LOS ANGELES – Lego Brawls is a family-friendly game, in the literal sense of the term. While “family friendly” often means “exclusively for kids” in practice, that’s not the vibe that Lego Brawls gives off at all. Instead, it’s a quick, intuitive multiplayer brawler that brings in characters from a variety of beloved Lego properties. If you want to build your own minifig from scratch, you can do that. If you prefer to employ weapons and accessories from franchises such as Jurassic Park, Ninjago and Monkie Kid, you can do that, too. It’s a game that I could easily envision kids and parents playing side-by-side.
I went hands-on with Lego Brawls at Summer Game Fest, and what impressed me most about the title was its variety. When I heard the “brawls” in the title, I expected a four-player fighting game, akin to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. But the game’s various modes offer team play, free-for-alls, item collection, point defense and plenty of other multiplayer standbys. Sometimes, it fees like Smash Bros.; other times, it feels like TowerFall; other times, it feels like Overwatch. The gameplay isn’t that deep, but it’s also fast-paced and diverse enough to keep from getting stale.
Here's how it works: You choose a multiplayer mode, such as defending waypoints in a castle, or fighting other players to collect peaches in a jungle. Each mode is based on a recognizable Lego property, and there’s a little something here for everyone. From children who are currently growing up with the Monkie Kid set, to teens and young adults who think back fondly on Ninjago, to Lego vets who grew up building Pirates ships, just about every potential player should find something familiar here.
The actual gameplay is about as simple as it gets. You equip a weapon (a sword, a sledgehammer, a keytar – the specifics don’t matter too much here), and mash the attack button whenever you come within melee range of other players. You can also equip two power-ups, which you can find in limited quantities throughout each stage. These range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including rocket fists, mech suits and ridable dinosaurs. You fight off other players for a set period of time, and whichever team (or individual) completes the objective, wins. The gameplay takes less time to learn than it will take you to read this paragraph.
Lego Brawls has one other big draw: the incredible level of customization. Rather than selecting from a group of predetermined fighters, you can create your own Lego Brawls competitor, creating him or her from a variety of heads, torsos, legs and accessories. You can even name your brawler, so that no one else’s competitor will be quite like yours. This is where Lego’s long history of both original and licensed properties come into play, as there are simply a staggering number of options from which to choose. If a piece comes from a licensed property, such as Jurassic Park, it will be clearly marked, but there are also “generic” pieces that should cover a variety of styles. This is also where you’ll find pieces from Monkie Kid, Ninjago, Pirates and other Lego mainstays.
Lego Brawls may not be the next big multiplayer sensation, but it does seem like one of those rare games that could genuinely please both parents and kids. The game will come out later this summer for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch, and will cost $40.