Playing with Lego bricks in their various forms is something we’re all familiar with – as children, the care-free placement of any block – anywhere, unrestricted by form or function, an act of pure creation and imagination.
As an adult, and certainly as a parent, Lego for me nowadays can often be an ordered affair with kits built via manual to look just so; a replica of the image on the box art in every way.
And after a while, these sets will eventually be dismantled and put into the Lego bucket we’ve all got; a mass of all the bricks and blocks collected throughout childhood, or in my households case, multiple childhoods; my son plays with the same Lego bricks I had when I was his age.
In Builder’s Journey, from in-house but now spun off developers Light Brick, they play on these themes of childhood, exploration and the monotony of adulthood in charming and wonderful ways.
A Builders Journey starts gently, easing players in to an incredibly simplistic control scheme. Having originally been an Apple mobile exclusive, the design decisions make sense here. You can pick up and rotate bricks with a press of the A button, selecting the brick with a move of the left stick or D-Pad. Long press A lets your click it into place. You can spin the isometric view a little using the right stick, but you don’t get full 360 degree freedom, which is a shame. The controls can occasionally get a little fiddly, and it feels very much that the game was built with touch in mind first, but it works well enough.
The self contained and occasionally connected stages vary nicely, from a beach, mountain paths, a quiet homestead and deep into an industrial factory setting. These little Lego dioramas are beautifully rendered, and outside of real Lego, it’s the best a Lego brick has ever looked in digital form.
The objective is typically getting our little child Lego brick character back to his parental figure from one side of the level to the other, via building or finding a path using Lego bricks, though this theme is expanded on greatly later on, as the parent figure is called away by responsibilities elsewhere.
The latter stages, which I won’t spoil too much, see some great variation come in with the puzzles as we start to manufacture the bricks we need in order to move forward, as well as blocks that self replicate with some degree of randomness. The puzzles themselves are never overly complex or likely to cause frustration, and the whole game is actually quite soothing, with a calming ambient soundtrack to enjoy as you make your way through.
I played through the game with my son, and for the parents out there reading this, it’s definitely suitable, and you can quite happily let your child just poke around with the tools on offer here. The game sadly doesn’t really cater for a full “build what you want” sandbox, instead offering something far more curated, but there are plenty of pleasing moments throughout. At only around 2 hours long, there’s little replay value here, but thankfully the asking price is fairly reasonable.
A Builders Journey does a lot of things right throughout it’s short playtime, with gorgeously designed levels and imaginative puzzle design through to its themes of play and creativity – and the often unwanted responsibilities that can interrupt it.
It doesn’t get everything right, but then it’s so short lived it’s hard not to be entirely charmed by it anyway. If you’re a fan of puzzle games or Lego in general, you can’t really go wrong here.
Played on Xbox Series X