The Lego Movie is awesome. It's the first theatrically released Lego film (Lego has already been releasing direct-to-video feature length films since 2003, including last year's excellent Lego Batman: The Movie) and it manages to bridge the gap between the style of the video games and a huge history of fan-based stop-motion YouTube videos. Even though it was animated using CGI, the moviemakers went out of their way to give it the choppy look of stop-motion and to make it in such a way that you could, if you wanted, literally build everything out of Lego.
It's a good match for the Traveler's Tales games, which have only gotten better over time; and at first, The Lego Movie Video Game is everything that's good about the franchise. Like in the film, average construction worker Emmett Brickowski (Chris Pratt) bumbles into a revolution when he finds the "Piece of Resistance," the only thing that can stop President Business (Will Ferrell) from using the "The Kragle" to destroy his world. On his way he meets influential friends from different worlds and franchises (all of them already immortalized in Lego).
Don't expect the standard Lego versions of Batman, Gandalf, or Superman here. The Lego Movie takes potshots at them, especially Batman (Will Arnett) who is portrayed as the narcissistic jerk-boyfriend to Emmett's love interest, Wyldestyle (Elizabeth Banks), and the game elaborates on it further through gameplay. But perhaps nothing is funnier than guiding blind sage Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) across a ledge over a burning pit ("I'll just walk across this completely safe ledge.").
The story is told through scenes from the movie, edited to remove the best jokes and some spoilers, but the comedy during gameplay easily makes up for it between gameplay sections. Pratt and Banks either voiced the game or are perfectly imitated, and if it isn't Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius during gameplay, it's probably Josh Robert Thompson (who is listed as doing "Additional Voices" on the game's IMDB page) while others are voiced by passable sound-alikes.
The game does a great job in the beginning of elaborating and expanding the mythology of the movie into larger gameplay set-pieces. It's only towards the end that it begins to break down and the carefully edited clips from the movie stop providing enough information about the plot to carry the story. In one section near the end, Emmett's abilities are greatly expanded, but due to the editing of the clips there's no way players would know that unless they've already seen the movie. This really is completely a film tie-in, even more than other prior Lego properties, where you really must have seen the film to get the most out of it.
One gameplay section involving mech combat and The Green Lantern is particularly bad, with invisible walls keeping the player from entering a clearly visible section that can be played after an objective is fulfilled, after which the walls come down. It took me forever to complete this section due to unclear objectives, and I only figured it out by smashing literally everything I could in the area with the mech. To add insult to injury, the first time I played it, the game froze on the exit-screen for the level, and I had to exit to the PS4 menu to restart the game and boot from my last save.
This drop-in quality is generally true of the entire endgame, which felt very sloppy compared to the very tightly designed first half. After that, the game flags a tiny bit with some of the platforming problems the series has been known for, particularly difficulty determining jump paths with odd angles of approach. Then towards the end, the design feels significantly more sloppy and rushed, which may have been the case since the game released the same day as the film (and most Lego games have traditionally released years after the media they are based on).
This extends to the hub areas which feel particularly sparse in comparison to the sprawling Manhattan of Lego Marvel Super Heroes. It may be unfair to make that comparison since The Lego Movie Video Game clearly had a time constraint, but it's also clear that this hurts the game. Another hub problem is the lack of navigation for side mission objectives, where you just sort of have to ferret things out. This isn't particularly bad and is actually better than Lego Marvel Super Heroes, where the side missions would remove main mission navigation with no way of getting it back or selecting which mission you wanted to follow.
On a more positive note, it does innovate with some fun mini-games. Hacking with '80s Lego Spaceman Benny is played as a kind of Pac-Man/Q-bert mashup, and there's a dance rhythm mini-game to the movie's theme "Everything is Awesome" as well as a short quick-time event for Vitruvius finding secret paths. The best of these games is when Emmett must build large city items using playset instructions, which involves the set building up, then challenging the player to find a specific missing brick from a circle of pieces while your reward dwindles down the longer it takes for you to find the piece.
This kind of innovation shows exactly what The Lego Movie Video Game could have been had there been more time to finish it. Instead, the quality of the game slowly declines as it moves further and further along, making it clear that the game was developed sequentially. It's still an excellent media tie-in, but it just isn't up to par with the better games Traveler's Tales has developed in the past, perhaps when they were on a less strict timetable. Though it has the same kind of collectible high replay value as other games, it feels less urgent with the problems that it has.
Visually, The Lego Movie Video Game on PS4 looks about the same as Lego Marvel Superheroes did on the Wii U, which is a shame since the movie added scratches to textures and variable stop-motion framerate and lighting effects that could have been exploited with the next-gen hardware. Still, it's a sprawling game with Traveler's Tales traditional clean look that's pretty and plastic-looking—perfect for a Lego game. It just might have been nice to see some of those scuffs we saw in the movie.