It took just a few minutes for Lego 2K Drive to sink its hooks into me. The second I left the road, my sports coupe converted into an off-road buggy. Just before hitting some water, the vehicle’s Lego bricks swiftly contorted themselves into a speedboat. Those satisfying transformations are something you’ll see a ton of as you explore multiple open areas and compete in races that play out across ever-changing terrain.
This arcade racer is the first Lego game from Visual Concepts, a developer that has otherwise focused on NBA and WWE games over the last few years. The studio hasn’t hit the same heights of humor and wit as TT’s Lego games (to be fair, Visual Concepts doesn’t have nine movies worth of iconic Star Wars movies to riff on), but 2K Drive is still packed with surprises and clever ideas.
It’s a fun blend of Forza Horizon 5 and Mario Kart. Zooming through the open areas can be a blast and losing bricks from your vehicle when you take damage is a neat touch (smashing breakable objects will restore your health and increase your boost meter). So, it’s a shame that the actual races can get pretty frustrating.
Visual Concepts has tuned races to make them feel as close and exciting as possible, for better and worse. No matter your vehicle loadout, every other competitor in the race storms ahead of you as soon as the light goes green. At first, finding a way to overtake your race-specific rival and other Lego drivers to win is thrilling, but the game quickly shows its hand. You can never build up too much of a lead. If you spin off the track at a tight corner, enemies will kindly slow down a little for you. The rubberbanding works both ways, but it makes races ultimately feel overly contrived. More than once, I was on the verge of victory only for an opponent to storm past me at the last second.
There are some Mario Kart-style powerups you can grab during races and in the open world. On the surface, the powerups seem to add another dimension to races, though any enemy car I destroyed was quickly back in the thick of the action. They can work against you too. In one race, I was about to take the checkered flag when an enemy launched a spider web to obscure my vision and slow me down.
Winning races is essential to progress through the story, and it’s annoying that there’s no quick restart option when you aren’t victorious. You have to go back to the open world before you can try a race again.
Those quibbles aside, the game is plenty enjoyable. There’s a ton to do after beating the campaign, even if you don’t care about online races. There are dozens upon dozens of challenges, side missions and collectibles to discover. You might find yourself smashing alien robots to protect some towers or scooting around a small town to pick up residents and protect them from skeleton attackers. There are fetch quests galore too. The story missions and challenges can become too much of a grind — you have to reach a certain experience level to unlock some races — but there was just enough variety to keep a smile on my face.
The most exciting aspect of Lego 2K Drive for many players will be the vehicle builder. You can use virtual Lego bricks to build pretty much anything you want, including replicas of pre-made cars you unlock or even toy vehicles you’ve built in real life. The one car I made is a monstrosity, but at least it works, unlike many of the janky vehicles I’ve seen in Tears of the Kingdom clips.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the game nudges you in the direction of microtransactions for the pre-made cars. You’ll slowly earn currency, but it’ll take you quite a while to unlock vehicles from the shop for free. After playing for seven hours, I still didn’t have enough Brickbux for a car. As it happens, you can pay real cash to unlock cars and drivers faster, as well as more types of bricks for your custom builds.
Lego 2K Drive is almost a great game. Most of the right pieces are in place and younger players may get more of a kick out of it than more experienced gamers. Hopefully, Visual Concepts can tweak the race AI and other minor flaws to make it really sing. In the meantime, I’ll still be hunting for rainbow bricks in Big Butte County.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/lego-2k-drive-lets-you-build-your-dream-race-car-brick-by-brick-113038327.html?src=rss