Midway Arcade Level Pack – old meets new meets Lego
The final expansion for Lego Dimensions is the perfect way to introduce younger players to the golden age of arcades.
Sometimes we wonder who exactly Warner Bros. is making these Lego games for. Not that we’re complaining, but it often seems like they’re aimed more at thirty-something parents than their supposed target audience. Or perhaps we’re out of touch and six-year-old kids are more into Portal, Ghostbusters, and decades old arcade games than we previously imagined. We have to wonder whether the average child even knows what a video game arcade is. But if they don’t, they sure will after this new Lego Dimensions expansion pack.
We were generally very impressed by Lego Dimensions when it was released last September. Like most toys to life titles it confounded its status as cynical cash grab by being a surprisingly entertaining and content rich video game. But as well as expanding the game with extra characters and vehicles there have also been a number of extra level expansions released over the last few months, of which this is the sixth and final one. The Simpsons and Back to the Future weren’t much cop, but Portal 2, Doctor Who, and Ghostbusters were a lot of a fun. (You can read our review of the Ghostbusters one here and the others here.)
In each expansion there is a very obvious affection towards the source material, to the point where you can easily imagine British developer Traveller’s Tales picking the game’s peculiar mix of franchises purely according to their own personal taste. Although Warner Bros. already owning the property has obviously helped as well.
Midway Arcade Level Pack – build your own adventure
American coin-op manufacturer Midway has a storied past, and went through many incarnations and mergers during its time. Most of the best games in this expansion were actually made by separate company Williams, while Midway also later acquired what was left of the original Atari – which explains the presence of the likes of Gauntlet and Super Sprint. In 2009 though Midway finally went bust and everything was bought up by Warner Bros. Which is why they now publish Mortal Kombat.
Unsurprisingly the 18-rated gore of Mortal Kombat has not been made a part of Lego Dimensions, but most of the more famous Midway/Williams/Atari arcade games from the ‘80s are featured. There are 23 in total, namely: 720°, Badlands, Blasteroids, Championship Sprint, Defender, Defender II (aka Stargate), Gauntlet, Gauntlet II, Klax, Joust, Joust 2, Marble Madness, Paperboy, Rampage, Road Blasters, Robotron: 2084, Spy Hunter, Super Sprint, Timber, Toobin’, Cyberball, Vindicators, and Xybots.
In the main campaign of Lego Dimensions you ended up playing inside Lego-ised versions of some of these games, primarily Defender and Gauntlet, but this expansion works differently. The opening cut scene shows an ordinary ‘Gamer Kid’ wandering past a run-down arcade, when a dimensional warp brings all the various in-game characters to life and turns them evil. Your task is to sort things out by beating a modest high score on each arcade machine, and thereby returning things to their natural order.
This involves the usual style of Lego puzzles, with Gamer Kid proving to have his own range of surprisingly varied superpowers. By switching T-shirts and taking a swig of his non-branded cola drink he can, for a short period, turn invisible, gain super strength, become invincible, run at super speed, and shoot laser beams from his eyes (which makes him very handy in the rest of the game as well).
Midway Arcade Level Pack – the car can also change into a boat and plane
Each simple puzzle involves defeating an evil video game character in order to rebuild a coin-op port into which you can than dock the arcade machine gadget that the game comes with. This in turn allows you to play an actual emulated version of the real game. This involves an Achievements style medal system, but achieving bronze and unlocking the game to play at any time is generally very easy.
As you’d expect, some of the games have aged better than others. Although it’s interesting that the older the game the better they tend to have fared, with Defender, Robotron: 2084, and Joust still proving as addictive as ever. Gauntlet and Rampage are also given some prominence, but although they’re fun enough they’re incredibly shallow.
The only games that flat out don’t work though are Super Sprint and its sequels Championship Sprint and Badlands. These top-down racers were originally controlled by an actual steering wheel and the game doesn’t do enough to compensate for using a modern joypad. 720° and Marble Madness also suffer because they had non-standard controls, but that’s been a problem in previous emulations and not just this one.
The expansion pack level is quite short and features relatively few games, with the others scattered through the rest of Lego Dimension’s main campaign for you to go back and unlock. These are then made available to play in the adventure world hub. All of the games have one of these but Midway Arcade’s is one of the best, with 12 of the games reimagined in 3D Lego form – including a Gauntlet maze, a Spy Hunter race track, and a half-demolished Rampage town.
Midway Arcade Level Pack – introduce your child to the joys of Joust
As always the puzzles and combat of the hub are much simpler than in the story levels but we spent several happy hours exploring the open world area and completing the side quests. In fact we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the level pack in general. Even if a lot of the appeal is down to games made decades ago, the Lego presentation is the perfect way to get kids interested in gaming history – and by the same virtue the best way to get adult retro fans interested in playing Lego games.
The Lego kits that come with the expansion are good too, with the Spy Hunter car and Defender coin-op being great little models – and much better than the ones from the Ghostbusters pack. There’s not much you can do with Gamer Kid though, and we wish he’d been given an ‘80s mullet. But within the fiction of the game he’s actually from the present day.
What’s next for Lego Dimensions we’re not sure. Although this is the final level pack there is another wave of extra characters due in May, but after that nothing else has been announced. Warner has talked about a three-year plan for further expansion, but whether that precludes a sequel in the meantime is unclear.
There’s rumours of adding everything from Harry Potter to Adventure Time and The A-Team, but we’ve no idea if they’re true. But as long as they’re afforded the same level of care and attention as this expansion then as far as we’re concerned the more the merrier.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox One
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Release Date: 18th March 2016
Age Rating: 7
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