guess what? To play as other characters, not only do you need to solve real tedious puzzles and go completely out of the way to collect the character coins, you still need to unlock them by purchasing them! Heard of the trope Double Unlock? Yeah, that's it.
I'm not gonna lie, the audio department in this game could have been a lot better. Let me point out the things that they did right first. The music is quite well done and it certainly enhances the feel and mood to the game. They may be melodramatic, yes, but it actually works here.
On the contrary, the voice acting is very cheesy. Laval sounds exaggerated in this game, and it's not a very good thing. I know that the voice actors are supposed to bring their characters to life, but in this case, Laval's voice does not seem to suit him. It's not just Laval who suffers this fate, though; almost all the other characters have to deal with the "your voice is not mine" problem too.
Another thing they could have improved is the sound effects. My biggest complaint here is the sound effects they used when you attack enemies. Instead of one that's full of impact and gives you the satisfaction of taking out enemies, you hear weak clashes of weapons (in layman terms, it's the cling clang sounds). It really dulls the epic moment, especially when you're fighting giant bosses. I understand that in real life, you won't hear epic slashes when you attack someone (do NOT do this!), but this is a video game!
Also, when the volumes for the music, sound effects and the voices are maxed out, there is still a case of audio imbalance as the voice can sometimes overpower the sound effects, making it stand out like a sore thumb and it's really out of place.
Being a Lego game on the Vita/3DS, I do not expect HD graphics that are comparable to other games like Halo or God of War, and they actually stay true to their origins: the nature of them being simple Lego toys. There is also a clear distinction as to what you can interact with and what you cannot. For example, things you can destroy for extra Lego bolts are made out of Lego blocks, while things which are just there to look pretty are rendered in a realistic style.
One thing I find an eyesore, though, are the cutscenes. There are two types of cutscenes: CGI and in-game. The CGI cutscenes are done up pretty well (though the quality could have been a little better), but the in-game cutscenes are a joke. For one, the characters don't even move their mouths when they talk, which makes it hard to figure out who exactly is talking unless you pay attention to the subtitles. I know Lego characters have printed mouths that do not move, but this is a video game!
…Yes, I am aware that I used the same phrase twice.
The animations also seem under-polished for some reason. When your character attacks, they feel like they're floating all about the place, and when your character gets attacked, their flinching animation is too small to be noticeable, especially when the camera's zoomed out from them. The very faint red blink does not help much either, as they blink once or twice and then they're gone. Also, some of the animations are not really needed in my honest opinion, like the one where Rhogon does a victory pose after he destroys an object with his horns or the one where Worris announces to the whole world that he found a hidden area to dig through. Remember how it takes like 9 minutes to drink a potion and recover your health in Monster Hunter? Okay maybe not that long, but you get the idea.
One clever move they did though, was that when your character goes behind a wall or into a cave, the walls blocking your character will automatically turn translucent. Minimizing the camera movement and maintaining consistent gameplay is a must-have for action adventure games, so props to TT Games for that!
Overall, Laval's Journey is an okay game if you just want to pass time, with a few flaws here and there that need extra polishing. Its intended target audience is obviously the kids as pretty much everything ranging from the story to the gameplay is cheesy and simple, not to mention it does not exploit much of the Vita gimmicks (which is a good thing since most of the kids I know are not aware of the gimmicks anyway).
But for me, I love the playing with the old Lego blocks, and I would stick to them as much as I can if I did not throw them away because they were taking too much space in my room. L
Thanks for reading my review, and may you Get Inspired Now!
Special thanks to New Era Entertainment for providing the game!