Massive crossover games are seeing something of a renaissance in 2021. Developers are taking cues from Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series by announcing platform fighting games like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl and Warner Bros.' MultiVersus. Few brands have been able to tackle dream crossovers as well as LEGO, so now seems a good a time as any to give the LEGO Dimensions concept another go.
LEGO Dimensions is a relic of the "toys-to-life" trend that thrived in the mid-2010s, but it was arguably the most fitting idea during its hayday. The Danish toy brand has released building block sets based on pop culture icons for years, ranging from Star Wars and Harry Potter to Minecraft, and LEGO Dimensions encouraged fans to bring the Minifigures of characters from those properties to life in an expanding action-platformer. With MultiVersus in particular showing the potential of a traditional game that pulls disparate fandoms together, Dimensions could have a second wind without as much focus on its physical gimmick.
Activision's Skylanders franchise really kicked off the toys-to-life craze with Spyro's Adventure in 2011. Bringing Spyro the Dragon back years before his revival with Toys For Bob's Spyro Reignited Trilogy drew a lot of curious eyes, but the true stroke of genius behind Skylanders was how it turned the lucrative business of tie-in merchandise into an integral part of the experience. Most popular games like The Legend of Zelda have products fans can buy to show their love, but toys-to-life games required people to buy an ever-growing catalog of plastic statues that add more content.
Lots of developers followed Activision's lead, with Disney Infinity becoming the first major contendor in 2013. Developed by Avalanch Studios, Disney Infinity was very similar to Skylanders in that it dropped characters into huge sandbox worlds. The obvious draw was Disney's pantheon of properties to convert - including the traditional Disney princesses, Star Wars, and Marvel Comics. Nintendo also got in on the idea with its amiibo figures, which were designed to work with all its games rather than one particular series. However, there were a few amiibo-driven titles during the Wii U era, notably Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival.
LEGO Dimensions came onto the scene in September 2015 and featured a huge array of franchises, including Warner Bros. properties like DC Comics, Universal properties like Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, as well as assorted names like Portal 2, Doctor Who, Beetlejuice, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Original LEGO concepts like The LEGO Movie also played a part, making easily the most diverse toys-to-life library of the bunch. Yet it was short lived, with Warner Bros. announcing the third year of content was cancelled in October 2017.
LEGO Dimensions Could Use a Second Shot
The only toys-to-life idea with any real staying power was amiibo, likely owing its success to Nintendo marketing the figures as celebrations of its iconic franchises with usefulness across different games. In fact, more amiibo are still in production, from specialty releases like Skyward Sword HD's Zelda and Loftwing amiibo to less intrusive amiibo cards coming alongside Animal Crossing: New Horizons' Happy Home Paradise DLC.
LEGO Dimensions as a concept was fun, and the huge variety of brands that have partnered with LEGO meant it had a lot of staying power. A crossover between characters like the Ghostbusters, Batman, and Finn from Adventure Time is as appealing as ever, and could go a long way by divorcing itself from the toys-to-life concept. Toys-to-life worked well because LEGO is a toy brand at its core, but it clearly wasn't lucrative given Dimensions' short lifespan.
Something like a standalone platformer carrying forward the story LEGO established with its first adventure, one that could expand with DLC not locked behind LEGO sets, would be cool to see. After Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl and MultiVersus legitimized crossover platform fighters as a substantial subgenre, Dimensions could even try adapting that idea using mechanics inherent to the toy brand. It would have some overlap with MultiVersus as Warner Bros. characters appear in both, but that opens the door to crossovers between crossovers. Especially with games like LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga coming out, there's plenty of potential in giving LEGO Dimensions another shot.
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