Since the first iteration of the interlocking plastic toys we now know as LEGO was introduced in 1949, the beloved building blocks have transformed into a worldwide cultural touchstone spanning not just toys, but also film, television, books, and of course, video games. The LEGO brand is so ubiquitous that loads of other major global properties flock to it for product collaborations year after year. In other words, LEGO is a big deal. Like many of you, I grew up playing, imagining, and building with those famous pieces of plastic, so when the news broke of LEGO 2K Drive’s existence, I ran to the Gaming Nexus staff chat to request it for review. I am happy to report that it bottles the essence of the modern-day LEGO brand into a charming, fun racer with only some minor bumps in the road.
LEGO 2K Drive is a semi-open world racing game set in the world of Bricklandia – a charming place full of quirky characters and callbacks to various LEGO iterations. Virtually the entire world is made of LEGO bricks, which means that, with the exception of buildings, almost everything is destructible. Bricklandia looks great, and to me it is what I imagined some of the sets that I built growing up would look like if I could drop myself into them. I mention that everything is destructible because it is so, so satisfying to tear stuff up in this game. I drove around with reckless abandon constantly (apologies to the many NPCs I bulldozed along the way) and watching everything I hit explode into a pile of LEGO bricks never got old. Actually, in a strange, totally non-sadistic way, it was addicting. It’s a nice detail that 2K included, and the fact that the brick colors and types actually match what you’re destroying shows the incredible amount of love that the developers poured into the game. You’ll likely notice it too, because no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’ll be destroying stuff.
The primary mode in Drive is Story Mode, which features four large areas that you can fast travel between to participate in various races, quests, and activities. There is plenty to see and do in Bricklandia, and completionists will have to spend a good amount of time if they are looking for that coveted 100% milestone. The gist of the story is that you are attempting to win the Sky Cup Trophy and defeat the evil nemesis Shadow Z. In order to get to the final showdown against him, you’ll first need to acquire enough checkered flags by winning races against a large roster of rivals.
As I mentioned, there is no shortage of distractions in Story Mode. These include quick “On the Go” challenges that require you to do things like race three laps around an impromptu course without hitting any objects, for example. There are also world challenges that put your results up against other players, lots of collectables, and side quests. Side quests include their own healthy amount of variety, and I am still coming across new ones at the time of review. One of my favorites thus far placed me in a police car and directed me to chase down Sally Smuggler, a thief who had stolen the clothes of a skeleton police officer named Captain Lessermore. The NPCs are quite humorous and cute, with the game as a whole having a real LEGO Movie vibe. One rival racer is an alien named Hugh Mann and in one conversation he told he was pretending to “act normal” by doing things such as “hanging out, breathing air, and disliking Mondays”, which made me laugh out loud.
Story Mode is definitely the place to be in LEGO 2K Drive, but it came to a near screeching halt in the final third when it forced me to grind out XP levels to keep progressing in the story. This required me to repeat some races at a higher class (difficulty) level and do more side activities in the world for no apparent reason, other than it simply being a thing that video games do. To be fair, this is not a problem with only this game, but I wish I could just play at the pace that works for me. If the gameplay were not so good, this progression imbalance would graduate from a minor infraction to a major malfunction.
Once I knew Drive existed, I went on something of a media blackout for the game, so I came into it not knowing the racing itself was essentially a kart racer. That is oversimplifying it a bit, as it is more methodical than, say, Mario Kart, but the kart force is certainly strong in this one. You pick-up power ups during races and use them take out an enemy or give yourself a boost. If you’ve played any kart racer, many of the power ups will be familiar to you: homing missiles, mines, sticky webs, ghost transparency, and more. Races get hectic as you drift around turns, speed boost over jumps, and avoid rival power ups while dishing out your own.
The good news is that it’s a blast, and extremely simple to pick up and play. Racing is highly satisfying, with the plethora of vehicles each feeling a little different to control depending on their stats. Lighter, smaller cars with higher top speed feel like a pinball on the track, while medium vehicles with more balanced stats handle similar to a muscle car. There are three vehicle categories that you’ll be jumping behind the wheel of: street, off-road, and water. One of the best aspects of LEGO 2K Drive is that you can switch seamlessly between all three vehicle types, which happens frequently. Races typically take place on streets, off-road, and on the water at various points, which makes sure that you aren’t falling asleep at the wheel. For instance, you might begin a race in your boat, transition to a lawn mower hot rod for an off-road section, transition back to your boat, and then finish the race as your street ice cream truck. Not to mention, the animation for transitions looks like something pulled straight out of Transformers and is just plain neat.
There is no shortage of vehicles in LEGO 2K Drive, and they can be acquired in one of several ways: unlocking them from quests and activities, purchasing from the in-game store, or building them. Completing events and earning a vehicle is the simplest way to do so, but you can also buy them through the in-game store – known as Unkie’s Emporium – using Brickbux, the game’s currency. This is where microtransactions come into play, allowing you to spend real life cash for in-game currency to buy vehicles, drivers, and other items.
By far the coolest way to acquire a ride is to build it yourself in The Garage – this is a LEGO game, after all. The Garage is accessed straight from the main menu or at any location scattered around the world of Bricklandia. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that you can build whatever type of vehicle you want from the ground up in LEGO 2K Drive. Choose from dozens of bricks and components to build your own Batmobile, or perhaps a boomerang-shaped police car – it just depends on how creative you can get. The vehicle-building toolset is so robust that, inevitably, far more creative-minded folks than I are going to build some seriously impressive vehicles in this game. However, with all of that robustness comes a bit of jank in the form of a finicky camera. While playing around with the toolset and building a go-kart in a tutorial, I found moving the camera and making sure I was selecting the correct piece and location to manipulate wasn’t always easy. Even so, it’s a minor sacrifice to make if it means having a creative suite that’s this good. For us non-creatives, fret not, 2K has given us plenty of cool prefabricated vehicles to earn or buy as well.
If story mode doesn’t sound like your thing, and you’d rather just race without all of the extras, LEGO 2K Drive has that too. There are several offline modes including standard quick races, cup series races, and mini games. Cup races are a series of four races where you earn points depending on where you finish, with the highest overall point total winning after completing all events. Mini games are a variety of non-racing events where you’ll do things like defend towers from aliens. On the multiplayer front, cup series races and quick races are present as well, but the real highlight is Shared World mode. It’s only an option in the Play With Friends playlist (the other option is Play With Everyone), but it allows you and up to five friends to zip around Bricklandia together and take part in many of the races and side activities available in Story Mode, with the exception of quests. I was able to spend some time burning rubber and busting bricks with Eric, our Editor-in-Chief here at Gaming Nexus, and we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. We were late to the party on Shared World, spending the majority of our time in one-off races and cup races, but racing online was seamless and functioned just as well as playing offline. 2K has promised at least one year of post-launch support, with season one beginning sometime in June, and I can definitely see myself popping in for some online escapades as the game continues to grow.
LEGO 2K Drive is an easy game to recommend, especially for fans of the brand or kart racers. It’s not perfect, but that was never my expectation going in, and in a many ways this game exceeded them. I highly doubt that you’ll be able to play one race and turn it off – “The Pringles Effect”, if you will. Bricklandia is a striking world, steeped in modern LEGO charm, replete with fun things to do, and only a few minor speed bumps to slow the experience down. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be hanging out, breathing air, and disliking Mondays.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile