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The Lego games have made a name for themselves by combining kid-friendly puzzle platformer gameplay with some of the biggest movie franchises ever. Previous ventures from TT Games and Warner Bros. Interactive have seen you play as Lego versions of Batman, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Aragorn, Jack Sparrow and the Avengers, to name a few.
But the latest film franchise to get the Lego treatment heralds the coming of a primordial titan that leaves those modern-day icons in the dust. Prepare yourselves for bare-chested Lego Jeff Goldblum. And welcome to Lego Jurassic World.
Lego Jurassic World is cast from the same mould as developer TT Games' previous film-based Lego properties. Like its predecessors, the game more or less follows the plot of the movies on which it's based, rebuilt to fit in with Lego's friendly all-ages style and injected with a little slapstick humour.
The four "Jurassic Park" films get five game levels each, from "Jurassic Park" up to and including this year's "Jurassic World." CNET was given hands-on time with a preview of two levels based on the first film and one from the second, "Jurassic Park: The Lost World."
To give an example of how the game plays, one of the preview levels I played was based on the sick triceratops scene from the original movie. Switching back and forth between palaeobotanist Ellie Sattler and Jurassic Park's vet Gerry Harding, you help the sick dino by diving boldly into its droppings with Sattler, and using Harding's tracking expertise and ability to bull's-eye faraway targets with his tranquilizer rifle to find the three ingredients that'll get the sickly triceratops feeling chipper again.
Using each character's skills to solve puzzles and manoeuvre the levels has always been at the core of the series. Skills new in this particular game like Sattler's diagnostic ability, Alan Grant's foliage-shredding raptor claw and the vet's tranq gun keep things fresh.
The puzzles aren't the kind that will have players pulling their hair out, and there's still an element of 'smash everything and see what sticks,' but TT Games has never really made it a secret that it's targeting a younger audience with the games.
If you've played any of the Lego games before, you'll know what to expect. The environments are all vividly detailed, with rendered Lego bricks somehow meshed seamlessly with realistic landscapes. There's a ton of replay if you're determined to collect the thousands of Lego studs and hidden bricks. There are over 100 playable characters to unlock, including Jurassic mainstays palaeontologist Alan Grant and, I stress again, Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm.
The second preview level was based on the iconic T. rex chase, also from the first movie. It did play out as a chase scene, with one character driving the getaway jeep and the other peppering the pursuing T. rex with flares to keep it from catching up. Hitting those major, memorable beats has always been something the Lego series has done well, and Jurassic World is no exception.
One neat trick is that the game's voice acting and score are all borrowed from the films. Even playing for a short while, it was hard not to feel nostalgic when the strings of John Williams' score started to swell, and not to deliver the lines along with Grant, Malcolm and Sattler.
Lego Jurassic World does introduce a few new features, and for the most exciting of them I'll hop back to curing the Triceratops. Once the trike is back in fighting form, players can swap to the dinosaur itself, and go on a three-horned rampage. Similar to the oversize 'bigfigs' in previous games, the dinosaurs are playable characters in Lego Jurassic World, and there are 20 of them to dig up.
In previous games, players could use custom minifigs in the game, but in Lego Jurassic World, it's possible to build your own terrible lizards and romp around. One might make the point that the central theme of the series was the hubris shown in meddling with the natural order was punished by a vicious reprisal that resulted in massive loss of human life, but one is far too busy imagining what it'll be like to give a T. rex pterodactyl wings.
Developer TT Games hasn't tried reinvent the wheel with Lego Jurassic World. It doesn't veer far from the formula established in "," " ," "Lego Pirates of the Caribbean" and so on, and this is both a blessing and a curse.
Seasoned veterans might find the games a little dull these days, but it's hard to believe that Lego Jurassic World won't offer at least a handful of thrills. The invaluable local and online cooperative mode is back, and I can imagine this being where most gameplay hours get spent (especially if you're anything like me, and wind up forgetting about the task at hand and entering into a Lego deathmatch with your "friend").
The Lego games have been solid examples of casual cooperative gaming, and they've always done well at folding other franchises into the Lego brand. If those games are anything to go by, Lego Jurassic World is the kind of game that'll be great to play side-by-side with younger gamers you know. There are a lot of Easter eggs for "Jurassic Park" fans, like a bizarre playable Mr. DNA. And, really, don't dinosaurs make us all feel like kids again?
Lego Jurassic World will be coming out around about the same time as the theatrical release of , and you'll be able to play as Lego Jeff Goldblum (and everyone else, I suppose) on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita and PC.