Judging games that are not intended for you is always tricky. Even if you try to go easy on them, it’s just as likely you’ll excuse flaws the target audience would indeed notice. Lego Friends is clearly not intended for the average video game reviewer, but even with that in mind, there are serious problems with the game. The game may be intended for young girls, but that does not mean you can have the characters tell the player they’re friends and not offer any other reasons to play. Sadly, that is more or less what Lego Friends does.
Lego Friends starts with your character, a direct player surrogate, arriving at their cousin’s house for an extended visit. She introduces you to her friends and that’s basically all the story there is. This would be okay if the characters or your relationship with them were developed more, but they really aren’t. For a game that plays up the social aspect of the story so much, the girls you supposedly become friends with really just exist to give you mission objectives. It really plays like a Grand Theft Auto-type, non-linear, mission-based game, just with the missions given in a much more friendly manner. Aside from the most basic “This girl like sports, this girl likes animals, this girl likes music” archetypes, the characters have no personality. The story never really goes beyond you doing errands for a bunch of people you just met.
The shallow story could be overlooked if the gameplay in Lego Friends was good, but it feels even more like filler than the story. Even for a game intended for younger audiences, the game goes way too far with its lack of difficulty. You can jump and use a variety of items and animal helpers, but they are never utilized effectively. The majority of missions consist entirely of following instructions and arrows to a location and using the item you’re prompted to. There are no puzzles, platforming challenges, or enemies. The closest thing the game gets to genuine gameplay is the mini-games, where you do things such as kicking soccer balls into a goal and walking a pet through an obstacle course. All of them are incredibly simplistic; most are the same “follow basic instructions” type of gameplay as the other missions, but with a very generous time limit. Even the least experienced gamers are likely to be very bored by the gameplay.
Lego Friends is also a fairly large game. Although you don’t have a truly open world, there are many areas that can be explored, all drawing from a typical town setting, like a school, the beach, or a forest. There are also a decent amount of characters for you to meet, but they have very little personality and will very quickly blur together. The large amount of content is hard to view as an asset to the game because, from both a story and gameplay perspective, it is extremely bland. The game also suffers from long and frequent loading times, requiring a noticeable wait whenever changing areas or entering a building. This, in combination of the tedious and drawn-out gameplay, makes Lego Friends very likely to outlive the attention span of any gamer, especially its young target audience.
The presentation of Lego Friends is its best feature. The graphics are not particularly detailed or interesting, but they are bright and clear enough to convey the settings. You get a decent amount of customization options for the girl — there is no gender option — you play as, although a very large amount of the different outfits are palette swaps. The music is not very memorable and is more likely to come across as boring rather than soothing, but every character is voiced. The voice acting isn’t great; some of the side characters sound bored, but it certainly isn’t horrible and there is a respectable amount. Unfortunately, the writing does not have any character development or humor present in it. The Lego theme influences nothing but the graphical style and even that could probably have had the license excluded from it without affecting much.
Lego Friends sadly does not succeed in its purpose. While it has some strengths in areas like length and production values, its failures prevent those from having a positive impact on the experience. With gameplay that is too simplistic and tedious even for the youngest gamers and little attention given to making anyone in the game truly feel like a friend, Lego Friends is unlikely to satisfy anyone. The Lego game universe may be considered one of the better licensed game series, but Lego Friends is a blemish on that. Even if the premise sounds like something you or the person you are buying a game for would enjoy, there are better choices.
- Good amount of content.
- Quite a bit of voice acting.
- Boring characters that don’t feel like friends.
- Extremely simplistic missions with nothing resembling challenge.
- Long and frequent loading times.